Having a new baby is a wonderful, life-changing experience. It can bring joy and happiness watching your child grow and develop. However, it’s important to recognize that bringing another life into the world also has a significant environmental impact.
Since 1928, the population of the planet has almost quadrupled, and in the last 50 years, we have consumed more resources than the entirety of human history before that. Each new child will contribute an estimated 58 tons of carbon emissions for each year of their life, and unless we begin to take action and tackle our existing wasteful practices, these figures will continue to grow.
Thankfully, that’s exactly what some parents are doing, and today, there are ways of navigating the early years of parenthood while minimizing your child’s impact. In fact, while new parents might find it near-impossible to avoid the endless plastics associated with diaper changes, plastic bottles, wipes—all of which end up in landfill—with a little guidance you will find there are plenty of products to help mitigate this waste generation and work towards a zero-waste lifestyle for the whole family.
To help you do this, here we take a look at 10 of the best zero-waste baby products you should be adding to your baby shower list.
1. Reusable diapers
Let’s start with the big one. Babies need diaper changes. Lots of them. A baby will use between 2,000 and 2,500 diapers in its first year alone, and using disposable diapers will fill up garbage bag after garbage bag. But there are washable and biodegradable liner options available to help minimize this type of waste.
Yes, it’s less convenient to have to wash diapers rather than just throwing them away but the amount of waste you can save is astonishing. Invest in a dozen or so cloth diapers which you can wash over and over again, as well as degradable liners that can be flushed and break down in the sewage system, and you will have a huge positive impact on your waste generation. Additionally, if you can find organic cotton diapers you’ll also be minimizing your child’s impact during the manufacture of this crucial baby product, as well as avoiding the uncomfortable diaper rash associated with plastic-based products.
2. Fleece or cloth wipes
Along with diapers, another zero-waste baby essential is cloth or fleece wipes in place of disposable wet wipes and washcloths. An estimated 90% of baby wipes on the market contain plastic, yet remarkably, many products advertise that they are flushable. This is not just adding plastic to the water system, but wet wipes are also responsible for more than eight out of ten sewer blockages.
Switch to reusable cotton, fleece, or bamboo terry cloth wipes like these from Totally Taylored that can be washed and reused, cutting out more than 3,000 wet wipes the average baby gets through each year. These practical baby items also reduce some of the potentially harmful chemicals contained within conventional wipes, allowing you to go 100% natural.
3. Wooden toys
Take a look around any toy store and you’ll notice that a vast majority of products are made from plastic. In fact, the toy industry uses 40 tons of plastic for every $1 million in revenue and is the most plastic-intensive industry in the world. Incredibly, more than 90% of toys on the market are made using plastic. Much of this gets played with for a while before being discarded or broken, and it’s rarely recyclable, making sustainably sourced and manufactured toys a must for your zero-waste baby!
Wooden toys can be just as much fun and tend to be much more durable and repairable over time, with an added charm you don’t usually find with plastic toys. Additionally, other materials, such as natural rubber, silicone, organic wool, or cotton are also great materials for children’s toys that are safe, fun, and cuddly!
4. Recycled toys
As well as wooden toys, there are also some great recycled toy brands out there, such as Plan Toys and Green Toys, which use 100% recycled materials. Both brands focus on circularity and sustainability, manufacturing toys from old milk bottles or sawdust and other “waste”. Additionally, with a strong focus on child development and education, toys such as this make the perfect baby gift.
Zero-waste baby toys can have a big impact over time, especially given the amount of plastic used in the industry. Moreover, the transparent practices of both these companies are setting new standards for the industry as a whole, pushing more brands to adopt sustainable practices and reduce the waste associated with what are, essentially, single-use toys and games.
5. Hand me down clothes
Around 12 million baby garments end up in landfill in North America each year, and today we buy 400% more baby clothing than we did 20 years ago. Much of this waste could be spared if we reused baby clothes and passed on items that our little ones have outgrown. Second-hand clothing is a viable way to improve your zero-waste lifestyle for both children and adults alike, and much of the stigma associated with shopping at a second-hand store is a thing of the past.
6. Baby skincare
Baby skin is sensitive skin, often needing some help to stay moist or to avoid rashes and other complaints. There are lots of natural and organic baby skincare products you can use, including coconut oil and natural sunscreen, as well as simple castile soap and other ingredients that you can combine to make your own.
The same goes for baby soaps, shampoos, and zero-waste baby bath products with reduced packaging and less of a waste footprint. Check out these great recipes for making your own baby skincare products or keep an eye out at your local package-free store.
7. Breastfeeding pads
Breastfeeding has huge benefits for your baby, but it can take its toll on mom. Breastmilk leaks can be an issue but there are plenty of compostable single-use or reusable nursing pads out there that can help you to reduce your waste. Brands to look out for include the fun and entirely reusable Bamboobies and the biodegradable, organic cotton pads from NatraCare.
In addition to this, it’s also possible to make your own DIY nursing pads from scraps of organic cotton flannel, cotton fleece, or bamboo fleece. Check out this simple guide and never run out of breastfeeding pads again!
Stainless steel or glass zero-waste baby bottles are the way to go when selected a bottle for your baby. Glass bottles are BPA-free and non-toxic, usually made from shock-proof borosilicate glass, so you don’t have to worry about breakages. Steel bottles tend to be lighter, although it’s a little harder to judge how much your baby has eaten!
9. Burping cloths and bibs
While we’re on the subject of feeding, baby food has a tendency to get everywhere, so having zero-waste burp cloths and bibs is a must. Reusable and washable cloths and bibs are readily available, however, to reduce waste even further look for products made from natural or recycled materials and that will biodegrade when you’re finished with them.
This kit from Blaynk is a great start, while these bamboo terry cloth baby wipes bring a little color and animation to your baby essentials. Additionally, you can also make your own from old terry cloth or other materials for the ultimate zero-waste bib and burp!
10. Bamboo utensils
Typically, baby utensils are made from plastic, but bamboo is a great alternative that is fully biodegradable. It can be used to make cutlery such as forks and spoons, suction bowls for serving food, and when teeth come in you can even get bamboo toothbrushes.
The above suggestions are just a few of the ways you can reduce the impact of having children. You can also take further measures such as investing in eco-friendly strollers, cots, car seats, and more, and with just a little research you will likely find what you are looking for.
Today, the market for low-impact baby products is growing at an impressive rate, with companies seeking to address waste in many areas and reach consumers who are increasingly eco-conscious and wish to reduce waste in all aspects of their lives.
For more information on how to reduce your impact and create less waste in other areas of your and your family’s life, subscribe to zerowaste.com today, check out our zero-waste products in the store, or educate yourself with our guides and informational articles.