Plastic wrapped plastic crap

I went into the store the other day intending to by one plastic item (ice cube trays) and somehow left with two additional items.

The ice cube trays were a necessary evil.  I freeze my pumped breast milk in the trays before transferring to freezer bags (yes, I know, MORE plastic).  I don’t like Sir’s milk coming in contact with plastic (we use glass bottles and I store refrigerated milk in glass jars), but I just don’t know of a better way to store the milk.

My previous trays, which I’d had for years, but rarely used, finally gave out.  Age and repeated freezing broke down the plastic — I waited as long as I could, but their condition forced me to face the inevitable.  I found this stainless steel ice cube tray, but I just couldn’t swallow $33 for one tray (I needed two).

As for the other plastic crap, I’d been looking for some kind of tray that we could attach to the table — something with a lip to help Sir pick up food, but that he wouldn’t be able to pick up and launch across the room.  (We don’t have a high chair, just a baby seat that attaches to the edge of the table.)

Online searching had not yielded much, so, since I was already at the store I headed to the baby section to peruse options, not expecting to find anything.  I spotted the Tommee Tippee silicone mat (orange item in picture) that adheres to the table top and features a suction cup in the middle, which holds a variety of plastic dishes made by the same company.  I doubted their utility, but I’d been searching for a solution for quite awhile, so I purchased a mat and a 2-pack of plates.

The verdict?  Yes, it’s plastic, and it came in plastic packaging, but the mat is quite useful.  I’m not sure about the plate.  The mat’s suction cup actually works fairly well on our glass plates, so the main advantage of the plastic plates is the low (but not too low) and straight lip/edge to aid picking up food.

If you already had a plate or bowl (be it plastic, glass, or metal) with that feature and a smooth bottom for attaching to the suction cup, you could avoid purchasing their special dishes.  As it is, I use the plastic plates when serving food that I think he’ll have trouble grabbing and glass at other times.

Could we have avoided the plastic here?  Yes, but I’m learning that raising a baby (and not going completely insane and/or broke searching for the “perfect” green and healthy solution for every little thing) involves some compromises.  On the upside, I have not generated the waste involved with formula feeding or buying prepared baby food, which would make these purchases look inconsequential.

Coming soon: The “Green Baby Strategies” post

Green baby — an oxymoron?

Before we had our own little one, my husband always accused me of being baby-crazy.  Despite the reality of the planet’s limited carrying capacity, I never really considered not having children, and I scaled back my plans from 3 kids to 2 kids, to stay below the 2.2 children/woman average for not increasing the world population.  (I’m pretty sure this 2.2 is a legit figure, but I can’t find a reliable source for it at the moment.)

Sure, I would use green practices, like cloth diapering, avoiding unnecessary baby/kid “stuff,” and buying used, and I would raise my child(ren) to respect the earth and its resources.  Still, the reality is that a baby born in the United States, no matter how “green,” has a big carbon footprint that will almost certainly persist throughout the lifetime.

When I was five months pregnant, I read Beth Terry’s “I’m an Environmentalist and I’m Not Having Kids” post, and, despite the fact that she explicitly states that she made her decision to not have kids because of personal goals rather than environmental concerns, I started feeling a little guilty.  And then there were the quotes she shared from others about not wanting to bring new life into this mess of a world.  Gulp.  Did I mention I was already five months pregnant at this point?  Perhaps not the best reading material.

So, here I am, seven months later, with a three-month-old son.  The last three months have certainly seen increased resource use — water and energy washing diapers, trips made in the car that would have otherwise been made by bicycle — but at this stage, his needs, and therefore his eco-impact, are relatively minimal.  We’ve managed to purchase almost all large items second-hand (as well as keeping total purchases to a minimum), and he’s clothed mostly in hand-me-downs.  But still, having a baby is not exactly green.

As the years pass, his resource consumption will increase, but in some areas it may decrease, at least for awhile.  Once he’s just a bit older, we plan to travel by bike more than by car, and he won’t be in diapers forever.  As he grows, we’ll do our best to foster an appreciation for sustainable living and respect for the earth and its resources, values that we hope he will carry with him.  While I don’t buy the argument that this approach justifies having large numbers of children, it does offer some middle ground for raising a child, and sometimes, that’s as good as it gets.

Twelve weeks

To say the past twelve weeks have been a blur would be putting it VERY mildly.  We naively expected that we would accomplish any number of tasks during our maternity/paternity leaves.

I planned to give some serious attention to blogging, including purchasing a domain name and turning this blog into a more official site.  Instead, I’ve barely had time to write, or even read favorite blogs, much less expand things here.

