Babies + Kids: sustainable first years

posted on: Tuesday, May 8, 2018

I've been asked a few times how I have worked sustainability into our first-time parenting experience. This is a very good question, because babies come with many needs. But do they need all the things for those needs? That is often the perception, and emotion-driven-baby-centric marketing tactics don't make it any easier on new parents.

There are places where we have fallen through the cracks, not had the energy to pursue something, or just not had the cash up front for a more sustainable option, as I will explain.

Since Ira was born, some of our sustainable baby plans worked and some just didn't.  I've made a list of the biggest categories that influenced our decision making when it comes to baby/toddler stuff and things.

Yep, I really did just wasted a perfectly good diaper for this picture. 

As a marketer myself, I explore the question of what we think we need daily, and often just opt out of the things that don't fit our philosophy and lifestyle. We try to put our money where our mouth is and support sustainable baby and child products companies where we can. Eco-baby products are pricier, but they are better quality, (so you don't need to replace often), have a higher resale value, have less overall impact, and the companies often have great employee and environmental standards they adhere to. I plan to talk about B Corporations here soon - it's a legal obligation a company makes to place the welfare of people and planet on an equal footing with their profit goals.

I'm keeping this post short because I think it can be a series, so here are my initial musings on this topic.

I say this is the most famous and frustrating part of trying to green the baby-having experience. Cloth diapering  - it sounded glorious while pre-baby planning, but wasn't a reality for us because of financial stress at the time our son was born. Cloth diapering can have very high upfront costs, and for the quality we wanted, we just couldn't swing it back then.  If there was anything we could've have changed, this would be it. We chose to support greener companies where we could, from Honest Co. and Seventh Generation.

So what else did we do to offset our disposable diaper decision?

Almost everything else.

We aim for quality over quantity, and simple beauty in Ira's toys and surroundings. We spend so much time outside, it often eliminates the need for many indoor toys. Those we have I rotate every two weeks so there aren't many out and it keeps him engaged (usually). He doesn't have more than five or six outfits at any one size, and we often buy them second-hand. He doesn't have more than two pairs of shoes in one size. I plan to keep it the same way if we ever have a girl.

Keeping plastic out of our toys is another area of interest for me, and a daily challenge because of its ubiquity. I am following a combination of Waldorf and Montessori principles for Ira's early childhood world. We opt for wooden toys, or cloth, and especially love the beautiful, long-lasting toys by Grimm's Wooden Toys, and from the website Bella Luna. These are open-ended and simple. We also have found good options from IKEA and Target when we aren't able to spend more on something.

Having a few well-made and lovely pieces really does go a long way in teaching kids respect for their things, and also have a special magic unique to toys made from natural materials. We do get gifts from loving family members that don't meet these requirements, and all you can do is be gracious and store it for another time, or donate to someone who would enjoy and need it more than us.

Below is Ira's playroom off the kitchen. The American-made table is by Sprout Kids, a small business creating sustainably-sourced kids furniture in Utah. Priced at $100, it has no metal parts and snaps together like a puzzle. It is so strong that I can even sit in it. I would love to support more USA-made children's companies, and plan to share more here as I find them. If you'd like to support Sprout, you can use my LINK, and I earn 10% commission for your order.

Not having much out means not much to clean up. 
Waldorf-inspired: a nature corner of seasonal finds from the yard. Montessori tip: keep artwork at a child's eye-level so they can enjoy it!

Ira has one wooden plate and a spoon and fork set. He drinks out of little glass Oui! yogurt jars I stash in his play kitchen. Yes, he's broken one by just missing the table, but I've been amazed at how careful he is with them most of the time. We do use plastic for travel and childcare situations.

The biggest action you can make is asking yourself how much you really think you need a baby thing. Chances are if you don't end up needing the thing after a few weeks, your little one will quickly bypass the stage you thought you might have needed it in, like the little shooting stars they are.

Little IKEA kitchen of real dishes - I keep art materials and other supplies that still need supervision on the open-shelves above. That's a chalkboard wall we painted on the back of the lower cabinet for scribbling.

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