Sustainable Living with a Growing Family

sustainable living
Family Drawing © by Childrens Book Review

Sustainable living is not always easy but is growing in popularity as a lifestyle that balances the desire to have modern conveniences while maintaining a respectful stewardship of limited natural resources.  As a family grows so does the need for the many products involved in raising a child.  Sustainable living with a growing family is a challenge that offers many rewards.

Chemical Free Home

In today’s modern homes there are many sources of chemical pollution.  From building materials to cleaning supplies and baby toys, modern manufacturing methods rely heavily on chemicals that can have harmful side effects.   One of the first things expectant couples do is start planning how to decorate the baby’s room.  Avoid painting the baby’s room with paint that contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs).  Look for the No-VOC label on eco friendly paints for a safe option for expectant Mothers and children.

Furniture and bedding are other items that young children will come in contact with on a daily basis and should be carefully researched before being purchased.  Bedding is often treated with PBDEs, chemical fire retardents, and have been shown to affect the endocrine and nervous system.  Try an organic cotton or wool mattress instead.

Young children spend a great deal of time crawling and playing on flooring and carpeting that can be a source of irritating VOCs, and harbor dust mites and allergens.  Carpet made from natural fibers such as wool, cotton, hemp, or jute are options that can reduce irritants and reduce production of VOCs.  Choose furniture made from certified sustainable wood or recycled materials and be sure paints and finishes are nontoxic.  Argington, DucDuc, and Nest are companies that manufacture sustainable furniture for kids.

In the Kitchen, be sure to use glass or stainless steel utensils, cups, and dishes to avoid BPA (bisphenol-A) or look for the BPA-Free label on plastic products.  For cleaning around the home Ecover, Method, and Seventh Generation make green cleaning products free of VOC’s and other irritants.

Sustainable Clothing

Cotton is the most heavily treated crop in the world and a reason why you want to use chemical free natural fibers.  Clothing made from natural fibers such as organic cotton wool, organic bamboo, and hemp are your best bets.   Hand me down clothing is another sustainable option for clothing.

Food for Mom and Baby

Organic does not necessarily mean healthy.  Organic foods may be high in fat and salt and contain trace amounts of approved pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.  Natural Foods contain no artificial ingredients or preservatives and are in as close to their natural state as possible.

Buy fruits and vegetables when in season.  This also reduces the burning of fossil fuels to transport fruits and vegetables from other locations. Canning is an alternative way to have sustainable fruits and vegetables in the off season.   To reduce the risk of ingesting pesticides, peel all fruits and vegetables.  Keep in mind that peeling may reduce the nutritional value.  Pesticides concentrate in the fatty tissue of animals so trim fat in poultry, meat, and fish before cooking.

Green Diapers

Disposable diapers are bleached with chlorine which produces dioxins as a byproduct. Many diapers also contain tributyl-tin (TBT) which is extremely harmful to aquatic organisms and can cause obesity in humans according to the American Institute of Biological Sciences.  A diaper made from organic cotton is not only green but can save you money.  Diapers will cost you $300 for cotton to more than $3000 for disposable diapers.

Green Toys

Eventually just about everything will end up in your child’s mouth so you want to make sure the classic children’s toys your child plays with are safe. You will want to stay away from plastic toys made from BPA, PVC (polyvinyl chloride) Some green options are soft organic cotton toys and wooden toys from FSC-Certified Forests with non-toxic finishes.  Rosie Hippo, Under the Nile, and Holgate are sustainable toy manufacturers you may want to check out.

What do I need to look out for in the plastic toys I allow my child to play with?

  • BPA (Bisphenol A) – BPA is found in many plastic products including sippy cups and plastic toys.  BPA has been linked to developmental issues in infants and has been linked to obesity, early-onset puberty, cancer, and attention deficit. Look for BPA-Free on toy to avoid products containing BPA.
  • PVC (polyvinyl chloride) – PVCs are linked to allergies, asthma, and reproductive problems. Check for the PVC-Free mark or the numbers 1, 2, or 4 on the bottom of the toy.

Not only is buying sustainable living products healthier for your growing family, in many cases it is more economical.

What sustainable living tips do you use with your family?

