I am by no means perfect when it comes to being a green mommy. My most valued luxury is taking long baths, and I do occasionally indulge in processed foods. When I first heard about the idea of living a natural lifestyle, I immediately thought it would be too expensive and too difficult. It wasn’t until I became pregnant that I gave the whole movement any serious thought. I admit that my decision to start living green was motivated less by a concern for saving the earth and more by a desire to create a safe and healthy environment for my son. But I have since come to value the idea of saving the earth and I have introduced more changes motivated by this idea into my life. Regardless of why you want to a green family, changing your habits can feel overwhelming, so I have compiled a short list of some of my green family tips.
1. Recycle – if your community doesn’t have a recycling program, get active and contact your local government office about starting one. Single stream recycling is really great method of recycling where you just throw everything into the trash and then the recycling facility separates it all out. This results in a lot more being recycled and ensures that more people will recycle because they don’t have to sort it out at home. Go to www.earth911.com for information about recycling centers near you.
2. Stay away from plastic as much as possible. Use glass baby bottles. Store your leftovers in Pyrex containers (they make tiny ones that are perfect for freezing baby food). Carry a stainless steel water bottle. Invest in some bamboo or stainless steel toddler plates, bowls and utensils. Never ever microwave or freeze food in plastic.
3. When choosing personal care products for yourself and your family, check the ingredients label. If you aren’t sure about an ingredient, check it on www.cosmeticsdatabase.com. And be careful about greenwashing – just because a product uses the word “organic” in its name or says it is made using natural ingredients, does not mean it is safe.
4. Don’t waste food. It sounds obvious but I used to buy way more food than I needed and then throw half of it out. Now I go to the store or farmers market more frequently, and I put together a list of what I need before I go. I am saving a ton of money, and I feel better about how much goes into the landfill.
5. Conserve water. To make up for my baths, I collect water from my dehumidifier and use it to water my indoor plants. I also have a bucket that I use to collect water from the shower as it warms up. And I have a rain barrel for collecting rain to water my outdoor plants.
6. Have a lot of plants. House plants are a great way to keep your indoor air clean of contaminants, especially when it is especially cold or hot outside and you can’t open the windows frequently.
7. Breast feed your child. Not only does it save money, but you avoid plastic from formula bottles and you burn calories! I struggled with breast feeding – my milk supply was slow to come in and I ended up having to do a painful combination of pumping, nursing and bottle feeding. But I lost the baby weight within 8 months, and I felt closer to my baby as a result.
8. Choose rugs and carpets made from all natural materials such as wool, cotton and jute. My son spent the majority of his first year of life on the floor. And I didn’t have to cringe every time he ended up with his mouth on the rug (well, except for when the rug might not have been quite clean). We also have a strict “no shoes in the house” policy so that the floors do stay cleaner for a little longer.
9. Choose toys made from all natural materials. I know firsthand that this isn’t always feasible. Well-meaning grandparents have overloaded my son with plastic toys and who can resist a battery-operated Elmo. But when it comes to a choice between plastic blocks or a set of beautifully-constructed, long-lasting wooden blocks, choose the ones that will last through subsequent kids and even grandkids. My son is now playing with the wooden blocks that my dad made for me when I was a baby. Plus, you will feel better when your child sticks the toys in her mouth (which will inevitably happen at least 20 times a day during that first year).
10. Look for green house cleaners. It is almost impossible to keep your house clean when you have a new baby. So if you can afford the luxury of getting a little help, look for someone who uses only safe, natural cleaning products. I have heard that Maid Brigade does this.
11. Green products can be expensive, so buy in bulk. Amazon offers most of the green cleaning products in packs of 6 or 8 or more at a discounted price. And if you sign up for Subscribe & Save, you can save another 15%. I do this with my laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, hand soap, baby wipes, diapers and more.
12. Read your favorite magazines online instead of getting a paper subscription. More and more magazines are giving readers a digital option (my favorite is Mothering magazine). Also, Zinio is a great online source for all of your favorite magazines!
13. Go to the library. Like most moms I walked into the Barnes and Noble kids section and immediately felt like my child would be seriously deprived if he did not have his own personal library at home. After spending hundreds of dollars, I discovered the library. I knew it was always there, I just didn’t realize what a treasure it really was. Kids love going to the library for storytime and choosing new books to read every week. If you do buy books, go for the compilations which give you more bang for the buck (my favorite is The 20th Century Children’s Book Treasury).
14. I use reusable shopping bags everywhere I go. And I purchased a few super-cute ones so that I feel more glamorous when I’m shopping for cat food.
15. Try PaperBack Swap. I love this site. I had a ton of books that I was all set to just get rid of but now I can trade them for children’s books or for those rare books that I want to keep on my shelf forever. I also use my book credits to trade for DVDs and CDs. When I ship books out, I try to reuse packaging.
16. Choose non-toxic paints for a safe way to update your home. I like to repaint every couple of years (it’s a lot cheaper and better for the environment that trading out the furniture)! I love Mythic Paints and Yolo Colorhouse paints for giving my rooms a new look.
17. And last but not least – living green is not all-or-nothing. It’s just a matter of doing what you can. If all you do is switch to organic milk, for example, you are living greener than you were before.