5 Steps Towards More Sustainable Parenting Choices And, no. We don't expect you to fit all your garbage in a jar.

By Abby K. Cannon, JD, RD, CDN

Okay, I get it. You care about Mother Earth. But you’re also an overwhelmed mama who needs options other than using cloth diapers to live an eco-conscious life with your family. Instead of beating yourself up over what you can’t do, let’s focus on what you can do.

Here are five ideas for incorporating sustainable living into your life with babe.

Choose a “better” diaper.

Cloth diapers aren’t feasible for everyone. Maybe your laundry machine situation isn’t accessible, a cloth diaper service doesn’t serve your area, or you’re just too overwhelmed to commit to cloth immediately. Whatever the reason, there is the next best thing regarding diapering. Choose a diaper from a brand that cares about sustainable practices and focuses on healthy materials for your baby. Always opt for a diaper that’s chlorine-free, fragrance-free, and dye-free. And, by choosing diapers made with less plastic, less plastic will end up in the environment when the diapers make it to landfill. Here are some options:

Healthynest diapers are made with plant-based materials and organic cotton. They are EWG-verified, OEKO-TEX® certified, FSC certified, and sustainably made in the EU.

Dyper is a B corp that makes its diapers using OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 certified materials that are responsibly sourced. They also have a REDYPER program at an additional cost, so you can send in your used dyper diapers and wipes to be composted commercially.

Kudos diapers are known for being the only disposable diapers with 100% cotton (instead of plastic) touching baby’s skin. They are also OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 certified.

Rent toys and gear instead of buying.

Babies and kids grow out of toys and baby gear fast. You spend more time researching what you need than actually using anything! Instead of purchasing new and then being left with disposing of it yourself, check out Loop Rental. For folks in the San Francisco Bay area, NYC, and Philadelphia, Loop Rental allows you to rent all the toys and gear that babies and kids need. Think strollers, baby seats, activity centers, baby carriers, bassinets, baby monitors, travel cribs, toys, etc. Then, once your kid has outgrown the item, you return it! It couldn’t be easier. And it can save you money and takes the responsibility of finding a happy home for perfectly good baby/kid things once your kid no longer needs them.

UpChoose runs on a similar model but for organic clothes. You sign up for the membership (there are many budget-friendly options) and UpChoose curates sets of organic baby clothes for you. The clothes are either new or preloved, you choose. When your baby grows out of the clothes, you send them back and receive a new set in the correct size. They don’t charge for stains or damage, so you can enjoy the clothes without stress!

Shop secondhand (or be extra nice to your friends with older kids)

If renting toys, gear, and clothes isn’t for you, consider secondhand items. The goal is to prevent excellent things from ending up in landfill. By supporting secondhand retailers and options, we, as consumers, send the message that we value gently-used items!

Check out local thrift stores and online retailers like ThredUpTheRealRealeBay, and Poshmark. Joining local Facebook groups can cue you in on a gold mine of secondhand items. In my local moms’ group, I often post that I’m searching for a specific item, and someone always has it to hand off to me!

Finally, be extra nice to your friends with kids and speak up if you want something. Most moms welcome knowing exactly who they will give items once they don’t need them and are eager to clean out their homes!

Breastfeed and if you can’t or don’t want to, use powdered formula and glass bottles.

While not everyone wants to or can breastfeed, mentioning how Earth-friendly breastfeeding can be is essential! Breastfeeding has many benefits for both mom and baby, but the less often spoken about help is to our planet. You don’t need any packaging of any kind when exclusively breastfeeding. And if you don’t pump or use a bottle, there’s no waste involved!

If you need to pump and store your breastmilk, check out this comprehensive article on plastic-free, eco-friendly breastmilk storage [Insert link]!

If you decide to use a formula, choose one dedicated to healthy, sustainable practices and one that comes in a large canister instead of single-use plastic bottles. This means you’ll only need to recycle large containers instead of smaller ones. And opt for glass bottles over plastic. First, it could be better to heat something that we consume in plastic because the chemicals in the plastic leach into the food/milk we consume. Second, eventually, that plastic bottle will end up in a landfill. Glass, on the other hand, is infinitely recyclable and a safer material to store food/milk in! My favorite glass bottle option is Mason Bottle. The attachments turn Mason bottles into baby bottles. When your baby stops using bottles, you can return to using the mason jars for storing food, on-the-go snacks, pens, etc.  

Organize as you go…for real.

This might seem silly now, but trust me. Your house will fill up with baby stuff clutter faster than you anticipate. One second, you’re looking at the beautiful, organized nursery; the next, you can’t see counters or floors. Everything – clothes, toys, gear, etc. – is everywhere.

To avoid the clutter and ensure you’re not tempted to throw everything away because you’re overwhelmed, organize as you go. At least every two months, do a quick overhaul. Weed out what you no longer need. If you plan to have another baby, neatly place outgrown items in a storage container with a clear label (item name and the age you used it). If you don’t plan on having another, figure out exactly how you will responsibly dispose of the items and do it! Don’t stare at the bag of full clothes to donate forever. Post on a local community group, drop off at a secondhand store or put the items up for sale on a secondhand site. Organizing as you go saves you time, sanity, and the environment.

Okay, how are you feeling about living an eco-conscious life with babe? It’s totally doable. Commit to doing one idea from this list; you don’t have to do everything! What’s it going to be?

Abby K. Cannon is an attorney turned dietitian who lives a very eco-friendly lifestyle. She created Abby’s Food Court to make a healthy, low-waste life approachable, doable, and FUN. Mama to two boys, Abby is passionate about helping you upgrade your health (and life) with hacks that are low-impact on your lifestyle and high-impact on the planet!