Paul Vachon writes about Personal Finance topics and Frugal Living at The Frugal Toad

34 thoughts on “Sustainable Living with a Growing Family

  1. Almost forgot about this one! We are really big into recycling at home and at work. I try to buy products that have less packaging but it is difficult. We try to buy bulk items which most of the times has less packaging however, on occasion has more! Think of Costco packaging and you’ll know what I am talking about!

  2. Great post Paul. These tips are right up my ally. We haven’t started a family yet but in prep for it we have changed numerous things around our house to be more eco-friendly and healthier. We have all natural or homemade cleaning products on the shelves, we have non toxic personal care products, we have wood floors, and grow our own garden. We have really enjoyed the changes we have made and I expect us to just keep improving and tweaking as the years go by and as the kids come.

    1. Glad you like the post Miss T! It is scary the amount of chemicals in the products that we use in and around the home. Before we had children we used to have a monthly pest control service. I stopped it shortly before we had our first child and never used the service since. My wife was not happy about it but it’s nothing that an old shoe can’t take care of. ;)

  3. Lots of great tips that I hadn’t considered before. I do my best to purchase eco-friendly cleaners, like Seventh Generation, to keep down on the chemicals that I’m spraying around my house. I also try to buy foods that have only a few ingredients and contain things that I know what they are. This includes avoiding processed foods as much as possible.

  4. We had a garden growing up in Pennsylvania and I would help my mother plant the vegetables and do the weeding. Fresh tomatoes and cucumbers on a summer evening are some great memories. In Phoenix it is difficult to grow most vegetables due to the heat. I do have an herb garden and most of my clothes are old! ;)

  5. We are not really into gardening I am afraid although perhaps we should be with the coming problems. No, we try to shop locally and do a menu so we don’t waste too much food. We have a green bin for food and garden waste, a blue bin for paper, a brown bin for glass and a black bin for general rubbish, mostly collected every other week. That’s one of the advantages of European Directives!!!

    But my pet hate is packaging. Food, toys, whatever. The sort of packaging that is difficult to open, requires the kitchen scissors or whatever. This is particularly true of things like earphones or other electronic bits. Often the packaging more than doubles the weight let alone the size of the item. How older folk open these is beyond me but the stupidity of the designers is even more amazing. And when you have emasculated to packaging and find the damn thing won’t work, what to do say to the store when taking it back now in an un-resaleable condition???

    We bought some new pillowcases the other day – nice ones that were not too expensive. Unwrapping them, a large chunk of cardboard falls out. Why?

  6. I think the cotton diaper has a perception problem amongst certain people. I tried to get my wife on board to use reusable diapers with our future child and she wasn’t going for it.

    Some sustainable things we use for our family are:

    We use a steam mop for our hardwood floors
    Reusable HVAC filters. Just wash and go
    We drive a Prius

      1. Not to mention the massive problem of “disposable” diapers in landfills! The chemicals in diapers end up leaching into surrounding soil and groundwater, not to mention the amount of land required to bury this waste!

  7. Many times maintaining sustainable living is really hard. Specially with the growing availability of all modern equipments.

    Anyways lets try for a green world!!!!!!!!!!

  8. If trying to go the used clothing route a lot more and plan to continue my home-made products and home-cooking as much as I can…. For food i’m also reading up on foraging for when I reach New Zealand in a few weeks.

    1. Hi Forest – Please write a post on your foraging, I would be interested to learn more about it. I have done quite a bit of backpacking and collected some berries, but depended on food that I carried with me.

  9. One nice thing about cloth diapers is that they can be handed down between babies. We’re expecting our third baby next month and I’ve got prefold diapers that we’ve used on my son and daughter already. Between bottoms, they’ve been the best cleaning rags as well. (Some aren’t coming back into rotation and are just rags now, but cleaning with baking soda and vinegar means they aren’t full of junky chemical build up!)

    Even better, our newborn cloth stash is going on their fifth bottom! My cousin sent me a set that her son had outgrown and my daughter used them. Then, I sent them along for a friend, off to another cousin, and they’ve returned to be used again. You definitely can’t do that with disposables, no matter how biodegradable and eco-friendly the materials.

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