Somehow, when we bring a child into the world, it seems that a whole lot of “stuff” appears shortly thereafter. There is no denying that babies need clothes, toys, and places to sleep and play. However, keeping your environmental footprint small is not a lost cause just because you’ve become a parent. Simply by being a great role model in using less, you can do your part to raise a “green” child.
4 Ways to Change How You Shop for a Greener Life
In honour of this Earth Day, I’ve compiled some of my tried-and-true ways of living a greener life. It’s really not complicated. All you have to keep in mind is these four key concepts:
- Buy Used When You Can
- Invest in Reusable & Natural Products
- Choose Items with less or no packaging
- Repurpose before tossing
1. Buy Used
First of all, rethink your purchases.
For babies and young children, you hardly need to buy new clothes at all – there are so many hand-me-downs and second hand options in like-new condition available, since they get outgrown so quickly. The same goes for furniture, toys, and all the bulky items like the super handy exer-saucer.
Scour thrift shops, Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji, and when the pandemic is over, you can find everything in one place at our local “Kids Good As New Sale” and similar events. Even as children grow older, you can find lots of clothing, toys, furniture, games, bikes, crafts, etc. second hand.
The truth is that our society glorifies the giving of gifts newly-purchased, and most parents end up suffocating in the volumes of STUFF that they accumulate if they don’t move some out the door. Take advantage!
- Mini Moose, Online Consignment for Children in Prince George, BC
- All About Maternity Consignment at Nest & Sprout Maternity
2. Don’t buy disposable stuff – if you must buy stuff, choose reusable and natural
There has been so much progress in this concept over the past few years, that I’m overjoyed thinking about the difference from just ten years ago! You probably already have a number of cloth shopping bags, and maybe even some reusable straws. Are there any other switches you’ve been thinking of making?
Here are my favourite food-related reusables:
- Cloth bulk food bags
- Cloth bread bag (for your homemade loaves - if you’re into that!)
- Straws (made from glass, stainless steel or silicone)
- Beeswax/cloth food wraps (natural and washable, they replace plastic wrap)
- Cloth snack and sandwich bags
- Stainless steel food containers (great for school lunches!)
- Find these items, and more at The Green Sheep Eco Shop Online
Since you’re all here because of a forthcoming baby, I have to mention cloth diapers. There are so many easy-to-use options out there these days (just ask Bailey at www.clothdiaperpodcast.com), and many of them actually contain messes better than disposables do. What’s a few extra loads of laundry when you’re already doing several loads a week anyway? It’s also really nice to never have to rush to the store for more diapers!
Not entirely unrelated to diapers are cloth menstrual pads and silicone or rubber menstrual cups. If you haven’t already made the switch to reusables, motherhood might be the time for you to try it. Again, it means a bit more laundry, but it’s so nice to not have to continually buy packs of disposables, and they’re safer for your health too.
I just have to add a few of my favourites that aren’t necessarily more reusable than their plastic counterparts, but score major points for being made of natural materials:
- Bamboo toothbrushes
- Agave plant fibre scrubbing cloths and brushes for body and kitchen (no more microplastics going down the drain!)
- Bamboo sporks (so great in a packed lunch!)
3. Choose products with less or no packaging
This one applies to all sorts of purchases, but have you heard about these fantastic eco-friendly cleaning products that you can get without a bottle??
- Laundry detergent strips (one little strip does a load!)
- Dish soap bar (just rub it directly on your dish cloth!)
- Shampoo bar (solid moisturizing cleanser for your hair!)
- Multi-purpose cleaning solution strips (dissolve one in a spray bottle of water!)
Not only do all of these products skip the bottle (and the wasted space and weight of water), saving tonnes of plastic waste and shipping space, but they’re all natural, biodegradable, hypoallergenic, animal-friendly, effective, and made in Canada. You just can’t go wrong.
4. Repurpose what you have
This goes for anything, but let’s talk about kid crafts. Do you really think you need to go to the dollar store and buy a bunch of foam stickers and pompoms for your kids to create with?
Kids love crafting with recyclables, and their imaginations will impress you. Give them free access to your recycling bin and let (or help) them cut holes in yogurt containers and tape them together to make a water filtration factory. Cut used straws up to make beads. Wrap empty tape rolls with yarn and make flowers. If your child isn’t the type to enjoy free-crafting, you can find millions of ideas online (try Pinterest!) – just search for the item you happen to have lots of, whether it’s take-out food containers, Styrofoam packing blocks, broken toys, aluminum pie pans, or chopsticks.
I hope that this all sounds like a fun adventure in using less, and that it will inspire parents both new and experienced to lead a greener lifestyle even in the face of all the STUFF that comes along with parenthood.
Just remember: buy used, invest in reusable & natural products, choose less or no packaging, and repurpose before tossing.
Owner of The Green Sheep Eco-Shop
Nicole Botten is the sole proprietor of The Green Sheep Eco-Shop, a home-based online store in Prince George, BC. Her goal is to bring quality eco-friendly and Zero Waste products to northern BC residents. Check out her offerings at www.TheGreenSheep.ca