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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Having a baby: greener choices

If you’re having a baby and want to make green choices, there are many options open to you. Some of these could even save you money. Joining a toy library, recycling food containers and buying some baby items second-hand can all make a difference.

Buying second-hand baby items

Free baby items

You can find baby items for free using Freecycle or Freegle

Buying baby items second-hand reduces the amount of resources and energy needed to make them from new – and could save you money. Think about:

  • asking friends and family for things their children have outgrown
  • getting items for free using websites like Freecycle or Freegle
  • buying from online auction sites, or trying car boot sales and charity shops
  • going to a nearly new sale run by the National Childbirth Trust - you can find one near you on their website
  • passing on your items for reuse when you no longer need them

Safety advice when buying second-hand

There are some baby items you need to be careful about buying second-hand, like car seats, shoes and mattresses. The links below give more information.

Preparing a greener nursery

When you’re decorating your baby’s nursery, try to choose paints with a low impact on the environment. Low VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and water-based paints are good choices. ‘Greener DIY’ explains what VOCs are and has tips on finding paints that are better for the environment.

If you’re buying wooden furniture, look for items made from wood that hasn’t harmed the environment. ‘Greener furniture, fittings and flooring’ has advice on this.

Breastfeeding and bottle-feeding

Breastfeeding is not just good for your baby – it’s also environmentally-friendly, because it doesn’t use energy to make and transport milk formula. As the milk is the right temperature, there’s no need for energy to heat it up either.

If you’re bottle-feeding, here are some ideas to make it greener:

  • buy only one or two of your chosen type of bottle at first, in case your baby doesn’t respond well to it and prefers another sort
  • recycle your old bottles
  • think about buying equipment like sterilisers or bottle-warmers second-hand

Choosing nappies

You can make greener nappy choices whether you use disposable or reusable nappies.

Disposable nappies

Disposable nappies are thrown away each time you use them. Try making them greener by:

  • not buying too many nappies in one size, especially newborn size, as your baby may outgrow them sooner than you expect
  • considering ‘eco-nappies’ – these are often made from recycled materials and contain fewer chemicals

Choose a washing machine with an 'A' label to save energy

Reusable nappies

Reusable nappies (also called washable, cloth or real nappies) are made from fabric, and are washed and reused many times. The way you wash and dry them makes a big difference, so try these tips to make them as green as possible:

  • wait for a full load before washing
  • soiled nappies need washing at 60 degrees Celsius to kill all harmful bacteria
  • wet nappies only need washing at 30 degrees
  • dry them on a washing line or clothes dryer instead of tumble drying, which uses a lot of energy
  • when you’re replacing your washing machine, choose an energy-efficient one by looking for an ‘A’ energy label rating

Buying second-hand nappies, reusing nappies for your next child, and passing them on when you’ve finished with them will also make them greener. The ‘Buying second-hand baby items’ paragraph has ideas on how to do this.

Making baby food greener

Making baby food out of meals you’re cooking for yourself can be a green option. It cuts down on the resources needed to make and transport jars of baby food to the shops. Try freezing portions of homemade baby food in ice cube trays for future use, so you don’t waste food.

If you buy ready-made baby food, try to recycle all the glass and plastic containers you use. Better still, reuse them to store homemade recipes or odds and ends.

Choosing greener toys

Many toys are only used a few times before babies outgrow them. Throwing toys away wastes all the resources and energy that went into making them.

You can borrow toys for a small fee, and sometimes for free, from a toy library. The National Association of Toy and Leisure Libraries (NATLL) can help you find one near you.

Other ways to make greener toy choices include:

  • opting for toys that don’t need batteries or electricity, like wooden blocks or wind-up toys
  • looking for a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label on wooden toys to be sure that the wood was produced in way that hasn't harmed the environment
  • donating or selling unwanted toys – see the ‘Buying second-hand baby items’ paragraph for ideas

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