Home sweet (sustainable) home: living in an environmentally friendly way might be simpler than you think.
Diapers, plastic bottles, clothes outgrown in the blink of an eye—sometimes, it seems like raising a baby means an endless succession of landfill contributions. We’re here to help: there are lots of low stress ways to navigate your home life so you leave the lightest impact on the planet. It can be as simple as making just a few small eco-friendly adjustments to your daily routine—because the effects can really add up. Here, a few sustainable changes you can make at home to help keep the planet healthy for your little ones.
The diaper dilemma
- Diapers are a tricky environmental hurdle—babies go through thousands of diaper changes before they’re potty trained, and traditional disposable, petroleum-based diapers take hundreds of years to decompose. Cloth diapers are much more environmentally friendly, and have come a long way from the days of safety pins, and many are now made with clever leak-proof snaps and easy-to-remove liners.
- If cleaning cloth diapers feels beyond you (we totally get it), check to see if your city or town has cloth diaper delivery and pickup services; you don’t have to deal with the gnarly task of cleaning, and their laundering methods are more water-efficient than home machines.
- Cloth diapers still too intense? Don’t sweat it. Look for biodegradable diapers made from plant-based plastics. Check with your local recycler for best practices on how to dispose of them, or join a local delivery service that collects and drops the soiled ones off at a composting facility.
- Know what’s greenest (and most cost-effective) of all? Potty training. Studies say toddlers may be ready to ditch the diapers as early as 18 months.
Every drop matters
- Your laundry habits probably changed dramatically the minute you arrived home with your newborn. Instead of doing a load of wash the second you’re faced with a stained bodysuit, start a soaking tub for dirty clothes. We promise by the end of the day there will be more items with exciting new stains to add to the tub—that way, you don’t have to do multiple loads and can save on your water usage.
- Newer, more energy-efficient washing machines use less than half the water of machines from 20 years ago—look for front-loaders, which generally use the least amount of water. Attach water-saving faucet aerators and shower heads to help reduce water waste and save some cash on your monthly bill.
- The bad news: Over 2 gallons of water per minute goes down the drain each time you shower, which adds up fast. The good news: you’re a parent, which means your showers probably got a lot quicker—and less frequent!—as soon as you had a baby. Pat yourself on the back for mastering sustainable living already.
- If you need a good bath to unwind after the little ones are in bed, keep in mind that the typical bathtub fills at around about 36 gallons. That’s almost double the average 10-minute shower, which uses about 20 gallons. Make your bath a special ritual and keep it to a couple times a week.
- Use cold water to wash dishes and clothes, and even your face. It saves water by not waiting for it to warm up, plus cool water on your skin feels refreshing.
- Cut down on paper towels by using cloth rags or wash cloths to wipe up kitchen counters, dust furniture or clean up messes where you’d normally use a paper towel. If paper towels are must-haves in your household, don't worry—there are newer, greener options made from recycled paper or bamboo. Look for ones that are precut into smaller sections, so you only use what you need.
- Go to the library. Borrow books and make it a fun experience for your kids and make sure to remember some new bedtime stories. If you really want a particular book for your family library, try to buy it used.
- Reuse scraps of paper for notes and kids’ drawings instead of using notepads. Did you know that J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book on scraps of paper? Be like J.K. Rowling.
- If you give your baby a bottle, go for glass or stainless steel bottle instead of plastic. Some options also handily convert to a sippy cup, like Lifefactory or Pura. They may be on the pricier side, but you’ll get years of use that will pay off in the long run.
- Once your baby starts eating real food, there are tons of adorable (and sustainable!) plastic-free plateware options, made from bamboo, stainless steel, or silicone.
- Remember to bring your own market bags and forego the plastic. Keep this in mind next time you shop: plastic bags take 15 to 1,000 years to break down depending on the environment—which basically means…never.
- BYOWB (Bring Your Own Water Bottle). Seriously.
- Purchase your skincare and baby care products from sustainable brands that have fully recyclable packaging and use post-consumer recycled material (like Pipette!)
This little light of mine
- LED lights bulbs last longer than incandescent lighting--which means you don’t need to buy nearly as many, and fewer bulbs find their way into landfill. Look for bulbs that emit less blue light. They’re better for your baby’s eyes and don’t disrupt sleep!
- Let the sun shine in. Use natural light as much as possible to light a room; it not only helps the planet, it also lowers your energy bill.
- Remember that thing that mom used to say? Yep, she was right: always turn off the lights when you leave a room.
Dress for eco-success
- Buying gently used clothing is the ideal way to dress sustainably, especially given how quickly babies go through clothes. And nothing beats the high cost of infant clothing than passing along those cute little rapidly outgrown outfits to someone who has a new baby. Upcycling clothing is a hot trend that works for the whole family.
- Dress in layers for temperature control instead of relying too heavily on the thermostat or AC. Adding or removing clothing can help when things go from hot to cold. This goes for baby as well: bundle up that little bundle of joy in breathable layers when temperatures start to drop.