How to Reduce Disposable Items During the Baby Years

Mar, 02, 2017

By Fredrica Syren:

When I had my first baby, I was horrified at how much waste I was suddenly producing. Between the disposable diapers, wipes, baby creams, baby food jars and containers, papers towels and — of course, let’s never forget the endless number of tissues it takes to wipes all those runny noses — I was filling up my trash bin way too full and too fast. But over the years and 3 kids later, I learned piece by piece how to reduce disposable items and trade them in for more sustainable and eco-friendly items instead.

Let’s begin with a major one, diapers! Disposable diapers are simply bad for the planet: it is estimated that a child uses about 5,000 diapers during the baby years, so you can image how many diapers are filling up landfills all around the world; and it takes 250-500 years for these diapers to break down. Single-use diapers are the third largest waste item in landfills, with over 92% of them ending up in these dumping grounds. The better option is to use cloth diapers because they are re-usable and therefore clearly better for the environment. You won’t be generating extra garbage for the collectors to pick up, and most medical experts agree that the toxin-free materials of cloth diapers prevent rashes and other issues like toxic shock syndrome. A wide variety of colorful and stylish options, such as “All-in-Ones” (easy like disposables), “All-in-Twos” (cover and pad separates), waterproof diaper covers, inserts and soakers are available now. Velcro makes them easy and safe to fasten. You can find a great comparison guide at diaperpin.com.

After taking the leap to cloth diapers, cloth wipes are the natural way to go. We use OsoCozy cloth wipes. Super soft and reusable, this wipe is one less thing for the waste bin.

As most of us know, kids grow fast, so buying tons of brand new clothes not only will get expensive but also can be very wasteful. A great way to reduce waste here is to buy used baby clothes or borrow them. I’ve never felt that all our baby stuff needed to be brand new; so, for our first child, almost everything was recycled, used, or borrowed from friends. Kids grow out of clothes so fast that there is no need to buy so much for them, especially babies. Of course, organic clothes are the best option for both your child and the planet, though they can be very expensive; but these days there are many places to buy organic used baby clothes. 

Use baby bottles made from glass — Not only does a glass bottle last longer (unless you drop it, of course), but bottles made from glass pose no health problems because neither hot nor warm liquids cause the material to break down, as plastics do. Plastic does not last as long as glass, which also can be recycled once it’s no longer needed or is broken.

With kids comes messes, so paper towels come in handy. However, up to 51,000 trees are required to replace the number of paper towels that are discarded every day. Once used, paper towels cannot be recycled. Paper production is the fourth largest contributor to global climate change. On average, every American throws away 700 pounds of paper, resulting in 254 million tons of trash annually. Instead, use cloth dish towels. You can usually find them at the grocery store, but at a steep markup. They’re easy to find online for dirt cheap. Fifty flour sack cloths can be had for only $14.

Fredrika Syren

Fredrika Syren is an environmental activist and writer. In 2016, she founded the website Green-Mom.com where she shared her family’s journey of living zero waste. She lives in San Diego, California with her husband James and their children Bella, Noah, and Liam. Fredrika and her family were recently featured in the documentary Zero Time to Waste. Fredrika is also the author of Zero Waste for Families - A Practical Guidebook (which you can buy on this site)

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