Let's face it: the moment we have a baby, it's easy to let all of our eco-friendly lifestyle efforts fly out the window. So we spoke to Elly Both from Bright Green to find out how to be a sustainable parent.
Whether you’re about to become a new parent or you’re simply growing your family of eco-warriors, you’re probably wondering how on earth you can keep up with your sustainable lifestyle. Well, you’re not on your own. Babies and kids, delightful as they may be, are not super eco-friendly. From non-recyclable diapers to plastic toys galore, having children can be a real challenge for green-thinking folk! So, here’s what Elly Both from Bright Green wishes she had known before becoming a parent. All the things that’ll help you stay true to your eco-friendly parenting lifestyles…
ECO-FRIENDLY PARENTING: TIPS ON GOING GREEN WITH A BABY
1. Rent or borrow your baby equipment
It might be difficult to get your head around this at first, but you don’t actually need to buy anything new for your baby at all! So before you start wandering through baby stores and buying up big, consider renting or borrowing. A good guide as to whether to buy, borrow or rent is to consider how long you will likely the item. To get you started, the following items are best rented or borrowed:
Baby essentials for newborns: Some items are only used for a short period of time, especially in the early/newborn months. Think Moses baskets and stands, baby baths and rolling mats, to name just a few. For slightly older babies, a bath seat also falls into this category.
Toys: We still have a huge collection of near-new rattles and baby toys. Toys for older kids can be rented too. You could organise a toy swap, or download the Toy Around app to see what is up for swapping in Singapore.
Larger items: Items such as a baby car capsule, pram, and newborn cot are also good items to consider renting. For slightly older children, you can also rent car seats. Check out our full guide on where to rent baby items in Singapore.
Breast pumps: Some new parents may have reservations about renting a breast pump, but there is nothing unsanitary about it when all items are sanitised before use. After all, hospitals offer rental pumps for new mums too! You could also consider renting or borrowing a pump from a friend who is between babies. And you can return it once you’re finished!
2. Buy second-hand items
As with a lot of first-time parents, it took us a few tries to find a particular item that worked for our baby and our family. This means that new parents often buy more than one type of something before they find one that they are happy with. So our top tip? Buy second-hand items to minimise the wastage, and do your research to find reputable, sustainable brands.
Baby carriers: I recall buying at least three different styles before I found the right one for me (from Baby Slings & Carriers, FYI!). I sold the other (almost new) carriers online for a fraction of what I paid. The moral is, there are so many near-new items available for you to get your hands on. And the bonus is, you’ll save a considerable amount of money.
Travel cots: They’re imperative to have on when travelling (or staycationing). As they are often used fairly infrequently, they’re another great item to purchase second-hand. Just make sure they are in near-new or excellent condition and that you receive the purpose-built mattress to ensure utmost safety for baby.
Baby clothes: It goes without saying that babies and kids grow quickly and will often grow out of their clothes before they wear them out! With this in mind, buying second-hand baby clothing is a real winner. Look for high-quality brands that last well and avoid fast fashion!
3. Opt for reusables
My absolute favourite eco-friendly parenting swap has been the move to reusable items. Let me first quash any reservations you may have about any messiness or fuss. Reusables reduce the need for many single-use items, and they save a huge amount of plastic from potentially polluting the environment.
Cloth nappies: Of all the many years we have used cloth nappies, there have only been two messy occasions – the rest were super easy with zero fuss. Reusable nappies are easy to wash and there are many great brands and designs to choose from. They look super cute too!
Swimming nappies: Similarly, we have rarely had any messy issues using these. There are so many gorgeous colours and designs to choose from. And one reusable swimming nappy costs about the same as one packet of disposables!
Reusable wet wipes: It’s important to remember that even some “eco-friendly” wet wipes contain plastic which means that the majority are not biodegradable. However carefully we may dispose of them, there is a risk that they could end up in the environment and endanger marine and bird life. Not only are reusables more eco-friendly, they work out much cheaper over time! Check out quality brands such as Cheeky Wipes.
4. Make your own!
Baby food: Buying baby food in individual serves often means they come in non-recyclable sachets or teeny glass jars that are unlikely to be reused due to their size. So why not make your own baby food, then freeze in ice cube trays or small reusable containers? (Invest in good quality containers that you will use year after year!). Or, opt for baby-led weaning and avoid the mushy baby food stage altogether!
Cleaning products: The concern with commercially manufactured cleaning products is that they are full of chemicals and other potentially harmful ingredients. Ensure that cleaning products are safe for your family, as well as the environment, by making your own. These simple green cleaning recipes contain fewer than three ingredients and take less than one minute to make!
Baby bathwash: Expert eco-friendly parenting tip! You can also use diluted liquid Castile soap as a baby bathwash. It’s a natural soap made from vegetable oil (and free from animal fats and synthetic ingredients). It’s also budget-friendly too!
Avoid single-purpose items: There are a countless contraptions on the market that promise to make parenting life an eco-friendly breeze. In reality, items that you already own work just as well! Avoiding any single-purpose item is one of the best ways to be eco-friendly and reduce our carbon footprint.
Baby food makers: Instead of buying a baby food maker, you can cook veggies on the stove or microwave and mash with a potato masher or blender.
Bottle warmer: Sit the bottle in a cup of boiling water to heat it (or for formula, pop it in the microwave for a few seconds). Always test on your wrist before giving to baby.
Temperature eggs: Have your air-con units serviced regularly so you know the thermostat is correct. (Opt for fan wherever possible and turn off once no longer in use.)
Nappy bag: Of course, there is no rule that says you must absolutely have a purpose-built nappy bag. Repurpose a bag you already own, or find one second-hand!
There are many other items that you may be tempted to buy as a new parent. But most of them you can honestly do without…
5. Ensure your items get a second life
Once your family no longer needs your baby items and equipment, ensure they get a new lease of life by reselling, donating or giving away…
Resell: Look to the usual second-hand platforms (Carousell and Facebook Marketplace to name a couple).
Donate: Sites like Mummybay or Pass It On allow you to donate items to fulfil particular requests to ensure they are more likely to be used (and less likely to end up in landfill).
Give away: You could also try giving items to friends or neighbours by posting on your condo Facebook group. Sites such as Trash Nothing and Freecycle are also really useful.
If you have tried all of the above with no luck, you can donate to general charity collections. It’s best to use this as a last resort though because, unfortunately, a lot of what is donated ends up in landfill…
6. And finally… create a baby shower gift registry!
Without a guide of what you and your family need, you will likely end up with more swaddles, baby blankets and rattles than you can possibly use! By providing a list of some kind, you can give well-meaning family and friends a number of eco-friendly ideas to choose from. A newborn photo shoot is a brilliant idea and will provide memories to last a lifetime.
Adopting a green approach as early as possible in your parenting journey will help you to set up your family on the right track, and help you live your best green life!
Words by Elly Both
Elly is a self-professed green geek, and the Founder of Bright Green – a sustainability consultancy based in Singapore. In her spare time, you’ll find her at the Singapore Zoo or Botanical Gardens with her kids, or writing blogs on living a greener life! Bright Green works with individuals, families and businesses to help them reduce their carbon footprint and live a greener lifestyle. Check out their online store full of sustainable, plastic-free products here!