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It’s Easy Being Green: Greening Your Baby

SOURCE: Flickr/abbybatchelder

Babies can fulfill their responsibility to protect our environment with the use of  environmentally friendly clothing, toys made up of nontoxic materials, and homemade baby food recipes.

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Babies, like all humans, share a responsibility to do what they can to protect our environment. But sometimes they need some help fulfilling that responsibility. Luckily, there are some ways that you can make a difference if you’re caring for an infant.

An Environmental Protection Agency study found that disposable diapers accounted for 2.1 percent of waste added to U.S. landfills in 1998. That’s 13.4 million tons of diapers—more than tires, paper, or even beverage containers.

It’s unclear whether reusable diapers are better for the environment, but the weight of the evidence suggests that they are, especially if you use a diaper laundering service or take steps to make sure that you are washing your child’s diapers with machines and detergent designed to be friendly to the environment. Diapers in landfills require 200 to 500 years to decompose. Even so-called “biodegradable” diapers do not biodegrade as advertised in landfills since they are not exposed to light and air. And all of that human excrement is better treated at a sewage treatment plant than dumped directly into a landfill. Not to mention the fact that using cloth diapers saves money.

And there are other ways for babies to reduce waste. Since babies grow out of their clothes and toys quickly, buying used clothing and furniture for babies is a good option—and selling or donating these items after your baby has outgrown them. Many baby stroller companies have recycling or donation options for their products. For toys, try to stick to those made from nontoxic materials such as wood and organic cotton. Plastic toys can contain phthalates and other chemicals, which could be dangerous to your infant’s health.

There are lots of companies exclusively marketing environmentally friendly clothing and supplies for babies. But the baby might be just as happy without in many cases. Our piles of purchases for the newest members of the family often have more to do with our own anxiety—and advertisers’ willingness to take advantage of that anxiety—than with any infant’s actual needs. Always ask yourself: Is this something the kid really needs, or have I just been told that she needs it? The best solution, both for your wallet and for the environment, is often not to buy anything.

Food is one thing that babies undoubtedly do need. Breastfeeding does not do any damage to the environment or to a baby’s health. If you do use a bottle, try to find a glass bottle or at least one that doesn’t contain Bisphenol A, which can disrupt hormone activity. When the baby is ready, you might look online for homemade baby food recipes. Usually, all you need is a blender, a freezer, and fruits or vegetables.

Olive oil is another green alternative for babies from the kitchen. Baby oils and baby lotions can contain harmful chemicals, but olive oil does not contain any petroleum products.

So babies, there’s no excuse. Even the smallest members of our society can pitch in to work for a greener planet.

Read more articles from the "It’s Easy Being Green" series

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