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Little one, big footprint

I will have to bring my recycling A-game this year as I’m contributing to an expansion of our carbon footprint. Joking aside, I’m having a baby! While navigating the chaotic world of a mother-to-be, it occurs to me how resource-intensive a new-born can be.

Practise what you preach, they say. I hate being wasteful and believe in being a responsible role model for the little one joining us this summer.

But let’s face it, anything you buy for babies is a short-lived joy. They grow out of their clothes every few weeks, sleep in their crib for two years at most, and don’t get me started on all those toys and ‘must have’ accessories aggressively targeted at first-time parents.

We’re all scared we won’t have enough stuff and don’t want the baby to miss out on anything. I admit, I’m no exception. The average cost of a nursery, all-in, is EUR 3 000-4 000. While friends and family members have urged me not to buy into the ‘brand-new’ hype, my hormones are finding it hard to shop thriftily.

It doesn’t help that stores have showrooms to imitate real-life homes. That makes the ‘add to cart’ step a very low threshold. I can just picture it! (Our sizeable collection of colourful onesies, tiny socks and stuffed animals proves so. What’s one more Blankie?)

The rational side of my brain is aware of the numbers I’m adding to. For example, the global fast fashion market was worth US$ 106 billion last year and is expected to reach US$ 122 billion by the end of 2023. Big surprise: western Europe is currently the largest market – followed by the Asia-Pacific region.

And did you know we throw out around 22 billion shoes worldwide every year? My nephew, Ike, is barely a year-and-a-half old and already has a dozen original Nike sneakers. Granted, he’s the coolest baby on the block.

It provides a chicken or the egg scenario: are parents to blame for the excess or should producers simply manufacture better, more sustainable products with dedicated take-back schemes?

Meanwhile, furniture seems to have a shorter life-cycle year by year – they’re no match for the robust pieces my grandparents bought. (I doubt my glass countertop Ikea desk and turquoise swivel chair will pass down the generations.)

Offices are the main source of furniture waste. This stream accounts for an estimated 8.5 million tonnes of end-of-life materials per year in the US alone. Public buildings such as schools don’t have sustainable credentials either. I wonder how high or far down the list parents come…

The ownership of mobile phones and computers has shifted from adults to college kids to teens and, probably, five-year olds. Indeed, we’re already discussing limiting the screen time of our unborn child and will probably veto a TV in their bedroom in favour of family time.

Call me corny or old-school. Our rugrat probably will anyway.

My circular intentions for our firstborn include:

  • Wooden toys rather than plastic
  • Buying (cotton) clothing that is easily recyclable
  • Reusing outfits I used to wear (thanks, mom!)
  • Photographing outfits per size category so I’m fully aware of HOW MUCH we already have
  • Experience-based (sensory/educational) toys rather than a million teddy bears or glittery dolls
  • Preparing home-made food
  • Getting footwear for the age the baby can actually use them. (We all know they hate socks as one is always missing…)
  • Painting the baby room a neutral colour that is future-proof
  • Getting a crib that you can eventually turn into a child’s bed
  • Minimising the use of electronics and encouraging outside activities

Want to share your experiences? Any tips are welcome!

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2 thoughts on “Little one, big footprint

  • SustainableC

    You didn’t mention the footprint of disposable diapers and wipes. That’s something that’s very controversial and hard to adopt the greener option. Props to moms trying out the reusable cloth diapers!

    1. Kirstin Linnenkoper

      Various players around the world are exploring nappy recycling from what I’ve heard. Granted, it still counts as a niche that isn’t popular. Having said that, medical waste (mixed plastics, face masks, contaminated tissues etc.) is being treated efficiently these days so I’d say it’s definitely possible. Whether it’s an attractive business case, that’s another question.

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