The birth of sustainable parenting

How are parents being green 

5 minutes

Growing numbers of parents are adopting a sustainable approach to raising their children, reducing their impact on the environment and often improving their family finances too.

  • What is ‘sustainable parenting’?
  • Practical ways you can reduce waste
  • How being environmentally conscious could save you money

There are a growing number of parents raising their children sustainably

Sustainable parenting explained

Sustainable parenting is all about bringing up your children in a way that will do the least possible damage to the planet. 

Writing for LV= life insurance, Melanie Wright (@MelWrightMoney) looks at some of the ways to bring up kids in a way that’s sustainable, and speaks to parents who are putting their green principles into practice.

Babies use between four and 12 nappies a day.

Buy reusable nappies

Babies use an awful lot of nappies – between four and 12 a day, depending on age – which means an awful lot of waste. The good news is that there are lots of reusable nappies available, so you can cut down on the amount you contribute to landfill. Switching to reusable nappies could also boost your finances.

‘Although cloth nappies are more expensive upfront, they work out a lot cheaper in the long run,’ says Fuschia Hutton (@fuschiahutton), 34, an Italian-to-English translator and copywriter, who is mum to Iris, 2. 

'Including laundry costs, I have spent £468 on cloth nappies and wipes, which will take us from birth to potty. This compares to the £1,000 plus it could have cost me using disposable nappies and wipes, birth to potty.

‘If we have another child, then we will make even more savings, because we will be able to reuse what we have instead of buying new. In terms of convenience, we haven't found them particularly challenging, as most cloth nappies are as easy to put on as a disposable – though we do have an extra machine wash to do every so often.’

Manufacturer Fill Your Pants suggest that you need to buy between 15-25 reusable nappies, but lots of councils now offer incentives to parent who choose reusable nappies. For example, Watford Council offers a free starter kit worth over £100 to help parents get started, or £50 cashback to those who’ve already bought real nappies. Speak to your local authority to see if you might be eligible for any reusable nappy incentives in your area.

Only buy the ‘essentials’

Babies are big business for retailers. Everywhere you go as a new parent, you’ll be bombarded with all sorts of paraphernalia you’ll be told you just can’t do without, such as special nappy bins and baby shoes, despite the fact your child won’t be walking for many months. 

Succumb to the sales patter and the cost of a child can soon mount up, so only buy what is absolutely essential. Not only will this help you keep costs down, but it also means there’ll be less to throw out once you no longer need it. ‘There are lots of lists convincing you that you need a lot of items, but everyone's needs are different,’ adds Fuschia. ‘For example, we didn't bother with a changing table – we just used a mat on the floor.’ 

Recycle and reuse

Children usually outgrow toys and clothes in just a few months, so there’s little point shelling out hundreds of pounds on new stuff. Make use of auction sites such as eBay and see what you can pick up second-hand.

Reusing items is not only good for the planet as it saves them going to landfill, it’ll also be a lot less painful for your pocket.  The  National Childcare Trust runs regular ‘nearly new’ sales across the country. Check the NCT website to find details of the next sale near you. You can also pick up children’s toys and clothes for free on sites such as the Freecycle Network and freegle.

Once your children have outgrown toys or clothes, you can either make some cash by selling them, or you can take them to your nearest charity shop so they can be reused by someone else – but make sure you give them a very good wash first, and take every precaution to avoid spreading germs.

Reduce your use of plastic 

Try to keep your use of plastic toys to a minimum as these are harmful to the environment when disposed of. Some toy companies, such as Bioserie, produce toys that are made of plant-based plastic, which means they don’t pollute the environment once discarded.

‘I always opt for wooden toys which are timeless,  don’t contain chemicals (BPA or PVC), are eco-friendly when produced from FSC-certified forests, bamboo or rubberwood, and are also r durable,’ recommends Emma Ross (@mamalinauk), 33 – mum to Jack, 4, and Sonny, 2 – who blogs about living and parenting sustainably.

When you’re a parent to young children, being environmentally conscious can seem like just one more thing to think about. But by buying minimally and mindfully, you can cut the clutter – and keep your spending down as well.