February 17, 2010

How to Have an Eco-Friendly Baby

Babies are small people but big consumers! From diapers to pacifiers to all those beeping plastic toys, babies can really put a dent in your wallet and affect the planet. But parents can make eco-friendly choices that will save money and be better for the environment. Here are some suggestions.

1. Breastfeeding your baby greatly reduces waste. If you practice “ecological” breastfeeding, you do not need to invest in pacifiers, bottles, rubber nipples, containers of formula, and other wasteful items that can’t be recycled or re-used. Think about the waste you will avoid by breastfeeding for even six months, much less for years.

2. Cloth diapers may sound icky to those who are not accustomed to them, but the truly “icky” diapers are the plastic-backed, disposable ones piled high in landfills. Also, disposable diapers contain bleaching agents and absorbency-enhancing chemicals that make some eco-conscious parents uncomfortable. Using organic, cotton diapers that can be washed and re-used is far better for your baby and the environment. If you are concerned about leaks, there are diaper covers made from naturally water-resistant wool.

3. The room where the baby will be spending the most time – and the whole house if you can manage it – needs to have eco-friendly paint, flooring, and furniture (babies spend a lot of time on the floor!). Look for paint that is VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) free, and take up wall-to-wall carpeting if possible and replace it with eco-friendly wood or other natural flooring. Baby’s furniture should also be as natural as possible, preferably made of sustainable, natural wood.

4. Baby cribs and beds are often chemical-intensive areas, with soft plastics, flame retardants, dyes, and other synthetic chemicals saturating the mattress and bed covers. Look for natural rubber mattresses and organic bedding so that your baby will be breathing clean air all night long. Wool is naturally fire-resistant, so consider natural sheep fleece and wool bedding for your baby if that is a concern.

5. Clothing goes directly against baby’s skin, so you want to be sure to use chemical-free cloth. Due to the soft, porous nature of babies’ skin, they are more prone to absorb toxins through their skin than adults are. Some natural choices are organic cotton and wool, but any material will do as long as it is organic and comfortable.

6. Keeping baby clean should not involve skin irritants or carcinogens, but some of the popular baby soaps and shampoos contain such potentially harmful chemicals. Use natural soaps and lotions with simple, organic ingredients and dry baby with an organic cotton towel.

7. Try to skip the plastic toys in favor of toys made from untreated wood. There are many safe, wooden baby toys on the market for all ages, and they are very durable. Consider natural toys, too, or re-use household items like paper towel tubes or cardboard tissue boxes by making them into interesting toys. Natural toys don’t require batteries, either – another source of household waste.

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Alexis Rodrigo

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