Green living is something of a passion of mine. I don’t live in a yurt or engage in subsistence farming or anything like that, but I really appreciate this little planet we all share— and that we’re passing on to our kids-- and I recognize that the choices I make have some bearing on its overall well-being. Now that I have a baby, convenience is key; finding fun, easy or cheap ways to treat the earth right in living everyday life gets me kind of excited. I’ve made some good discoveries on that score this year. Here are the best of them (then tell me yours!):
Decomposable Diapers. From Target. For Real. When it comes to “going green”, exploring the options around those activities we do most (repeated activities like eating, commuting, and so forth) is, in my experience, the best place to start, as that’s where positive changes will have the greatest cumulative impact. Diapering, for those of us with babies, definitely falls into this category. Unfortunately, I’ve been pretty disappointed with the available ‘earth- friendly’ options. Cloth diapering was never in the cards—we lack in-home laundry facilities. gDiapers, which we started Kaspar on and used for several months, seemed like a good middle ground between cloth and disposables, but ended up being closer to cloth diapering then I could deal with (I was washing diapers by hand, nightly). I finally gave in and switched to the chlorine-free disposable diaper brands. The thing is, even though these diapers make a less hazardous environmental dent in their manufacturing processes, they still live on in landfills, alongside their conventional counterparts, for thousands of years. But, I considered them the lesser of evils and tried not to think about it. *Heavy sigh.*
Then, behold, my wildest diapering dreams came true this fall when a friend told me about Nature Babycare. These diapers are made from corn, work exactly like regular disposable diapers and, once trashed, dissolve without a trace (not, like, in your garbage, but soon enough). They cost about the same amount as regular diapers, and buying a case got me a significant discount and free shipping from Target.com. I’ve been using them for several months—no leakage!-- and my conscience is finally at peace on the diapering front. I never thought I’d get as excited about diapers as I am about these, but hey: making a huge difference without extra effort is awesome. (And just imagine if all of our government-subsidized, overproduced corn crops were put to use making decomposable diapers instead of being converted into unrecognizable food products and then foisted upon an increasingly-obese population of American kids! Oh, the possibilities… )
Toys and Clothes (the fun stuff): When it comes to baby stuff—toys, clothes and gear—my main rule of thumb is to buy used and borrow (and likewise sell used and loan). It extends a product’s lifespan, reduces demand for needless manufacturing, and initiates participation in the interconnected community of which we are all a part (I’ve met mom-friends through Craigslist clothing runs). Websites like Craigslist and ThredUP have made the gently-used habit an easy one to form, and of course your local public library will lend you all of the books, dvd’s, classes and story hours your little half-pint can handle.
Because we’ve saved a ton of money by getting many of our basics second-hand, I’m willing to spend a little more on new items from companies that go the extra mile in terms of responsible production and quality materials (better for the planet, and better for my kid). I’m especially enamored with Green Toys, a company that makes bath toys, tea sets, toy trucks-- you name it-- out of 100% recycled plastics, and they’re all BPA free. Kaspar has a set of their blocks which have entertained him through several developmental stages, and we’re giving him their recycling truck for his first birthday in February (Aaron has had to continually talk me down from busting it out of our hiding place before then). His other favorite toys are his sheep and duck hand puppets from Apple Park, another innovative new brand. These toys are made from organic cotton and corn fibers (go corn!), and are super soft, and cute. They regularly accompany Kaspar on afternoon stroller-naps, and have been lifesavers during doctor’s visits (a duck waving his wings around and talking in dad’s voice? Best distraction ever).
I’ve taken the same approach to buying clothes as I have with toys; by getting the basics second-hand, I can spend a little more on those items I want new, choosing companies that I feel good about supporting, and choosing items made from materials that are safe for Kaspar and for the planet. If I buy new clothes for Kaspar, I buy high-quality and earth-friendly items that will wear well as hand-me-downs for someone else once we’re ready to pass ‘em on, too. (That cute little lion shirt Kaspar’s sporting above is from BabyBe Organics and Yoga, a small, mom-run company whose stuff I am obsessed with and gifting to all of the new babies I know).
Clean, Green Home: My final two discoveries are actually kind of old news, but they’re newly amazing to me, and I suspect some of you might appreciate a reminder. Let me explain: You know all of those “green” cleaning products promising to make baby’s space as safe and sanitary as can be? There are countless brands of all-purpose, eco-friendly and baby-safe cleaners available at the big baby stuff stores… and you don’t need any of them. All you need are baking soda and vinegar. Seriously. Google it. These two little powerhouses can do anything. Baking soda will deodorize your diaper genie, remove carpet stains and work as a natural fabric softener. Vinegar can soothe a bee sting, deter ants, and clean your refrigerator, cookware and floors. Both are cheap and completely natural. Baking soda. Vinegar. Solving all problems since… way back when.
So there you have it. My top green baby discoveries of 2010. Now it’s your turn: what are your best tips and tricks for treading lightly (if loudly) with a little one? Are there any new products you’re excited about these days? Any old standby’s you think worth sharing with the class? I’m looking forward to your input and ideas!