Top 10 Ways To Green Your Children.

January 28, 2008

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!

Green PolkaDot Box
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About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
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Comments (24)

  1. maria says:

    my stepdaughter’s mom wrote a couple posts that mention secondhand clothes and safer toys on the family blog she and her husband maintain:

    kids’ clothes
    safe kids’ toys

    thrift stores are so great for kids’ clothes because they really do outgrow them faster than they can wear them out. it’s a waste of natural resources AND money to buy most kids’ clothes new (although personally i draw the line at swimsuits and underwear, and some shoes).
    it feels good to “regift” or hand down clothes and toys my stepdaughter has outgrown to younger kids we know. most of the time they’re good as new.

    i think it’s so important to educate kids about ethical eating, especially because they’re the ones the fast food places market to! even if a kid doesn’t watch tv, he or she can still recognize a mcdonald’s logo. it’s pretty scary.

  2. Dawn says:

    That is so cool that they make re-usable sippy cups!

    • Athy says:

      Hi Cara,Thanks for your comment. It’s a great remidner to woman that they should check with their baby’s doctor before making decisions about which formula is appropriate – not all babies or formulas are alike – health should always be first and for most. Cheers,Eden

  3. david says:

    Thanks Maria, appreciate the information and I will check out the posts!

  4. David says:

    It is a lot of crap – but it’s even more crap in the landfill for him and his kids to deal with later in a different way. ;-)

  5. At the rate my baby is going, he’ll singlehandedly contribute 1 metric ton to landfill. I will have a look at those reusable diapers idea. I don’t know about cloth diapers though. That’s a lot of crap to clean up.

  6. Brip Blap says:

    Pinyo, trust me – it gets worse before it gets better. Having the willpower to deal with cloth diapers would require a better person than me – and I try to be green. We don’t have a diaper service, so the alternative is washing by hand.

    So I’m with you 100% on all of them but 1, 2 and 7. Disposable diapers are awful, I know, I feel bad, but not bad enough to wash piles of crap out by hand. A glass sippy cup is something designed by someone who has never seen a toddler with a sippy cup. Aluminum might be ok, so I’ll check that out. #7 is one we try hard to stick to, but there are some toys I waive the rule on – a great example is Lego, and my son has plenty of plastic balls and bath toys. Didn’t see much way around that.

    But I don’t mean to sound overly critical – good post, gave me some things to think about.

  7. david says:

    I agree, it’s a lot of work, but I figure if my mom did cloth, I probably can too. :-) Oh, and my sippy cup was glass when I was a kid, as was my bottle. Yes, I am that old.

    No worries, you aren’t being overly critical!

  8. Kelly says:

    You forgot the biggest one of all- breastfeed! Not only will you not contribute to the process of manufacturing, shipping, storing, marketing and selling formula (not a very green process), breastmilk is the best food for babies. The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends nursing babies for at least a year, longer if mothers and babies wish to continue, and the WHO recommends breastfeeding for two years.
    Of course fathers can’t breastfeed their kids, but they can support their kids’ moms in the process, and that support is essential!
    Great article, thanks a lot.

  9. Kelly says:

    I forgot to mention that cloth diapers are incredibly easy, and it’s not an all or nothing deal. We use them at home, and disposibles for when we go out, and overnight. No need to prerinse them either, we just chuck them in the washer with an overnight soak cycle.

  10. Brip Blap says:

    Breastfeeding is key, I should have mentioned that. My mother was a La Leche League president and my wife was a member, and I was extremely supportive, since I’m very much “into” organic foods, natural foods, etc.

    Then all of our plans were thrown into whack when my son was born with what is apparently a very rare sensitivity to breast milk. We tried and tried to acclimatize him – my wife went so far as to eliminate all dairy AND glutens from her diet (which means she ate almost nothing except oatmeal for weeks) but he kept losing weight and we gave up. He started drinking formula made from dehydrated artificial pre-digested milk (and yes, it’s as disgusting as it sounds).

    The good news is that now he’s in the top 90% for height and weight, very active and intelligent, etc. I just mention this story because sometimes even the best-laid plans to raise your children in accordance with your values can be messed up by circumstances beyond your control.

    My mom and my wife’s mom both did cloth diapers and neither of us had a sippy – we went straight from the bottle to cups. Having been through the whole sippy thing, to be honest, with our next child we’ll do our best to wean straight from a nipple (be it a bottle or the real thing) to cups. It’s an unnecessary middle step, we realize now. Sippies are around because they are easy.

    And cloth diapers – I know. I know. Sometimes you consider your values and your money and realize that you have limits, and for us cloth diapers are beyond those limits. I know all of the problems with disposables and – much like with my use of plastic bottles of shampoo, etc.- I just took the conventional route. I’m not proud of it, trust me.

  11. Kelly says:

    I certainly don’t want to sound like a breastfeeding nazi (I had to formula feed my first for medical reasons) nor do I want to highjack the comments! It just seemed like an obvious green choice that wasn’t mentioned… formula should remain a lifesaving choice, not a lifestyle choice.

  12. maria says:

    oh! i forgot to mention…sarah over at say no to trash had a baby in the fall. previously she and her partner had gone weeks or even months without producing any trash. it’s been interesting to see how they’ve adapted to having a baby.

  13. david says:

    Ah yes Kelly, I really should have mentioned breastfeeding! (when possible, which we can all understand Brip Blap).

    As for the sippy, I agree you can usually skip that step – our friends just did with theirs and he was fine with it.

    And Maria, I will check that out!

  14. sarah says:

    Hey David this is great! Maria, thanks for linking to me-it’s how I discovered this awesome blog:) I agree, plastic is yucky and cloth diapers are not as difficult as people think. We are also doing “natural infant hygene” (basically potty training from birth, or just omitting diaper training) which is another way to cut down on diapers. If you are squeamish about pee and poo, it’s not for you though- I get peed on fairly often.

  15. Brip Blap says:

    @kelly: I don’t think anyone thought you sounded like a breastfeeding nazi – I certainly didn’t. I just wanted to point out that sometimes things get taken out of your hands…

    @Sarah: pee is tolerable. Poo is not. You are a brave woman :)

  16. david says:

    Sarah, that is quite a project you have going on over there. Gonna follow along to see what happens!

  17. David says:

    Glad you like it!

  18. I love this list! Great job.

  19. matt says:

    Within the idea of using 2nd hand stores to buy clothes, we donate a lot of our kids clothes to families in need. This is a somewhat-green move.

    Also, on the BPA front, we’ve had extremely good luck with BornFree. Yes, they’re plastic, but BPA and PVC-free. And the key is to never ever microwave any plastic bottle. Very bad…

    Sigg also makes excellent sippy cups. We’re a Sigg-outfitted family at this point!

  20. David says:

    That’s a very green move Matt, everyone should do that! I did hear good things about BornFree, will have to check them out….thanks!

  21. mames says:

    Here’s another way to Green Your Children:

    Have an “Eco Friendly Birthday” – Echoage party. No packaging, and wrapping and cards and envelopes….no driving around searching for an unappreciated gift. Parents host a party and guests pool money by paying online… it gets split between the birthday child and a meaningful cause. Echoage takes a share to cover transaction costs etc.

    There’s cool tools so you can track the RSVP’s, parents emergency contact #’s and any special needs of your guests like allergies etc.

    Nifty.