Having kids often adds weight to parents' environmental concerns. From reusable nappies to organic products, here’s how to go green as a parent…
Choose reusable nappies
Number one on the list of most new parents’ eco concerns is the amount of nappies they will use that will go into landfill (Which?, 2018). Parents throw away an estimated three billion disposable nappies each year in the UK, which is about 2% to 3% of all household waste (WRAP, 2018).
Reusable nappies are an expensive initial outlay but if you keep using them – and especially if you have more than one child – they are a long-term money saver. Most importantly though, reusable nappies are far, far kinder to the planet. If you avoid disposables, you’ll use an estimated 2.7kg of raw materials instead of 120kg if you opt for reusable nappies (The Guardian, 2015). See our article about choosing the right nappies for you for more information – Reusable nappies or disposable nappies?
Ditch the car
This is not only about being green, there are strong links between the air pollution vehicles produce and low birthweight in babies whose mothers breath that air (NHS, 2013; Pederson et al, 2013). So why not ditch the car and find yourself low-pollution walking routes using phone apps or maps.
If you have a car, try to get used to taking babies out without it early on. That way you don’t become dependent on it.
If you can, walking is obviously great for you both. If you’re going further afield, pop them in the sling and hop on the bus or train instead (The Telegraph, 2017; Moral Fibres, 2018). Once babies are alert, they’ll love looking around anyway and will probably find it much more exciting than the car seat.
Use homemade baby food
One way to immediately save on packaging and transportation of packaged baby food is to cook it from scratch instead (The Daily Meal, 2017). And if that makes you roll your eyes at the thought of getting in from work and whipping up a feast, then fair enough. A much better idea is to batch cook a load of meals so you always have stuff in the freezer ready to go. Check out the internet for homemade baby food ideas.
Alternatively, just mash up whatever you’re eating (unless it’s extremely salty or contains honey etc) and give your child that instead (Parents, 2010). Instead of feeding your baby a mashed version of whatever you're eating, you could offer them your food in a form they can choose and pick up by themself (baby-led weaning). Baby-led weaning can involve offering them super simple finger foods, like strips of toast or boiled parsnips and carrots.
Homemade baby food is much healthier than the packaged stuff too. That’s because packaged baby food contains more sugar than home cooked food. Your baby will also need to eat twice as much packaged food to get the same protein and energy as homemade food (Garcia et al, 2013).
There is so much pressure for your child, nursery or life to look like they’re straight from the grid of an Instagram influencer. But you know what? That doesn’t mean a lot of it can’t come from Freecycle, Ebay, friends or NCT Nearly New Sales.
Buying second hand will save you so much cash at an expensive time. It’s also a good way to give your child a few plastic toys if you want to without bringing yet more plastic into the world (Female First, 2012; The Telegraph, 2017; PBS Parents, 2018).
Borrow maternity clothes from friends
Equally, you don’t need to buy a pile of clothes that you can only wear for a few months when you’re pregnant. It’s much greener to increase the life of existing clothes (Female First, 2012).
Why not rummage around for your loosest items in the back of the wardrobe, check out your local charity shops, NCT Nearly New Sales or borrow a friend’s maternity wardrobe. If she’s not planning on more children, she’ll probably be delighted to hand you her maternity clothes and save herself a trip to the charity shop.
Choose natural products
This is a good practice anyway considering how sensitive babies’ skin is. Try to go for products that contain no potentially harmful man-made chemicals and are made from natural ingredients. You could check sites like the FDA website.
You could even try to clean the air in your house by keeping houseplants. Plants like peace lilies, spider plants and garden mums (yes, they are plants) can improve the air quality of your house. They do this by removing chemicals like formaldehyde from the air (NASA, 1989).
Breastfeed, if possible
As well as all the other benefits of breastfeeding, if you can do it and want to, you could add its green credentials to the list. By breastfeeding, you are reducing the packaging and plastic in bottles, as well as transportation of formula (Parents, 2010; Female First, 2012).
Use green cleaning products for the many spills
When you have kids, you go through a lot of cleaning products – especially when they start eating. Oh the mess… So it’s a great idea to either switch to greener cleaning brands or to homemade cleaners. You could make up a batch of homemade cleaner using ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda (Parents, 2010).
Turn growing your own veggies into a family hobby
Ditch supermarket packaging and transport costs and dig a little veggie patch, or get yourself on the list for an allotment. Turn growing fruit and vegetables into a family hobby and you’re winning all round (Female First, 2012).
Instead of buying them an extra plastic toy to amuse them, make something together using an old egg box or cardboard cereal box. Bonus: making it will entertain them for a while too… (The Telegraph, 2017)
This page was last reviewed in September 2018.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
You might find attending one of our Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.
Female First. (2012) Green parenting: top tips on being a ‘green parent’. Available at: https://www.femalefirst.co.uk/parenting/green+parenting-260502.html [Accessed 22nd November 2018].
Garcia AL, Raza S, Parrett A, Wright CM. (2013) Nutritional content of infant commercial weaning foods in the UK. Arch Dis Child. 98(10):793-797. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/sep/13/eco-guide-to-green-parenting-lucy-siegle [Accessed 22nd November 2018].
Moral fibres. (2018) Green parenting tips to help the environment. Available at: http://moralfibres.co.uk/how-to-be-a-green-parent-and-save-money/ [Accessed 22nd November 2018].
NASA (1989) Interior landscape plants for indoor air pollution abatement. Available at: https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19930073077.pdf [Accessed 22nd November 2018].
NHS. (2013) Air pollution associated with low birthweight. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/news/pregnancy-and-child/air-pollution-associated-wi… [Accessed 22nd May 2019].
Parents. (2010) The ultimate guide to green parenting. Available at: https://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/green/the-ultimate-guide-to-green-parenting/ [Accessed 22nd November 2018].
PBS Parents. (2018) Ten tips for green parenting. Available at: http://www.pbs.org/parents/special/article-earthday-greenparenting.html [Accessed 22nd November 2018].
Pedersen M, Giorgis-Allemand L, Bernard C, Aguilera I, Andersen AM, Ballester F, et al. (2013) Ambient air pollution and low birthweight: a European cohort study (ESCAPE). Lancet Respir Med. 1(9):695-704. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24429273 [Accessed 22nd May 2019].
The Daily Meal. (2017) Healthy baby food is hurting the environment. Available at: https://www.thedailymeal.com/healthy-eating/healthy-baby-food-hurting-environment [Accessed 22nd November 2018].
The Guardian. (2015) The eco guide to green parenting. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/sep/13/eco-guide-to-green-parenting-lucy-siegle [Accessed 22nd November 2018].
The Telegraph. (2017) At home with the nation’s greenest family. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/family/parenting/home-nations-greenest-family/ [Accessed 22nd November 2018].
Which? (2018a) How to buy the best reusable nappies. Available at: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/nappies/article/how-to-buy-the-best-reusable-nappies [Accessed 22nd November 2018].
WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme). (2018) Real nappies. Overview. Available at: http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/real-nappies-overview [Accessed 22nd November 2018].