Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

This is my first earth day as a parent, and has me thinking about some of the ways to raise kids with the environment in mind. I know, that is a bit of an oxymoron. Even having kids might be one of the worst things you can do for the environment, since overpopulation is becoming a problem for our poor, overburdened earth. However, I don't think people are going to stop having children anytime soon (aka, ever!), and Joe and I certainly plan on having more than one. So, what can we, as parents, do to lessen our negative environmental impact?

Joe and I try to be environmentally responsible as much as possible. Henry is still new, so he doesn't need much yet. They say all they do at this age is EAT, SLEEP and POOP. Add in a mixture of happy times, playing and a bit of fussiness and it is pretty accurate. With that in mind, here are some of the ways we have been trying to lessen Henry's environmental impact at this stage.

1. EATing: Well, we breast feed Henry. Not only is it natural and his perfect food, but there is no waste or plastic or packaging involved. That being said, I fully understand and respect that some mom's can't make this happen. I came very close to switching to formula in the first weeks... It is not easy! But it was worth it!

2. SLEEPing: When we first brought Henry home, we had the thermostat set down to 16 degrees at night. Our midwife told us it was too cold, so we turned it up. After a few weeks, I realized that Henry was a little furnace and would sweat through his clothes at night. So, now we have the thermostat set down at night again (although now it isn't quite SO low!) I'm not sure what else could make sleeping more environmentally friendly (?)

3. POOPing: For the first 2 weeks or so of Henrys life, we used disposible diapers*. As diapers contain plastic, they don't exactly biodegrade very easily. I always felt guilty throwing out yet another diaper. Then, we made the switch to cloth and haven't turned back! I know that cloth diapers aren't perfect (they still require a LOT of electricity and water use), but they do seem to be the better choice. An even better choice would be the elimination communication technique that I talked about here. I haven't been doing it as much as I'd like. Maybe I'll put in more effort again, now that it's on my mind!

*Next time, we might look into a newborn cloth diaper service for those first few weeks. No washing means less work for new and tired mom and dad!

4. Clothing: I am very fortunate to have a (very generous) sister with two boys. She has been giving us all of her hand-me-downs. That, mixed with generous gifts from family and friends, has made it so that Joe and I have not had to buy ANY clothing for Henry! We plan on continuing dressing Henry is used, hand-me-downs and thrifted clothing as much as possible. 

5. Toys: Most of Henry's toys right now are either cotton or wood. We hope to keep it that way! I say that now, but we will see what time brings :) I've been learning to keep my opinions to myself, since I have learned and changed so much since becoming a Mum. It is very humbling. 

As for the future, we hope to continue raising our family in a more environmentally positive way. Some of the things we will continue to do or hope to do:

- Eat vegan and raise our family vegan. This is by far the best thing you can do if you want to lessen your families' environmental impact. Too much? Eat vegetarian, or simply cut back on your animal product consumption. Every little bit helps!

- Walk/Bike/Stroller/Run/Skip/Scoot... you get the idea. We hope to use our car as little as possible. We have even talked about becoming members of Community CarShare  and ditching the car altogether!

- Plan trips in nature: Joe and I love camping/hiking/canoeing/biking/swimming/cottaging and enjoying nature in general. It is something I hope to pass onto my children. To me, it is important to know what you're trying to preserve!

- Choose your home wisely! This means a few different things to me. 1: Live where the action is. Somewhere that helps you to avoid car use by having things nearby. For us, this means living downtown. Right now, we don't. That means we will probably need to move. More on that in the future. And 2: Live in a perfectly-sized house. We won't mind if our next home is a bit of a downsize.  To me, it is important that all of the space in our next house is usable space. A smaller house also means less space to heat in the winter. 3: Make your house as efficient as possible; whether this means reinsulating, replacing windows, upgrading appliances etc... there are many small changes that can make a big difference when it comes to your home. We recently went on a tour of the REEP house to get some ideas. If you live in or near KW, you should check it out!

- Go to the local market: It is easier to know where your food is coming from when you can buy it straight from the farmer! We love our local farmers' market and go every week. This is where we buy most of our food. It also helps us to prevent using packaging. We buy the rest of our food at a local health food store, where they even let us use our own jars in the bulk section! This prevents a lot of packaging, which we love.

- And more!

I'm not going to pretend we are the most environmental people in the world. However, we do try our best to live lightly and make changes towards sustaining our environment. What do you do to reduce your negative environmental impact? I would love to know!

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