Hi, I'm Joe from KitsToys.co.uk. I'm a new(ish) dad of one, and I created my website to help people in a similar situation to me. To clarify, that is “being totally at a loss as a father” – seriously, it was an entirely new world to me, as I expect it is to most people.
Anyway, one of the things that has defined our journey into parenthood is our desire to soften our impact on the environment. I have always looked for ways to live greener. We recycle, we do beach cleans (and recycle what we find), we reduce waste, reuse what we can. So what about having kids?
Environmental impact of children
This is something that has come to the fore recently with the publication of a study in the summer which made headlines. The authors suggest four great ways of reducing your personal carbon footprint. These are:
- Eat a plant-based diet
- Less aeroplane travel
- Live car-free
- Have one fewer child
These actions are a significant personal investment, indeed they represent a complete lifestyle change, but they do have a much, much greater impact.
Of course, reading this, I thought to myself – one fewer child? That's a big deal – but moving forward, lifestyle changes are going to have to factor into our environmental policy and education.
So, it got me thinking – what other things do I do to offset the impact of having children? These are what I came up with:
1 – Reusable baby wipes
I know from conversations I've had with other parents, the use of disposable baby wipes is still prevalent even among those who are more environmentally conscious.
The problem is that disposable baby wipes are made of plastic fibres. Even so, they are flushed down the toilet, or otherwise they go to landfill.
If they are flushed down the toilet, then they end up on our beaches – the Marine Conservation Society in the United Kingdom found that there is an average of 14.1 wet wipes per 100m on the UK's shores which is astounding.
The alternative is to use reusable baby wipes. I use cotton flannels which I simply soak in water with a little bit of mild castile soap, and that is perfectly adequate. In the long run, it also saves us a lot of money – another bonus.
2 – Reusable nappies
The obvious way to reduce one's impact on the environment when you have a small child or a baby is to use reusable cloth nappies.
Of course, most of these nappies come with an outer wrap which is made from plastic fibres which, during washing, enter the water system – a major drawback, to be sure.
Nonetheless, the environmental impact of reusable nappies may be less than that of disposable nappies.
The outer layer of a disposable nappy is usually made from woven plastic fibres, and sodium polyacrylate or another non-biodegradable polymer forms the absorbent core – both of these are petrochemical products. However, the cotton required to make cloth nappies has an environmental burden of its own. Since one has to opt for one way or the other, I choose reusable nappies.
The environmental benefits of reusable nappies can be further increased by 40% by using them on a second child or by selling them or giving them away to another new parent.
3 – Second hand clothes
Another simple thing that we have done is to buy used clothes from charity shops and thrift stores, second-hand clothes from friends and hand me downs.
This is a very simple yet very effective way of reducing waste and using fewer resources. Besides, you would have to be mad to buy all new clothes for a fast-growing newborn!
This also has the very welcome side effect of saving you quite a lot of money (although you won't be able to keep up with latest fashion trends).
4 – Sell or otherwise pass on clothes and cloth nappies
My fourth suggestion is related to these last couple of points – to sell or otherwise pass on clothes and cloth nappies.
We purchased two bin liners filled with second-hand cloth nappies (don't worry they were clean) and we intend to pass them and as many clothes as we can onto new parents in their turn.
5 – Line dry as much as possible
My final suggestion is not limited only to parents but could apply to anyone: it is to line dry as much as possible.
In the United Kingdom it is not practical to dry all of your laundry on a line outside in the sun but if your climate permits it then is a great idea to save energy.
It is also beneficial to at least occasionally dry your cloth nappies in the sun because UV radiation an antimicrobial effect and the sunlight also helps to bleach out any stains.
You could also dry on a clothes horse or online inside your home, but with the volume of washing that a baby produces it is not practical to do this for all of your laundry.
I have looked into how other people suggest you can be a greener parent, both in books and on the Internet. However, a lot of the suggestions are not very actionable.
They include things like purchasing solar panels and solar water heaters for your home and educating your children on environmental matters.
These things, while important, have a high barrier to entry (solar panels are even more expensive than cloth nappies!) or have a delayed effect. Of course, I will still raise my kids to be environmentally aware, not to be wasteful, and so on – but I wanted things I could do NOW!
Hopefully, these suggestions will give you some ideas of things that you can do right away to make a difference.