Although part of this comes from a deep paranoia that I will find a private eye going through my garbage and picking out a #5 plastic thingy that could have been recycled, mostly I reflect on my green-ness from a sincere desire to do better and know more.
I found that it was easier for me to THINK about my green actions if I had a way of organizing them in my mind. And, like everything else, once the organization exists, it is much easier to accomplish the goal.
Here are some of the things I am doing in my family right now. I would love to hear what you prioritize in your family and why!
1. Healthy food is a top priority. We go out of our way to buy organic, and local when possible, even if that means paying more. We try to balance this out by eating out less (okay, the baby made that happen anyway!), avoiding so many processed and prepared foods (these tend to make the food budget go up fast), and joining a CSA (community supported agriculture helps to support local farms and is one of the most cost-effective ways to get some of the freshest, best quality food available). Find out more about CSAs and how to join one in your neighborhood by going to familyfarmed.org.
2. Greened up our baby’s diaper routine. Let’s face it, whenever you bring a new person into the world there is going to be waste involved. I did a lot of research around this topic while still pregnant and ended up with a system combining cloth diapers, cloth wipes, and E.C. (baby potty training) for when I am home. This has been made much easier by the plethora of cute and easy cloth diapers on the market and by new systems, like the gDiaper, that is a reusable diaper with a flushable insert.
3. Minimize the expense and waste of baby clothes. For our baby, we make ample use of hand-me-downs as a way to make sure we aren’t contributing as much to the harmful environmental and social effects of clothing production (like pesticides and major water use and the heavy metals and toxins associated with the finishing process). This also helps save money, making it easier when we do buy new things to spend a little extra to get something organic or Oeko-Tek certified (a label that guarantees the product is environment and human friendly from start to finish).
4. We buy or make our own healthier baby care products. I didn’t find out until recently that most of the ingredients sold for use on baby’s skin have never been tested for safety on kids and some products marketed exclusively for children (like many baby wipes) contain chemicals that we know damage the reproductive system or are toxins. At my house we use soap and water, we read labels, and we avoid everything marketed as antibacterial. (For more information on issues with antibacterial soaps visit life.ca.)
5. We try to avoid toxic toys. We limit plastic toys, toys made in China (all of the recent toy recalls were from toys made in China), and especially avoid PVC a.k.a. vinyl. (See healthytoys.org for more information on the dangers of toxins in everyday kids items.) We are especially careful of things designed to go into the kids’ mouths like sippy cups, bottles, and teething toys.
6. Create meaningful celebrations not based on consumption. For my daughter’s first birthday we threw a volunteer party where people socialized while working at a cool local charity that we found. We also made cds of her favorite music and had really beautiful, yummy cupcakes and pizza (because, after all, being green should be delicious).
7. Sustainable transportation alternatives. We limit our car use, belong to a car-sharing organization (igocars.org), regularly use the bus and train, and ride our bikes or walk to places in our neighborhood. (This is good for the environment and for collecting really funny stories to share.)
8. Safer indoor spaces. As parents we worry about the bookcases being stable, and as green parents we also worry about the formaldehyde off-gassing from our baby’s crib and the toxins in the bathtub. In our house we balance use of hand-me-downs that are mostly done off-gassing, with new items (like the “green” carpet in the baby’s room). And we do simple things like remove our shoes before walking around the house and avoid cleaning products with chlorine beach, phosphates, and everything labeled “Danger, Poison.”
9. Reduce our household carbon emissions. We use compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs); wash our clothes, including the baby’s diapers, in coldwater; unplug things to reduce the phantom loads of the TV, iPod, and baby monitor; use an old-fashioned push mower; and we buy carbon credits to off-set the rest of our carbon load (carbonoffsetreview.com).
10. Create community that makes green parenting seem fun. Some of my closest new mama friends would never have considered themselves green, but they have an open, curious attitude and a desire to parent in a healthier, more sustainable way. We learn from and inspire each other. I also rely on the internet and “virtual” friends for inspiration and information.
How can the little green people show and website and this blog help you with your green parenting pursuit?