The Novice Father: Save the planet or save my sanity?
Vail CO, Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” My baby will outgrow entire wardrobes every three months (I still wear shirts from high school). During diaper changes I have a hard time not soiling any clothes ” hers or mine. That doesn’t even count the blankets, sheets and changing pads that attract spit-up and other fluids. Add up all the baby wipes, extra laundry cycles and enough plastic diapers to fill the Solaris excavation site, and my sustainability hopes are in the dumpster.
I’d like to consider myself eco-friendly, but sometimes it’s tough to think about saving the planet when I’ve got a screaming baby in my arms.
Depending on what source you use, I will throw away 4,000 to 11,000 plastic diapers before my kid becomes potty trained. Let’s face it: for a baby with such small feet, my daughter has a large carbon footprint. How does a time-strapped, sleep-deprived new parent keep some remnants of an eco-friendly household?
The best thing I can do is just keep environmentalism in mind, advised Matt Scherr, director for the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability. “And forgive yourself when you’re not ‘king green.'”
“We’re not going to succeed in being completely green, but if we keep it in mind, we can make a huge difference,” he said.
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Scherr, a father of a two- and four-year-old, noted that the best motivators to be green parents are 1) cutting costs and 2) the baby’s health.
“When you see the bills go up as much as you do, it’s a great motivation to try and cut costs,” Scherr said.
To keep my utility bill in check, I might avoid raising the heat in the house to 80 degrees in the winter just because a baby now sleeps there (contrary to parents’ constant worries, babies like the same temperatures we do, Scherr said). I might look for hand-me-down clothes. Those clothes will be practically new since the original owner wore that Winnie The Pooh onesie exactly twice. I might even consider the switch to cloth diapers so I don’t have to buy a case of disposables each time I’m at the grocery store.
“We’re drinking organic milk, which we didn’t before,” said Brett Falk, Avon resident and father of two boys, ages four and two. “We’re just more careful about what we put into them.”
Falk also switched to dye-free laundry detergents when his first child was born for the same health concern.
Like Falk, I’m also finding my baby’s health to be much more a hot-button motivator than I thought. While I happily scarfed down whatever hormone-injected meat they sold on the cheap shelf at the grocery store, I now make sure my breastfeeding wife gets only the organic chicken on her plate. “You don’t cut corners when you’re talking about the health of your kids for the rest of their lives,” Scherr said.
Falk noted that he had to forgo certain green options based on convenience.
“We go through tons and tons of diapers. I can’t imagine how my mother did it, with a pail full of cloth diapers to wash every week,” Falk said. He also lamented all the individually packaged snacks he puts into his kids lunch boxes each day.
“It’s always on my mind as how to be green and not just burden ourselves with cleaning, cutting and repackaging,” Falk said.
Cost versus health versus convenience. I won’t be able to live a carbon-neutral lifestyle. However, if I keep my eyes out for green choices, I’ll be able to pick out the earth-friendly habits that will help my baby’s health and possibly save me some money.
Kelly Coffey is a novice father. He shares his mistakes, fears, and laughs along his journey to figure out how anybody could possibly raise a child. E-mail comments or questions about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.