Dear Green Mama: In June I am going to have my first baby! I don’t really think of myself as an environmentalist but WOW! are there a lot of scary things out there that I want to protect my baby from and, like everyone, we are tight on money. I DO want the Earth to be around for my new baby when she grows up and all that, I just want to make sure I am also protecting my child from toxic toys, bad plastics, and harmful chemicals. Where do I start?Stressed, Uncertain, Excited
Dear SUE: Congratulations on your new baby! Becoming a parent is a transformative time: everything is changing. Making those healthy and cost-effective is actually the easy part! Feeling good about these things can hopefully de-stress some of the harder aspects of parenting too.
Three “starter” tips that make getting started easier:
1. Start with the savings (either time or money).
2. Ask questions.
3. Have fun!
The biggest barrier to people making better choices is how hard we are on ourselves. New parents particularly fall into this trouble: give yourself a break. Start with things that actually seem like fun. Yeah, using cloth diapers is the green and cost effective choice, but if every time you think about doing it you want to cry, pick something else to start with. If you do something new and it seems fun to you, your enthusiasm will lead to other green habits and you will inspire others along the way.
Six strategies for going green with your family (that will also save you money)
1. Join a CSA (community supported agricultural project a.k.a. a farm box) or become a regular at your local farmer’s market. A family will save approximately $500 a season over conventional produce and you will get the highest quality produce: local, organic, and fresh.
2. Try cloth diapering or even baby potty training. A family can save $2000 per child using cloth diapers instead of disposable. A family can save even more with elimination communication (a.k.a. baby potty training): a new, old trend.
3. Give up the throw-away habit. A bottled water habit can cost a family $1200 a year, the paper towel habit $50, disposable batteries $30. Other habits than can add up: disposable dishes, Ziploc bags, baby wipes, and cleaning products. There are greener alternatives for all these things that will save you money while helping the health of people and the environment.
4. Read labels. Particularly when it comes to skincare for baby there is a lot of greenwashing out there. Often the simplest and healthiest products are actually the most affordable. Even better, many old folk remedies (like Olive Oil for moisturizer) abound to make this part easy and fun. When reading labels, look for just a few ingredients that you can pronounce or, best yet, that you would eat. (Some of the best known baby brands are the worst offenders, so beware!)
5. Research nursery items before you buy. The nursery can be the most toxic room in a home. This is because of the many chemicals that off-gas from new furniture, carpets, and bedding. Some items get better with time (furniture), while some get worse (foam mattress). A short-term aid is to open the windows!
6. Avoid the plastic trap. Everything about having a child forces you up against plastics: plastic bottles, plastic toys, even plastic lining on cans of formula or food. Many plastics have been found to leach BPA, phthalates, or other chemicals with health effects from feminizing effects on baby boys to toxicity concerns. When avoiding plastics, prioritize the things that go into baby’s mouth or that contact food (e.g. chew toys, food containers, and bottles). There are great alternatives out there for all these things made from glass, stainless steel, and natural fibers like cotton and wool.