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.
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.
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.
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?