My boyfriend worries that I'm getting clucky, and he is correct, so today I'm turning my growing ambition to procreate into a post on some of the ways you can make a little bundle of joy slightly greener (though not in colour). To start with, what is the carbon footprint of having a baby? Here are the experts:
Paul Murtaugh and Michael Schlax calculated that every child in the US adds 9,441 tonnes to each parent's carbon footprint. This is assuming that emissions per capita continue at today's levels. Compare that with 1,384 tonnes of carbon dioxide for each child in China, or 56 tonnes in Bangladesh.
To arrive at their estimates, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, Murtaugh and Schlax started with the basic premise that a person is responsible for the carbon emissions of their descendants, weighted by their relatedness. So a mother and father are each apportioned half of their child's emissions, a quarter of each grandchild's emissions and so on. The researchers used UN projections of fertility to simulate 10,000 family lineages in each of the world's 11 most populous countries, and estimated what the "carbon legacy" of an individual would be in different scenarios of future emissions levels.
Don't listen to the advertising
Never forget that babies are big business. There are people out there who will be doing the darnedest to convince everyone that you MUST have this and that you're a BAD PARENT if you don't purchase whatever crap it is they're trying to sell you. Some of it will, of course, be convenient and useful, but some of it won't. Remember that all your baby really needs is love and care (food falls under the banner of both). You'll be saving money and reducing carbon footprint by simply not buying.
Despite what disposable nappy providers might have you believe, cloth nappies are generally cheaper and usually considered greener than disposables. They no longer need terrifying safety pins to do up, but instead come in a fitted shape and with velcro closures. Many brands make their nappies with organic cotton or wool, which avoids the use of pesticides and other substances which can be harmful to the environment (conventional cotton also uses loads of water in its production compared to organic cotton). These days you can also get biodegradable nappies, which are perfect for if you're travelling. Everyone should weigh up the options and make whatever decision is right for their lifestyle, situation and budget - here's a really good and balanced article about the differences between disposable and reusable nappies. Of course, the other benefit of reusable nappies is that they can be used for multiple children - either siblings or donated to a friend, so overall their lifespan can be really worth the initial investment. This webpage (admittedly from a company that produces cloth nappies) gives a summation of the costs and impacts of each type.
Again, this is a case of Don't Listen to the Advertising. In particular, the advertising claiming that you have to dress girls in pink and boys in blue. Read this brilliant article to explain why that's is a dangerous thing (Eddie Izzard RTed me when I tweeted it a few years ago). I personally believe that in the last two decades or so, someone in marketing realised that if everything is branded pink for girl babies and blue for boy babies, and that girls Must Play With Dollies and Fake Ironing Boards, while Boys Must Play With Dinosaurs and Trucks, that PARENTS HAVE TO BUY EVERYTHING TWICE. It's now considered the norm to completely deck out the nursery in pink or blue, (or else the child may grow up believing that their gender is not their defining characteristic). It's basically considered abusive if a boy has a pink plate to eat from (okay, that might be an exaggeration). It's completely arbitrary, and it means that people feel forced to buy from the "boy section" or the "girl section" for clothes and toys. Instead, find unisex things (if you can...) and reuse them for siblings, cousins and friends. A baby doesn't care if they're a boy or a girl; they don't know that they're a boy or a girl. </rant>
Breast/bottle feeding is always a fraught topic, and I'd never presume to tell anyone what they should be doing. It's got to be a choice based on what's right for the parent and their kiddle. Some people will use only one and some will use only the other, and others will use a mixture if that's the easiest.
Then there's the whole solids thing. When the baby's ready, people start buying teensy jars of mushed food which could very easily be made at home. Again, Don't Listen to the Advertising. There's nothing special about the teensy jars of mushed food. Some people are concerned about the presence of thickening agents, preservatives and other nasties, which, along with the cost, is enough to probably turn you off teensy jars of mushed food. One suggestion I read was to cook up a batch and then freeze it in little containers or even ice cube trays. You could even buy a few teensy jars of mushed food, and then keep the teensy jars to refill with your own, home made, delicious mushed food (you can sterilise the jars in the oven or in a bot of boiling water).
I've got one word to say to you: olive oil and coconut oil. It's cheap, naturally derived and it isn't baby oil (which is a perfumed version of mineral oil, which is - wait for it - A DISTILLATE OF PETROLEUM. I only found this out recently. Horrified). Once more I say, Don't Listen to the Advertising. Olive oil and coconut oil are used by lots of people for everything from massage oil to cradle cap, nappy rash and at bath-time. Coconut oil in particular is regarded as a renewable resource because of the longevity of coconut trees and the ease with which they grow in any kind of soil. As for soap and shampoo, they're not always necessary (and they're often the same thing - my friend Tia noticed that Burt's Bees' baby bubble bath and shampoo were made of exactly the same ingredients, got annoyed and wrote to them. They sent her a whole basket of Burt's Bees products).
Furniture and equipment
By this stage of writing I feel quite glad that I'm not preparing to have a baby just yet. I know naught about green prams or strollers, so here is an article about which brands have the greenest practices. As far as furniture goes, part of preparing the baby nursery could be a fun project of home-made decorations and refurbished furniture (check out my friends' baby blog, The Little Button Diaries for some super-cute DIY projects).
Having a baby is a lot of hard work, so I don't want to shame anyone who isn't doing everything in their power to greenify their child. Thinking about it, talking about it and putting some things into practice is a great start, and most of these tips are also money-savers.
Good luck, baby-havers! Don't Listen To The Advertising!
Things you don't need to buy
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