As the world becomes more environmentally aware, many people find that the birth of their first baby is a trigger to lead a more eco-friendly lifestyle. The disposable nappies pile up and parents become aware just how much of an impact their little bundle of joy is making – not only on their own lives, but also on the planet. Luckily, it has never been easier to become a ‘green parent’. From cloth nappies to organic food, there is a whole range of products and services to support the eco-baby, while a host of fun, ‘green’ activities are available to anyone, just about anywhere.
Breast-feeding babies saves money and the environment, is most satisfying for baby and, more often than not, for the mother, too. If you manage to do it (many mums have difficulties), breast-feeding is a great way of bonding with your baby. For bottle-fed babies, many brands offer organic baby milk options.
When baby is ready for solids, the real fun starts. Preparing your own baby food using fresh ingredients really is quite easy and keeps you in control of what he / she eats. All you really need is a handheld blender to puree the food. Once basic flavours have been introduced, you can let loose your creativity in the kitchen. It’s a lot of fun trying out different foods and combinations to find out what your baby likes. When you have a few favourite recipes, you can cook ahead and freeze them in ice-cube trays for quick, ready-made meals when time is limited. For emergencies, it is always handy to have a pot or two of baby food around the house or in the pram – again, there are plenty of organic options. Remember to check the labels for additives, salt or sugar. Good baby food doesn’t need any of these.
Take your cue from your mum and choose cloth nappies for your baby. This may be more eco-friendly than disposable ones and a lot cheaper, especially when you consider just how many you get through a week! If you can’t face washing them yourself, there are nappy laundering services who’ll do it for you!
Even baby’s clothes can be organic. Clothes made of organic cotton fabrics and without potentially toxic dyes are increasingly available, especially online. They can be ethical, too. Though they may cost a little extra, fair trade clothes can also be found in many places. The most sustainable form of clothing, however, is hand-me-downs. First-time parents-to-be can be reluctant, wanting crisp new garments for their precious offspring. Once it’s clear just how soon they grow out of their garments, though, you’ll probably find yourself gratefully accepting second- or third-hand clothes. Some web sites like E-Bay and Freecyle are handy for buying second-hand or for offloading old clothes and, of course, toys as well.
Playtime with your baby can be fun and eco-friendly. If it’s sunny outside, let your toddler get mucky by helping you to plant bulbs in the garden. Going for walks inspires an appreciation for nature that will last a lifetime. Flying a kite, making daisy-chains or sailing a toy boat all cost next to nothing and allow the whole family to enjoy each other’s company. Surely a much better thing than being glued to the television set and all without using any electricity or other energy sources (other than your own – but keeping fit is an added benefit!).
With a bit of imagination, on rainy days you can have plenty of fun indoors. For example, you can easily make your own toys using recyclable material. A small water bottle filled with water and glitter will fascinate young babies when shaken. Jewellery made from string and plastic bottle tops or cars from shoeboxes are a lot of fun. Babies and toddlers have a universal love for music. Hold your own concerts with pots and pans and wooden spoons. Plastic bottles filled with uncooked rice make great maracas. Sing along to your heart’s content – no-one cares if it’s out of tune. Home-baking is another favourite. Toddlers will love to help, by buttering the cake mould, shaping dough with cookie cutters or decorating cakes with spinkles. You can even make your own play dough (see recipe below).
Home-made play dough
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
Mix everything together in saucepan and cook until it has the consistency of bread dough. Remove from pan. When cooled, play and have fun. You can cook it and colour it with organic food dyes.