8 Small and Big Ways to Live More Sustainably After Kids
From the moment you bring your first child home convenience wins over anything else, even sometimes the planet (you're just sooooo tired). Baby wipes, disposable diapers, paper towels, Amazon Prime! How do you go from living a sustainable life to a parent life without messing with Mother Earth? Here are small and big ways to get back on the eco wagon after parenthood, at any stage. Plus, simple ways to teach kids to be more mindful of the world, and its resources, around them.
1. Choose experiences in favor of toys. Plastic toys account for 90 percent of the market and most are nearly impossible to recycle. Go for quality over quantity and choose sustainably made toys over the cheap plastic variety when possible. Even better: experts suggest that vacations with your child or even outdoor experiences can give them a brain development boost that playing at home can't. It works the "seeking" part of the brain that can lead to growth in the area responsible for cognitive functioning, problem-solving, emotional expression, memory, language, and judgment.
2. Ditch single-use items. Hold the juice boxes, pouches, and even balloons. For one-use food items, try to buy in bulk (here are some super easy baby food recipes to make at home for the week) and opt for reusable containers, bottles and bags vs. one-use plastic baggies and bottles.
Also, let's talk balloons. The ones that float into the air not only bring on major tears but can end up in our waterways, where marine life can confuse them for food, or worse, strings can entangle them. Several states are proposing a ban on the helium kind (the Marine Conservation Society estimates that the number of balloons along shorelines has tripled in the past decade).Kids love balloons — we get it — so the trick is to make sure they are weighted down and are disposed of properly (cut them to remove the helium, and then recycle the foil or mylar ones or compost 100 percent latex ones, which are biodegradable).
3. Support a farmer, grow a garden. Farmer's markets not only support local farmers but they help reduce the carbon emissions associated with delivering food from corporate farms to supermarkets. You're also supporting someone invested in your land and community. Many markets host fun things to do for kids — music, fruit tastings, crafts. And fruits and veggies aren't stored in plastic containers, just toss in your reusable bag and go! If you want to go big: Plant a garden and grow your own food. Even a small herb garden at home can teach kids the basics of where food comes from.
4. Walk, bike, scoot to school. Taking the time to walk or bike with your kids to school can be a chance to bond and get in some exercise before the work day grabs your attention. If you're a late riser or have a distance to travel connect with other parents to start a carpool, which will save you time and gas. If you want to go big: When it's time to upgrade your mini for a car suitable for a growing family look at EVs or more fuel-efficient rides.
5. Shop secondhand. Past the first baby stage you learn quickly that kids grow out of clothes fast — and also destroy them once they get mobile. Consignment shops for kids are brilliant and also great at curating the stain-free cream of the crop. Welcome hand-me-downs from family and friends and even host a clothing swap party for all your babies, big and small.
6. Use eco-friendly cleaning products or make your own! Sustainable cleaning products are easy to come by these days and are more affordable — you can even buy in bulk to reduce your plastic consumption. But there are easy ways to just make your own nontoxic cleaners at home. It's amazing what a little vinegar and baking soda will do!
7. Give your home an energy boost. LED lights use at least 75 percent less energy, and go 25 times longer, than incandescent lighting. It's an easy fix and not too pricey a switch to make. Of course, there's always teaching kids to turn off the lights and their devices (and it's never too early to do so). If you want to go big: Renewable energy companies are popping up with more affordable rates for solar, wind and hydropower, making it easier to get set up too. (There are tax benefits to going with renewables too).
8. Turn off the faucet!, like your dad used to say. As kids start to help with washing the dishes, brushing their own teeth or even taking showers it helps to teach them to turn off the water fauet so they can start eco-friendly habits early. Taking the time to explain to them why we need to conserve water helps them understand their part in all of it too.
This post has been updated.
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Theresa Gonzalez is a content creator based in San Francisco and the author of Sunday Sews. She's a lover of all things design and spends most of her days momming her little one Matilda.