Sustainability continues to be at the forefront of peoples’ minds with topics like pollution and climate change frequently in the news, and as a mom it can be a hard movement to keep up with when the focus of your day is often your children. Even with a new baby or several children commanding your time, you can implement small steps like utilizing reusable products like diapers and nursing pads or limiting plastic waste to help do your part to live more sustainably.
Sustainability stems from the fact that we have everything we need for survival within our natural environment. In order to protect that environment into the future, it’s important to find a way to care for it so that it can in turn continue to provide us with those survival items.
A lot of the sustainability efforts of late are as a result of people not caring for our environment as we should. In the U.S., the average person generates over 1,600 pounds of trash per year, making it the highest trash-producing country in the world by generating 40% of the world’s waste. Included in that waste, it’s estimated that we use 12 billion disposable diapers annually, according to Earth Eco International.1 And despite accounting for just 5% of the population on Earth, our country disposes of enough plastic bottles weekly to go around our planet five times, according to Georgetown University.2
To combat these numbers, when start to think of recycling, using fuel-efficient vehicles, and all-around reducing carbon emissions to protect the environment. While it can be hard to place the impact of your individual effort in the grand scheme of things, everyone has to start somewhere. If you work to reduce the waste you and your family produce, that’s a great start.
What reusable items can I use as a mom to promote sustainability?
Let’s face it: when you become a new mom or add another baby into the family, your time and routines get thrown for a loop. Through all of the joy of a new life, another baby also adds to stress and additional expenses, making ease and efficiency a top priority when shopping. As a mom you often don’t have time to shower, let alone think, “Which product will be most sustainable?”
When it comes to welcoming a new baby, there are dozens of new items—if not more—that you need to take into account in preparation. From diapers and clothes to toys and carriers, many of these options can be either reusable or sustainable. Let’s take one of the baby items that first comes to most mamas’ minds when it comes to sustainable baby items: diapers. Babies can go through around 3,000 diapers in their first year alone, according to Healthline.3 While you probably have never actually counted the number of diapers you use, that statistic probably doesn’t surprise you. The alternate to throwing out 3,000 used disposable diapers each year? Cloth diapers.
While cloth diapers may not be for everyone, Healthline recommends to keep at least 20 newborn cloth diapers on hand, if this is the route you choose. Many styles are even adjustable, so unlike disposable diapers, they’re easier to conform to the size of your baby. They’re also more absorbent so they don’t need to be changed quite as often as the 2-3 hour window of disposable ones. While more expensive upfront, you’d eliminate the recurring cost of diapers—including the ones you don’t even use once baby grows out of them.
Now, let’s focus on you for a minute, mama. If you’re breastfeeding, you’ve likely experienced both discomfort and leaking—neither of which are glamorous, and both of which you may have tried to hide. But that’s where reusable nursing pads come in—one product that, in our experience, moms can’t rave enough about. They’re washable, made with rayon velour from renewable bamboo (translation: they’re sustainable!) and are soft and comfy for sensitive skin.
Reusable diapers and nursing pads are two great options for moms with new babies who are focused on sustainability, but not all items fit this same mold. When thinking of items such as baby wrap carriers, clothing, and toys, the sustainability factor to keep in mind is how those products are made. For example, purchase clothing that’s made with organic cotton or linen, as those are natural materials. Or, work out a hand-me-down or clothes-swapping system with other mom friends. Exchange clothing that’s too small for your baby with items that may be the wrong size for theirs.
While reusable diapers and nursing pads are great items that focus on the mama and newborn stage of life, what about more everyday options? Getting into school and sports days or planning for outings or even regular days with your family, there are options you can choose for sustainability as your family evolves.
- Cut down on plastic waste. This may be one of the easiest answers, but how can you actually put it into practice? When grocery shopping, buy unwrapped products or larger containers and split them up yourself inside of opting for single-serve or individually-wrapped items. That’s not to say pre-sliced and pre-packaged fruit, for example, is a bad idea—ease and efficiency is key when you’re juggling kids, a household, and work—but you’ll eliminate plastic waste and save yourself a little money by buying things like fruit whole and splitting it yourself into reusable containers.
- Buy local and organic. While not as obvious of an answer, this one is important, too. It’s been found that 19% of greenhouse gas emissions in our global food systems are caused by transportation alone, according to Science Daily.4 This means when you buy local, you are not only supporting your local community’s farmers and food producers, you’re supporting foods that use less plastic packaging waste and cause less greenhouse gas emissions because they’re not transported as far.
- Opt for reusable utensils and containers. Did you know that half a billion drinking straws are used daily by Americans?5 Choosing reusable bottles for water and other beverages can cut down on that number considerably. Along those same lines, reusable utensils, containers, and tote bags come in handy and cut down on plastic waste. To help cut back on the more than 50 billion coffee cups that are thrown away every year,5 use your own reusable mug. Many coffee stores are even on board the sustainability train, as several allow you to bring your own (clean) mug with to fill your favorite coffee drink.
As a society, nearly half of the plastic we’re producing on global level is made for a single use.5 At the outset, living a more sustainable life first comes from a change in mindset. If you remember to recycle your used plastic container or opt for a reusable water bottle instead of a single-use plastic one, you’re already taking the right steps! Start by decreasing your use of disposable materials by swapping them for reusable ones and also purchasing other items made from recycled materials. From diapers and nursing pads to straws and grocery bags, there are several sustainable options you can choose from to help lead a more sustainable life.
- Earth Eco International #DYK? Some interesting facts about the environment https://www.earthecho.org/news/did-you-know-some-interesting-facts-about-the-environment
- Georgetown University Sustainability at Georgetown University: 50 Facts for 50 Years https://sustainability.georgetown.edu/50-facts-for-50-years/
- Healthline How Many Diapers Do I Need? A Guide to Stocking Up https://www.healthline.com/health/baby/how-many-newborn-diapers-do-i-need
- Science Daily Fifth of global food-related emissions due to transport https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/06/220620122334.htm
- Earth Day Fact Sheet: How Much Disposable Plastic We Use https://www.earthday.org/fact-sheet-how-much-disposable-plastic-we-use/