Our son is nearly one year old, where has the time gone? A year simultaneously feels like a lifetime and a blip. So much has happened and changed in this time, it’s sometimes hard to fathom.
Parenthood has been exhausting and exciting and fulfilling and terrifying, I never thought I could be so busy. In all that chaos it’s hard to live a completely environmentally friendly life – heck it’s hard to do even when you’re childless with a good income! Sometimes I find myself feeling guilty about having to opt for convenience over conservation, but we do the best we can – and that’s okay because every bit helps. I no longer aim to be perfect, I just try my best.
Here are some of the things we have implemented in our lives to be kinder on the planet as a family with a baby:
We use a mix of disposable and reusable nappies for our son. During the day he scoots around in his pretty cloth nappies, and at night he wears eco-disposables purely because of their absorbency. This is a pretty common way of doing things among cloth nappy users, as it reduces risk of leaks and rashes overnight. In the first two or three months, we decided to do more disposable nappies because we were terrified first time parents who needed more sleep and less laundry, but once we got into the habit it started saving us so much money and waste. Nappy bins fill up so fast, we were absolutely gob-smacked to see how much waste is produced in a short time! Guilt filled me to the brim every time we took out the rubbish, but now I feel better about it because I know I did what I could at the time and at least opted for disposables and wet wipes that are gentler on the environment.
We use Noopii nappies and wipes as disposables, and Fudgey Pants cloth nappies, and have been completely happy with our experience with both. The disposables and wipes are pricey compared to more destructive brands, but I figure it’s a price worth paying, and it evens out with the money we save having the reusables.
Like the rest of our home, we opted for solid wood baby furniture where we could – most of it is second hand. Not only do I prefer the look, I also prefer the reusability and durability. When solid wood gets damaged you can easily sand it down or repaint it and give it new life, and it can last for generations and survive multiple babies and families, so once we are done with it we aim to tidy it all up and find new homes for all of it. And if the article is damaged beyond repair for whatever reason, the wood can still be repurposed. MDF or chipboard (flatpack) alternatives have considerably shorter lifespans, as once they get any moisture damage they swell and flake and become unsightly much faster. They break more easily and are less accommodating to nails and screws and strip easily. That being said, if something is still perfectly reusable and in good shape, it’s better to use it than burn it or let it go to landfill! I did get one pretty solid MDF table and chair set that is in great condition! I am excited to upcycle it for when our son is a little older and paint it with little Moomin motifs! 😀
We can’t completely prevent plastics from entering our lives, gifts are often plastic or plastic-derivatives. So we decided that we would at least try to keep things simple when we buy toys ourselves. Luckily for us, wooden toys are making a big comeback, so there are so many amazing and fun options out there! River’s absolute favorite is his big wooden activity cube. Our baby bouncer is also this simple, plastic free kiwi-made beauty by Babybounce. Babes are easy to entertain, there are tons of non-plastic options out there like heuristic play loose parts from Project Play.
Cotton and Wool Clothing, Bedding and Soft Toys
Babies go through clothes at a wild rate. They grow so, so quickly! One way I have dealt with it, is by getting second hand clothes. Admittedly not all his clothes are second hand, but when we do buy new we try to be sure it’s 100% cotton or natural fiber wool. We received a lot of second hand clothes from friends with children, and a lot of hand-knitted coats as gifts from family (thankfully my mother-in-law is a keen knitter!). Another way to keep waste out is by opting for natural fiber blankets and soft toys. Natural fibers(like cotton) are breathable, long lasting, and more fire and heat resistant. Natural fiber soft toys are a little harder to come by and are often at a higher price point, which is frustrating, but there are retailers like Naked Baby Eco-Boutique who sell a huge and beautiful variety if you can spend the coin. Items that are still in good nick, we send on to friends with younger babies or donate to Salvation Army.
This one might be a tender subject for many. Every parent dreams of being able to feed their baby healthy homecooked meals, but time gets away from us. My partner and I are lucky enough to work remotely from home, so on the weekend I usually do a big cook where I prepare most of Baby’s food for the week, and during the week when I am on lunch break I might make the odd extra or top up things that have run out (like prepping some fresh fruit for a snack). River’s daycare does not provide food, so it’s a lot of work for us because he eats enough to feed a small army (the boy is a foodie like no other baby I’ve seen). Once in a while, if we are tight on time or the perpetual tiredness gets the better of us, we opt for organic baby food pouches that are produced locally. Unfortunately, store-bought baby snacks and food is pretty much impossible to buy in fully recyclable or compostable packaging in NZ, so we try to at least stick to local companies that make organic baby food within NZ to reduce some of the impact on the environment. I am replacing my current breastmilk bags with reusable silicone ones in the future, but have tried reusing them as much as hygienically possible. The reason we did not outright get silicone expressed milk bags, is because I overproduced breastmilk like crazy in the first four months and we wanted to keep as much frozen as possible for emergencies. Currently, I use my two Haaka manual silicone pumps as short-term storage rather than wasting plastic baggies where possible.
Bath Time and Skincare
Before River was born I bought a gift set of Little Dragon bath and skincare products and they have been wonderful. They get a little pricey and I have since found that I don’t use nearly as much product as I thought I would. I don’t use moisturizers and conditioners and separate shampoos for River, in fact I don’t use soap on him every day either. So to cut down on cost, I have since switched to Weleda Calendula Baby Body Wash and Shampoo. It’s vegan, gentle, and has a delightful subtle fragrance. After his bath we use bulk ethical and sustainable Shea Butter from Pure Nature. It will last for ages and is super cheap compared to store-bought baby moisturizers and is safe for baby skin, it leaves his skin soft and buttery and delicious!
Because I do a lot of meal prep for bub, that means we’ve had to bulk up on storage solutions. And while I would love to spend loads of money buying only glass or stainless steel, that is simply not an option financially. Instead I kept my eyes on sales and bought a few sets of glass storage containers from various places for the fridge(great for our leftovers also), and I also store some things in mason jars in the fridge like bub’s chia pudding and prune juice. I also got a couple of these awesome silicone freezer trays from Kmart to freeze his extra food. We’ve had to supplement with a few plastic containers as well, but I feel like we’re in a good place. I looked around for a good lunch box, but stainless steel bentos are so expensive. Plus his daycare teacher asked for separate smaller pottles instead, so that when they go out on excursions she wouldn’t need to haul around big lunch boxes. So needless to say, good old Sistema came to the rescue, which is NZ made and who have their Sustainability Initiative available on their website.
I’m sure there are many more solutions out there, we just try to implement as much as is feasible for our family. It can feel a little overwhelming trying to juggle normal life with sustainability, and it’s certainly an eye-opener when searching for something as simple as bibs or hats just how much plastics have entered even the tiniest details of our lives.
Remember to be kind to yourself, it’s ok to not be perfect. Breathe, do what you can, and breathe again.
Sending you so much love and best wishes.