“I had a child and realized he’s going to be dealing with the trash that my generation creates. And I woke up.”
Motherhood has been my greatest journey. One of the most rewarding parts of this experience has been the desire I suddenly have to create less waste. Prior to having my son, I knew most of what I know now but, for some reason, cared less about my single use plastic water bottles or zip-lock bags. My belief was that our society isn’t necessarily set up for a zero-waste lifestyle. While I knew I could stop using those items, very few people in the community make the same commitment. So why would I inconvenience myself while everyone else is taking easy street? Then I had a child and realized he’s going to be dealing with the trash that my generation creates. And I woke up.
I have made it part of my mission to create less waste. This means I had to reprogram my buying habits, how I plan snacks and meals, and make a few initial investments in reusable containers. A few years into practicing these new behaviors, I am happy to share what I know.
It seemed like right as I put the stamps on my baby shower invitations, presents started rolling in and trash started piling up. I was surprised by how much we received. Our home at the time was very small. We ended up created a short list of necessities and slimming way down. But for our baby shower, we got boxes and boxes of items we would barely use and didn’t need. My first advice to parents seeking a more sustainable route: search for second hand first. If you’ve got a specific item that you’re after, try eBay or Craigslist, and start looking for yard sales. One of my most resourceful friends is constantly finding the best baby items at yard sales for next-to-nothing. At the same time, she is being environmentally responsible.
“I had to reprogram my buying habits, how I plan snacks and meals, and make a few initial investments in reusable containers.”
I am fortunate to have a mom group in LA—we are constantly swapping items with other mamas. Try to locate a mom’s group in your area and I guarantee you’ll have an entire group of women looking to save money and unload their old stuff. Plus, each stage of childhood is so fleeting. Finding second hand goods will help you save money and space in the local landfill.
Our family was fortunate to get gifted a subscription to a local diaper service and I loved cloth-diapering our son. There are few ways that you can conserve more than using cloth or compostable diapers. Plus, the little color diaper covers are adorable on teeny babies. If you don’t have a service in your area, I fully recommend bamboo compostable diapers as an eco-friendly alternative to the larger diaper brands.
Once your child starts eating solids, you’re going to be a mobile vending machine and baby snacks will become a part of your life. I encourage all new parents to purchase reusable snack containers. My favorites are the To-Go Ware Stainless Steel Snack Containers for crackers, wet fruits, nuts and veggies, or dips. I have been using these since my son Wallace was a little over a year old and am so happy I made the investment. For other types of snacks or to wrap sandwiches, I love Bee’s Wrap Reusable Food Wraps. These last a long time and are compostable, so once they are no longer working we simply add them to our compost pile.
“I encourage all new parents to purchase reusable snack containers.”
Speaking of snacks, another great way to reduce your waste is to make your own snacks. I know most people don’t have the time for baking but if you do find yourself with an extra couple of hours, making crackers and cookies at home helps you connect with your food and teach your kids how things are made. You’ll also avoid all of the plastic wrapping that these foods are inevitably wrapped in.
I also recommend investing in a couple of great toddler water bottles and make sure to keep them with you at all times. Our family recently invested in a Big Berkey Water Filter 2 Gallon System Bundle: 2 Black BB9 Filters, 2 Fluoride PF2 Filters, 1 Stainless Steel Water Bottle which has helped us remember to fill our waters each day. Now we can avoid going out into the world and purchasing a single-use plastic bottle.
The last recommendation I have is to embrace thrift shopping for kids clothing. I purchase most of Wallace’s clothes on eBay and end up finding him the coolest stuff, like the velvet suit he wore for school photos or the vintage camel coat he wore this winter. I find more unique clothing and also save a ton of money by purchasing used clothing. I have always really enjoyed the hunt for treasures at thrift and vintage shops, so having another person to shop for is fine by me.
“I believe that it’s the women of the world who are going to save the Mother Earth.”
There are many other ways that our family commits to sustainability but these are the easiest to implement and the most obvious. If you’re going to take anything away from this: choose second-hand first. It’s truly the most sustainable way to shop and honestly, you’ll end up with cooler stuff. If you’ve been curious how to lower your waste, browse through Going Zero Waste’s resources.
Whatever path you choose, try to give yourself grace and know that sometimes, you gotta make the convenient choice. It’s the other moments when you can take a little more time to plan your day or week when you’ll make the most impact. Try to make small shifts a little at a time and all of the sudden you’ll realize how much progress you’ve made. I believe that it’s the women of the world who are going to save the Mother Earth. Us mamas gotta stick together, ya know?★
Jamie Arrigo is an environmentally-conscious mother and photographer based in Pasadena, CA. She works with ethical companies including Erbaviva, Poppy and Someday, Homestead Organics and others to create meaningful digital content. She has recently launched a creative agency focused on working with environmentally responsible companies. Jamie’s primary focus is to spread awareness about sustainability and clean living in and around her community. She resides in Pasadena with her husband and son Wallace.