What every baby needs… Choosing baby equipment the green way.
Despite the rising costs of living, and contrary to the advice of some doom and gloomers concerned about the environmental impact, humans still continue to have babies and raise children – thank goodness. Despite the birthrate per person reducing, both in the developed and the developing world, the population of the world continues to grow. That growing population consumes natural resources, leaving a carbon footprint which affects the natural environment, and ultimately contributes to climate change. Baby equipment adds to that consumption.
According to MoneySense.ca, it is estimated that average cost for raising a child to age 18 in Canada is $243,660 in other words $12,825 per child, per year — or $1,070 per month.(*1) . The parents of these children generally want the best for them. Many probably have relatively more financial security than many previous generations making them prime targets for the thriving baby goods and service industries. There is huge pressure from advertising, the media, celebrity endorsements and even amongst other parents locally, to buy the latest gadgets and equipment. Current trends for providing and purchasing items for babies are not only frightening financially but also environmentally. Most are manufactured and transported with little regard for the environment. Thankfully parents of babies and those raising children do not have to resort to over consumption of natural resources. Green principles apply to baby goods and services just as with any others. We can make choices to include organic, locally produced, recycled, reusable, biodegradable, ethically produced or even homemade baby equipment and supplies.
As with any other goods and services the first step in choosing baby equipment is to work out if we do in fact need them? If we do, do they need to be new or could we reuse one? Does it support us as we do our best to love and nurture them, and keep them safe and well, and allow them to develop and grow at their own pace? Is there a more natural eco friendly way to do it? Can we learn from parents of the past, or from other cultures? Is there something we can do to reduce our carbon footprint and be more eco-friendly?
Parenthood has its ups and downs, and eco choices should add to the joy rather than making things harder. We may not be able to be have 100 % eco parenting success, and for a variety of reasons, but every effort we make is worth making.
Choosing baby equipment
In the past when women were preparing for their babies they would rarely buy new things. They would gather hand me down baby equipment and clothes, passed on from relatives or neighbors, or make items they needed. My Grandmother told me of the neighborhood scramble for extra baby clothes and a crib after she unexpectedly gave birth to twins, a boy, my Dad, and a girl in 1923. Just because we have more items available to buy now, doesn’t mean we need necessarily need to buy them. Some are just not necessary, or even particularly helpful.
Do you ever wonder what our ancestors would make of the current baby goods and equipment market? Some products would probably be met with appreciation and even some envy, as they have made baby rearing easier, and have contributed to increased child safety, heath, and well-being. However, the vast spread of nursery items and luxuries, way beyond the necessities for caring for a baby would possibly be met with the scratching of heads and puzzled expressions, or maybe even laughter! Some of today’s parents even admit to not actually using many of the items they invested in as first timers. I am not proposing returning to the days of wearing a series of almost worn out hand me down home-made smocks during pregnancy, putting our babies in a drawer to sleep wrapped in an old sack, and dispensing with car seats and strollers, but I hope we can resist the growing trend of seeing babies and their equipment as fashion statements. It is not necessary to be pushing or carrying our baby in this seasons brand and colours.
Strollers, baby carriers and cribs can be passed on by friends of relatives, or purchased second hand. There is likely to be a wealth of pre-used baby equipment available due to the trends of those who feel the need to regularly upgrade, or update. Personally I researched for the best quality stroller I could afford at the time, and made sure it was suitable from birth until no longer required. I used the same one for all of my babies, spanning a 14 year period, with cleaning, maintenance and repairs as necessary, revamping it for each new baby with accessories and blankets. Some parents prefer to use baby carriers, and not use strollers at all.
Second hand cribs are often available. It is advisable to replace the mattress, preferably made of eco-friendly materials such as latex, bamboo or organic cover for health and safety. These must fit exactly. Very old cribs might not be suitable as they may have leaded paint.
Older hand me downs or home-made sheets, and blankets are great too, but check they follow current guidelines so that baby will not over heat.
If buying new, opt for eco-friendly certified materials.
If co-sleeping is the preferred option, baby will still need somewhere safe to sleep. Seek current advice and avoid co sleeping especially if either parent smokes, drinks alcohol or is unwell.
Baby car/automobile seats are trickier to source second hand, as they need to comply with current safety laws/ guidance. If they do comply it’s important to be sure that they have never been involved in an accident. Fitting instructions should also be available and installation should be checked by an expert. I made the mistake of buying a car seat whist overseas visiting a relative, only to find that it did not comply with my home country safety requirements. The release clip was in a different location to our local seats. This could have hindered emergency services releasing my baby in the event of an accident.
Remember that rear facing baby car seats should not be placed in a seat with a passenger air bag, unless it has been deactivated. Older cars may not have that information or advice available.
Baby baths are smaller and therefore use less water than a normal bath tub. They are by their very nature, eco-friendly. Bathwater can be diverted to other uses, such in the garden, or toilet flushing.
I am grateful that I have supportive Mum friends who are honest and realistic about the challenges of parenthood. None of us score highly in the baby fashion stakes, and do what we can to be as green as we can. We refer to our children as free range, but are quick to correct anyone who mistakenly refers to them as feral, with the exception of one child, who happens to be one of mine.
Unlike some parents, we are not particularly competitive about our babies. Our only competitions are the ones where we share our less successful parenting stories. My usually sensible police officer friend scored particularly highly on the parenting mistakes leader board. She admitted that she left forgot to put her baby into the car when leaving on a shopping trip, and drove off leaving him in his car seat on the drive outside her home . The ultimate safety car seat will not protect the baby unless it is used and installed correctly – preferably in the car!
Another time this same mother successfully remembered her baby but drove off leaving the front door wide open, with all of the house lights, and heating and even the TV on. Just think of her environmental impact, let alone the potential risks! Thankfully I was passing by and remedied the situation. I can honestly say I have never done either of those things. After the initial shock, feelings of shame, and reassurances that no harm was done, what else could we do but laugh? I am not in a position to judge. I’ve got a long list my own mistakes to share. We are only human and in the case of parents and carers of babies, we are very tired humans. We make mistakes, but we try our best. Somehow our babies survive and grow – sometimes in spite of what we do.
The most important thing to remember is that no matter what, all we can do is our best for our babies. At the same time we can try to do our best for the environment, to leave the world a better place for our babies and their babies.
*(1) See http://www.canadianliving.com/life/money/how_much_does_it_cost_to_raise_kids_in_canada.