While I love reading “mommy blogs,” I really did/do not want this to veer in that direction.  To that end, I considered starting another baby-specific blog (proposed name: Blue Green Mama), so I could stay on-topic here.  On the other hand, my goal here is to share stories and inspiration on sustainable and healthy living from my own life, which, like it or not (let’s be honest, it depends on when you ask), now involves being a mom.

Becoming a parent really drives home the whole “what are we leaving for future generations” argument for sustainability.  Yesterday, we had a naming ceremony for Gabriel at the Ethical Society, and the platform topic just-so-happened to be global warming, sustainability, and social justice (our completely haphazard, hey, let’s do this next Sunday form of “planning” worked amazingly well).  Listening to the well-delivered message, which I’ve heard plenty of times before, took on new meaning as I looked into my son’s eyes.

While I now more fully appreciate how lack of time can be a significant barrier to behavior change (whether a health-related behavior, or a “green” behavior), it seems more important than ever to stay committed to a sustainable lifestyle and advocate for larger scale change.

Blowing in the wind

Confession: Gabriel spent his first week-and-a-half or so in disposable diapers.  The idea of bringing our cloth diapers into the hospital crossed my mind briefly  while we were there, but there was too much going on for it to be a very serious thought.  Then, though it went against my green judgment, I brought the remaining package-and-a-half of disposables home with me, rather than leave them at the hospital for the next baby.

We used the disposables for the first few days at home, because it was easier to keep them away from the healing umbilical stump.  The disposables ran out before the stump fell off, but I was ready to call it quits, so we made the switch.

Right now,  we have a somewhat random assortment of second-hand diapers from a friend and some new organic cotton prefolds that we received as gifts.  We’re mostly using the old-school plastic pull-up covers (which my family called pack-a-leaks) right now, but I am interested in some of the new fancy covers because I think they’re more breathable.

Washing the Diapers
For the first few weeks, this task fell entirely to Matthew, given my recovery restrictions on stair climbing and lifting.  Now I’m helping out a bit.   We wash a small load (which is almost all of our diapers) every two days, warm wash, cold rinse.  At the moment we’re using a liquid detergent called Planet.

Washed, but stained . . .

After washing, we hang the diapers outside to dry, and the sun does its thing.

The sun worked its magic!

I’d read that the sun was great for naturally bleaching poop stains out of diapers, but I really had to see it to believe it.  I need to do a little research to figure out how this works, but the results are quite impressive.

The line drying does leave the diapers a bit crunchy compared to the dryer, but Gabriel doesn’t seem to mind too much 😉

A basket for baby

In this age of rampant consumerism, what’s the best way to prepare for a major life event, like having a baby?  BUY things, of course!

Excessive consumption of resources and accumulation of “things” wreaks havoc on the planet and on personal finances.  I know this, and so I strive to lead a life of simplicity and minimalism, but the message can be overwhelming at times.

Lately, I’m fighting feelings that the lack of baby stuff around our apartment makes me a bad mama-to-be.  Illogical?  Yes!  But the feelings are there nonetheless.

Marketers work hard to convince us that buying and accumulating lots of baby stuff can prepare new parents for the major life transition they are about to experience, but that’s just not the case.

The truth of the matter?  Newborn babies have relatively simple needs: eat, sleep, poop and pee.  We can meet most of these with minimal material investment.

Eat: For the first 6 months or so, I should have this one covered.  At some point, we will most likely introduce a bottle, and there may be a breast pump involved, depending on work arrangements.

Sleep: The plan is for baby to sleep next to me in bed, which is “where babies belong” according to my anthropology professor, and where they sleep in many cultures around the world.  To learn more about cosleeping, including how to practice it safely, click here.

Poop and pee:  Cloth or disposable?  Turns out, those aren’t necessarily the only options.  I’ve been reading about Elimination Communication (AKA Natural Infant Hygiene) in books like The Diaper Free Baby and Diaper Free: The Gentle Wisdom of Natural Infant Hygiene.  Though I will have cloth diapers to use at times, I am very interested in this approach that cuts down on the number of diapers needed.

For now, our small collection of baby “things” fits nicely in this Moses basket that we found used at Kangaroo Kids.  We’ll use the basket as a daytime sleeping place that we can keep near us when we’re not using a sling.  Arranging the basket was fun and assuaged some of my “bad mama” guilt.  When the time comes, we’ll have the basics covered, and we’ll provide a loving, nurturing family and home — something that all the money in the world can’t buy!