While I’m far from having everything figured out on the “green parenting” front, I have learned a few things over the last ten plus months. So, in no particular order, here are eight strategies to help you and your baby go green.
1. Buy Used
Okay, this one is rather obvious, but it bears repeating. The million (or billion?) dollar baby industry spends a lot of time and effort telling us (especially first-time moms) that we need a big, custom nursery with shiny new furniture, a dresser AND closet full of brand-new baby clothes (that will acquire stains and be outgrown in the blink of an eye), and a whole array of toys and entertainment devices that a newborn could care less about. Their strategies prey on our insecurities as new parents, trying to convince us that we can make up for perceived deficits in our parenting knowledge and skills by spending money.
Since most baby stuff is used for a relatively short period of time, you can find many items in pretty good condition at regular thrift stores, baby/kid-specific consignment shops, Craigslist, and/or garage sales. Make a specific list (but be flexible on things like color), and then ask family and friends to keep an eye out for things as well.
2. Something Borrowed
Even better than buying used, check with friends and family about borrowing items. Your cousin may not want to SELL that baby swing or bouncy seat, preferring to keep it for a future baby, but she may be willing to loan it to you for the few months that it will be useful.
3. Skimp on Laundry
A new addition does not have to mean tons of extra laundry. Sure, there will be some additional laundry in the form of diapers if you use cloth, but there’s no reason you should be averaging over a load a day! A shirt or blanket with a bit of drool, or pants that are slightly damp at the waist from a minor diaper leak, can be removed, aired-out, and re-worn. Comfortable shirts and pants can transition from daytime to bedtime, with no need for an extra change of clothes.
4. Be Flexible
Sir graduated from the [second-hand] Moses basket to a Pack ‘n Play that my sister picked up for us at a garage sale. Our initial assumption was that it would be a temporary solution while we worked on finding a crib and making room for said crib in our small, one-bedroom apartment. He slept well in the playpen, so we decided to forgo the crib.
5. Think Outside the Box
Instead of a big, bulky high chair that separates baby from the table and keeps him from really being part of the meal, we started with a small, portable seat that clamped on the table. It seemed safe enough, but I was a bit worried, especially as Sir often demonstrates his enthusiasm for food by kicking and bouncing in his seat.
I was all ready to visit a local baby consignment store to look for a booster seat that we could use with a chair at the table, when Matthew came up with the solution in the above photo: phone books stacked on a chair underneath the clamp-on seat. His idea transfers the weight to the chair instead of the table, allowing us to continue to use the clamp-on seat, but making it safer and more stable, no purchase necessary.
6. Seek suggestions
When I wrote about our crunchy diaper problem and my search for used cloth diapers, several readers responded with helpful suggestions. Based on your ideas, I contacted a local diaper service and purchased thirty of their “seconds” for twenty dollars. Despite some signs of wear, these are good quality, thick prefolds that are more than adequate for our needs.
7. Wait on It
Sometimes not having the time or energy to do the research for a purchase, or actually get to a store [or online] to make the purchase, can be a good thing. Babies’ needs change very quickly, and something that might seem absolutely essential today may well be old news in a week or two. Waiting gives you time to find a more long-term solution and avoid an unnecessary impulse buy, but you may also discover you can live without a what’s-it or thing-a-ma-jig.
8. But Don’t Drive Yourself Crazy
I’m NOT so good at following my own advice on this one, but I’ll toss it in anyway. If you’re spending lots of time and energy trying to hunt down a particular item, or burning gallons of gas driving to far-flung garage sales, you’ve probably hit a point of diminishing returns.
The bottom line is that having a baby is WAY less green than not having a baby, and, as I continue to discover, parenting is all about compromises (my friend writes a blog devoted to that subject). Sometimes buying new does make sense — in these cases, try to keep the item in good condition to loan, sell, or donate once you’ve finished using it.
I’m sure there are lots of other ideas out there — what are YOUR tips and tricks for minimizing your little one’s carbon footprint?
Related post: A basket for baby (my pre-baby thoughts on baby stuff)