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.