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5 Ways To Parent For the Planet

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Climate change is a reality that today’s generation of parents has to think about in a way previous generations have not. With the Amazon rainforest burning, the arctic melting, and worldwide climate strikes happening, we are left to wonder what we can do to address this often-overwhelming and anxiety-producing outlook on the future of our planet. While there are certainly large-scale changes that need to be made, sometimes legislation and the discussions of world powers can leave us feeling a bit helpless as individuals. So, we wanted to focus this month’s blog post on five ways that parents can promote a healthy Earth in the choices we make every day. Read on for some simple (though not necessarily easy) things you can do as a family to parent for the planet.

  1. Eat less meat. Many studies show that the single most effective thing you can do to fight climate change is to stop eating meat. While going completely vegetarian may not work for you, even limiting your family’s meat consumption, particularly of red meat, can make a big difference. Greenhouse gas emissions and water usage from the meat industry, in particular from the beef industry, far exceed the usage from other parts of agribusiness.

  2. Use cloth diapers. According to The Natural Baby Co., “Every year, billions of disposable diapers are produced and used in the U.S. Valuable resources are consumed to produce these diapers, and they in turn create millions of tons of waste to be dumped into landfills.” Each year in the United States, enough disposable diapers are thrown away to circle the globe 90 times, and it is estimated to take 250-500 years for a disposable diaper to decompose. Using cloth diapers is often much easier than parents think it will be. There are so many different kinds of cloth diaper systems available now, including hybrid diapers that are partially disposable (which feels like a doable compromise for some families). If you use cloth diapers, a cloth wet bag to keep them in, and cloth wipes, you can further reduce your waste by having an entire system that is washable and reusable for all your kiddos. If washing your own diapers feels like too much, consider using a diaper service such as Do Good Diapers. They do the washing and prep for you, and pick the dirty diapers up and leave fresh clean ones at your door.

  3. Accept, and offer, hand-me-downs. In the age of fast fashion, it’s revolutionary to focus on sustainable fashion, and even more revolutionary to turn toward reusing clothing. If you’re lucky enough to have a family member or friend with children slightly older than yours, you may be privy to bags of used kids clothes that are perfectly wearable and way friendly on the planet and your wallet. If you don’t have these sources of hand-me-downs, consider shopping for used kids clothes on Facebook Marketplace, Craig’s List, Nextdoor, or a local place such as Once Upon a Child or Savers. Bellies to Babies is another local business that specializes in maternity and nursing wear, and they have rentable dresses for special events when you’re pregnant, but you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg for something you’ll only wear once. When you’re done using maternity or child clothing, consider passing them on to a friend, or selling them for a small fee, so that you can “pay it forward” to another family trying to save money. The Earth thanks you for reducing and reusing!

  4. Rent, borrow, or trade toys. Rather than purchasing them, consider trading toys with a friend or family member, borrowing and cycling toys for a short time, or renting them. The Minneapolis Toy Library is a unique and wonderful resource for reducing waste. Children are often only interested in toys for a short while anyway, so renting makes a lot of sense. It helps keep your home from getting cluttered, it fosters stewardship and care for toys, and it reduces the use of resources for producing new toys and packaging.

  5. Reduce your use of plastic. Plastic is extremely hard on the environment, in the resources used in its production, in the impacts on human health, and in the amount of waste it creates in our oceans and lakes, soils, and even air. Parents have many opportunities to choose something other than plastic: glass baby bottles, glass water bottles, cloth sandwich and snack bags, wooden toys, steel dishes and steel silverware. In cases when plastic is far more practical than glass, cloth or metal, reusable plastics are still far better than single-use plastics. For example, instead of purchasing yogurt or applesauce cups, use small Tupperware-style cups that can be washed and refilled. Buy things in bulk and reuse the plastic containers you already have, such as shampoo, breakfast cereals, and laundry detergent.

There are hundreds of ways a family can implement practices to help the planet. These are just a few ways that parents, in particular, can consider taking action to fight climate change. What are some of the ways that work best for you?

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