How to live with a new little one without spending a mountain of trash…
We got our first child this summer, and wanted to adapt her into our zero waste ideals of living. If you are not familiar with Zero waste, here is a short description. The mantras “Refuse (When you shop – think: Do I really want / need this?), Reduce (give away / sell what you don´t need), Reuse, Repair, Recycle (all waste), Rot (fulfilling the circle! Material for new life.)” is how I best can describe zero waste movement. It is all about reducing our daily waste footprint, and the ideal is to produce NO waste, and the chain of life continues after a thing isn´t useful any more – ideally turned into compost and being nourishment for something new, instead of ending up in landfills. It requires a lot of consideration on how we live, some effort to do things and think a bit outside the box – and getting skilled at making different kinds of stuff yourself, some as I described in previous posts.
Doing this with a little baby isn´t the easiest thing to implement. Since it is our first child, there was a lot we did´t take in consideration, so there are definitely some things I would have done different now.
We were very lucky – being parents late in life, and a lot of friends done with babies, our little Emma inherited most of her clothes and toys. And – Luck number 2; one of my best friends got pregnant, and will inherit from Emma. The things we missed for her, we found at finn.no; a buy /sell secoundhand for privates on net in Norway. This is super useful. Babies grow so fast – good quality lasts for long. It is a great idea to share. I don´t mind so much the design as long as it is functional, but I really mind about materials. I want only the best for my little sweetheart, and for me that means pure materials preferably organic. Wool, cotton, linen, bamboo, hemp and silk.
Diapers – this was the first thing I wanted to avoid: use-and-discard. The paper – ones take 450 years to dissolve in nature! So cloth-diapers was ordered from finn.no as we needed. There is a lot of washing, and some claims the carbon footprint is something like the same as disposable diapers, but that is without consideration for how long they take to compost, and how many you have to use! Also if you wash at 60 degrees only every second day it is better than the disposable ones.
Another thing is the disposable wipes for washing the nappy area. They are still not degradable. I bought some super soft cloth- ones from ImseVimse, quite cheap and in organic unbleached cotton. When they arrived I saw I might just as well have made them myself, from a flannel sheet. When we wash we only hang dry, so they turn out a bit stiff. But once wetted they are as soft as can be. No trouble at all to bring with us when we travel around.
And then, when she was 2 months old, we met a lady and her little son on the train. He had cloth diapers, but they where so tiny and slim. I asked her how could that be, and she told us about Elimination Communication (EC). It is basically to use your intuition, read the body language of the baby, and get to a place (toilet, sink or potty) to hold the baby over it an let it pee or poop. The position the baby is held – with gravity, greatly help them to empty their tummy. Actually babies (like us) don´t like to be dirty. It is a great way to help them stay clean and dry. It is a bit funny, but I guess also quite natural: Keeping babies clean and dry without diapers is standard practice in many cultures throughout the world. While this practice is only recently becoming known in industrialized societies (with a sophisticated name), it remains the dominant method of baby hygiene in non-industrialized ones. I heard about it before we got our baby, but honestly I thought it sounded like utopia – I did´t think it would be feasible at all. But meeting someone in person doing it, inspired us to try it out, and it worked immediately. There are always changes with the baby, so routines can be hard to follow – I think it is important to keep the stress low and be happy when you hit bingo. Mostly I just use intuition or when it is convenient, we use it when we can. And it is free to try, you don´t have to buy any expensive equipment. Best of all; when you tune in and try to get your babys facial expressions and body language, you´ll get to know her / him on a new level. Note: Some babies poop all the time – you´d be stuck at the bathroom all day. So it does´nt fit everyone. But be patient, it takes some time to get to know the routines without stressing. Check on youtube if you wonder how it works…
The biggest challenge: All the gifts. Of course, everyone is entitled to give whatever they want to a newborn. But honestly she does´nt need 15 teddy´s in synthetic nylon and heaps of new clothes. This is our own fault, of course – most people don´t ask what she needs, and we didn´t make any guidelines. – To be honest I was totally unprepared for all the stuff that we got. Some of it was very helpful and nice. But I can recommend to plan this a bit ahead and be in dialog with your friends and family. I am the first to admit to have done this myself! You just want to give a nice present, and find something you think will fit…. Our lovely grandpa Ian suggested us to put up a bank account so people could chip in a bit instead of us getting loaded with stuff we didn´t need. This is also something to consider for the coming birthdays and Christmases to come. People spend so much money on gifts as well – it is so much better if they can give something that is wished for and can have a long life.
By now she is just turning 6 months old. The last thing on my zero waste list is introducing food, and making it yourself. All readymade baby food from the store gives a lot of waste – and some unwanted chemicals.
When we have meat, I use the bones and reduce to a stock which the organic vegetables are cooked in. I mash them up, put them in ice cube treys and store in the freezer. Going away? bring your food in a little glass jar, just like they have in the store. Avocado, berries and banana is super fast food. Here in Norway we eat a lot of porridge. If you want to bring with you porridge dry/ pulverized, you can bake a bread – without salt, with extra taste, like berries and dried fruits. Very good if it is a sourdough one, it will give your little one good bacterias. Dehydrate a few slices, pulverize – and just add warm water when ever you need porridge done fast.
This was some of my reflections around lovingly bringing up a baby zero waste. Do you have any other bright ideas? Please tell!