I get individual questions from readers all the time about being green with children, so I figured putting together a post could be of some assistance. Let me know if I missed anything, and add it to the comments!
1. Ditch the disposable diapers. Nearly 20 billion plastic diapers get thrown into landfills each year, and studies estimate that they each can take up to 500 years to decompose. Not something I like to think about! If you are not into using cloth diapers, there are always hybrid disposable/reusable diapers like the ones from gDiapers, Kushies Flushable Diaper Liners, or bumGenius.
2. Replace the plastic sippy cup. Although the plastic on it’s own might be inert, if the plastic heats up or gets cracked, the chemicals inside it could leech into whatever your baby is drinking. Bisphenol A is a culprit in these plastic baby bottles, and you can read about that chemical right here. There are plenty of glass, aluminum or stainless steel sippy cups available at places like Reuseit.com and REI.
3. Switch to non-toxic cleaners. I know you have seen them – the bleach ads on TV telling you to wipe down all of your child’s toys with bleach. This is not a good idea as bleach is incredibly toxic. Besides, kids need germs – it helps to build their immune system up. Take away all the germs in the house and your kid might have a hard time fighting off a common cold! You can either use homemade products, or stuff from Seventh Generation or Method.
4. Buy organic and non-toxic soaps. Your typical bubble bath will have many chemicals in it, like methyl-parabens. You don’t want your child sitting in that for 20 minutes, do you? Same as we adults should use soaps without the chemicals, they are better for your kids as well. Aubrey’s Organics makes some natural baby and kids soap that is chemical-free and only about $8.00.
5. Buy only organic baby food. If it is time for your child to eat baby food (or adult food, for that matter too!), there are plenty of organic baby foods available at places like Wild Oats and Whole Foods. There really is no need to feed your baby that junk that our parents fed us back in the day now that we have healthy options. Also, when it comes time for them to eat regular food, feed them as much “made from scratch” food as you can, from fresh ingredients. Most “pre-made” meals are full of chemicals and preservatives that you might want to avoid.
6. Set a good example. For instance, you cannot really tell your kid that smoking is bad for you while you are puffing away. Adults are all that kids have to look up to for guidance; they have no other frame of reference. You know that quote “Be the change you want to see in the world”? Be the example you want your children to see.
7. Buy green toys. I am a big believer in wood toys, and my wife always jokes about how the only toy I am going to give our kids is a wood block made from FSC-Certified wood with no sealants on it. Although that might be a little bit of a stretch, I do not like all the plastic toys that kids play with today. Millions and millions of these seemingly innocuous toys get recalled each year for such things as being coated with lead paint! Find a nice local toy-shop in your town and go check out the beautiful wood toys that they sell. These are better made, generally safer for your kids, and they last a long time – your kids might even be able to give them to their kids! Spend the money…buy that toy once instead of buying the cheap one that needs replacing every year! Check out Maine Toys or Nature’s Crib. And there is nothing wrong with second-hand toys!
8. Check your house for toxins. You can now have your home tested for lead, radon, carbon monoxide, mold, and a host of other toxins. Isn’t your child’s health worth the expense? We adults might not notice some of these toxins because our lungs/bodies are stronger and more developed, but to a child who is still growing these are even more dangerous. Hire a company to come out and check for all that bad stuff!
9. Check out hand-me-downs and second-hand stores. Infants and small children only wear clothes for a few months before they do not fit in them anymore. So why not buy second-hand baby clothes and/or trade with your friends and family who also might have small children? Save yourself a bunch of money and save some more discarded shirts from going in the landfill!
10. Teach them to be green. This could be the most important one of all. If you do everything you can to make your children green but you don’t teach them the hows and whys it will all be naught. We need kids to grow up being concerned about the world around them. I know I didn’t care all that much for most of my life…it was never important and I was not taught that it was. Teach your kids about global warming, toxins, pesticides, organic foods…take them to the Farmer’s Market and let them meet the people who grow our food. Be an example and do not drive them around in a 5,000 lb truck getting 11 MPG. Truthfully, the problems we have all created will rain the hardest on them – we should prepare them for what they might have to deal with.
What kind of tips would you give to someone looking to green their children? What have you done at home that I might have missed? Let us all know in the comments!