Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Being A Green Parent Is Hard. Here's What's Worked For Us.

The first rule of being a green parent is do not sweat being a green parent. You'll have a million other things to stress out about and no matter what you do, you'll feel like you're fighting a losing battle.

You'll have good weeks where you feel like recycling and composting are keeping your household footprint to not much more than it was pre-kids. And you'll have weeks where you look around at piles of unrecyclable plastic clamshell-style packaging & little-used plastic toys and feel hopeless.

With our daughter now two years old, I wanted to share a few tips from our experience navigating life as first-time parents trying to maximize savings and miminize waste & stress:
  • We used the Beaba to make our own baby food. It takes more time & planning, but we found it worked well, produced more vibrant-looking baby food, and saved money in the long run. We bought one round of Gerbers, then re-used those glass containers endlessly for our own food.
  • We're doing disposable diapers. Studies have shown that the extra energy & water consumed washing cloth diapers offsets the landfill impact of disposables. As I said, unless it's a clear environmental win, it's not worth adding stress and a significant amount of additional grossness to an already spit-up-and-volcano-diaper-filled life. We also recommend the Diaper Genie, which holds a lot of diapers in a small amount of plastic & keeps the odors locked in.
  • It's worth signing up for Amazon Prime to get Amazon Family discounts on subcribe & save items. Compile 5 subscription items into one shipment & you get an extra 15% off. Between diapers, wipes, diaper genie refills, etc. it's pretty easy to add up to five. The prices on wipes are particularly good. Unless you're somehow able to walk or bike those cases of diapers home, you'll have a lower carbon footprint than driving.
  • Skip diaper wipe warmers and other absurd gadgets. My wife diligently saved every receipt, allowing us to return products that we found we didn't really need.
  • You'll have many items that you need for a few months, then never again. Talk to other parents about what you can borrow. If you need to buy, buying used and then re-selling can save money and reduce waste. Amazon now sells more used products than ever (look on the right side of product pages). When it comes time to get rid of something, I've been pleasantly surprised how many buyers (or just takers for "free to a good home" items) you can find on Craigslist.
  • Learn how to use everything before the baby comes. Install the car seat & get it checked at your local fire station. Set up, unfold & repack the stroller. Unpack the breast pump, figure out how it works, and decide how & where you'll be storing & cleaning everything.
  • If you're upgrading from a car to a larger vehicle, check FuelEconomy.gov. An efficient large SUV like the Toyota Highlander Hybrid can get much better fuel efficiency than a smaller less-efficient model like the Jeep Wrangler.
  • A sturdy carrier like an Osprey to save your back on long walks & hikes is definitely worth the investment.
  • Let your kids get a little dirty. It's good for them.
  • Consumer Reports was a life-saver as I quickly & constantly having to become an expert on what to buy. Bike seat or trailer?? Consumer Reports helped guide us to a front handlebar seat. My local library has an online subscription that we used for free access.
Do the best you can to minimize your impact, but don't drive yourself crazy. You'll have many other, less-busy years of your life to shrink your footprint and lobby for environmentally-friendly changes in your own community.
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