By: Sarah Currie-Halpern
Now being a Mom of 3 and with a commitment to zero waste in our household, I have taken it upon myself to raise my new baby with less waste and materials than ever before. Although it may seem like having a baby requires piles and piles of new stuff, gadgets and gizmos it actually does not. Babies have grown into healthy children for millions of years with zero gadgets and gizmos, I know for a fact that modern day babies can be raised in a modern way without all the crap you are told you need to buy.
Before the baby is even born, use a low waste registry such as SoKindRegistry.org for your baby shower. I used it for mine and it was great because you can ask for things like homemade meals, babysitting help, experiences (such as tickets to the children’s museum), and second-hand gear from friends and family.
One of the most wasteful and environmentally damaging aspects of having a baby is disposable diapers. A few quick facts about disposable diapers according to RealDiapers.org:
Disposable diapers are the third-largest single consumer item in landfills.
Disposable diapers take at least 500 years to decompose.
Disposable diapers for a single baby will cost around $70 a month and $840 a year.
Babies will use about 6000 diapers during their first two years of life.
95% of mothers in the U.S. solely use disposable diapers for their children.
Cotton diapers can be reused around 50 to 200 times.
Many cities and towns have cloth diaper rental and cleaning services, such as Bundle Baby in Colorado’s Front Range or diaperkind in NYC and NJ. I bought and was given second-hand cloth diapers which I painstakingly washed for my first two children, now that my life is a lot more busy with a full time career and baby #3 at home, I turned to a cloth diapering service. The day we arrived home from the hospital, freshly pressed cloth diapers and cloth wipes were waiting for us at my doorstep. They provide the whole set up, rented diaper pale and waterproof diaper bag, travel diaper bag, extra inserts, etc. I put the used diapers into their bag (inside the pale) and at the end of the week I leave my dirty diapers tied up on my doorstep. They collect these and leave me with a fresh bag of clean diapers and wipes. You can even bring your rented cloth diapers on vacation with you, which I do and wash on my own one time while away if need be. I have found that using a cloth diaper service costs about the same as using disposables (on average $70- $150 per month) but buying your own cloth diapers can save you a ton of money over time if you buy one set and use those until your child is out of diapers. One added bonus- cloth diapers are so much cuter than disposables!! Using a cloth diapering service is so downright easy no one should have any excuse not to use one.
A cloth diapering service set up
Next big waste stream we encounter with new babies is baby gear. Based on my own, and my friend’s and family’s experience, a piece of baby equipment is used on average for just 1- 2 months before baby outgrows it! Given this fact its insane to buy new baby gear! Fortunately this does not mean you and your baby have to go without handy, age-appropriate baby gear. Enter BabyQuip, and other local baby gear rental companies, originally designed for travelers, these companies are now catering to a new generation of parents who appreciate the sharing economy and prefer to rent rather than buy. BabyQuip is my personal fave, a nation-wide baby gear rental franchise, chances are you have BabyQuip franchises in your area. I have rented everything under the sun from them including baby cribs, bouncers, high chairs, fabric Bjorn chairs, and more, the items show up within 1 day clean and sanitized and ready to go (no more putting together baby equipment- yay!!) Plus my BabyQuip rep will answer any questions I have about the piece of equipment. When I am done with the item(s) 1 or 2 months later he comes within one day to pick them up. I estimate that I have saved hundreds of dollars renting baby gear instead of buying it!
For items that I cannot rent or borrow or get from a friend, I buy second-hand. On my SoKind Registry I asked for hand-me-down baby boy clothes, toys and shoes up to 2 years old, boy did I get what I asked for! I am basically set with these items until my son turns 2 years old. The great thing about secondhand baby gear is that most of it is practically brand new because the prior baby wore it once or twice.
I am very particular about baby bottles I use glass or stainless steel only to avoid chemicals from plastic leaching into my baby’s milk. I have tried a variety of different brands and landed on Life Factory glass bottles with a protective silicon sleeve as my favorite. I bought my entire set of Life Factory bottles and nipples from two different local Facebook marketplace sellers.
Life Factory baby bottle set, goes from baby bottle to sippy bottle
For any other clothing items my son needs, I go to my local children’s thrift store, Childish Things I am sure you have a similar one in your area. Make sure to sign up for their newsletter in order to get updates when merchandise comes in. Mine happens to sell second-hand maternity clothes, toys, books, shoes, and cloth diapers as well which I have bought all of the above.
The final piece of my zero waste baby journey is making my own, this includes baby food, baby oil, diaper spray, etc. I was gifted a second-hand Babea baby food cooker by my best friend and have been cooking up a storm of baby food, storing it in glass jars or silicon trays I already have, in the fridge or freezer. I also make a baby oil for my son by mixing organic olive oil and organic sunflower oil, this is the only moisturizer he needs and I live in bone dry Colorado! I also bought one jar of all natural baby bottom spray concentrate which I pour a tiny bit into a spray bottle, combine with mostly water, to make my diaper spray.
With a little bit of effort, creativity, and communication with those around you, its quite easy to raise a zero waste baby, so give it a shot! Trust me, our babies will thank us for our efforts once they are big enough to understand how much plastic and waste there is in the world today.