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Friday, July 1, 2011

Preparing for Baby - Green Choices vs. Conventional

There is a suite of universal preparations that all expectant parents make when waiting for baby.  (especially if this is baby #1)  We wanted to make these preparations without compromising our belief in the importance of living a low impact life as well as being as frugal as possible.

In many instances the frugal and green choice was one in the same, but there were some compromises we refused to make for the sake or being green, the number one being safety.

So based on the guidance we could gather from the internet, stacks of books, a few resourceful experts, and our own good sense the following is a run down of the preparations we made and how they rank on the scale of honeydew to guacamole.

A Place to Sleep
Our choices: Second hand arms reach co-sleeper and new 3-in-1 crib.

What was green about these choices:

The co-sleeper was second hand.  Second hand is almost always the greener choice, but not always the safest choice.  Whats safe about this co-sleeper is that they have no recall history for safety problems, they are easily completely cleaned, and they are only usable as a bassinet for about the first 6 months (then can be used as a playpen) so one or two children can't really wear one out.

The crib converts into a toddler and full bed, so should be  useable for an extended period of time (although now that we've purchased it I do questions its durability for years of childhood bouncing and teenage flopping).

How we could have done better:

Choose true "in-bed" co-sleeping, no crib or bassinet required.  Although I have no doubt that our little one will end up spending plenty of hours sleeping in our bed we decided against going for true co-sleeping for safety concerns.  The biggest issues we had were that according to popular guidance our queen mattress in both too small and too soft to safely co-sleep with an infant.

Purchase a second hand crib.  I looked into second hand cribs and to be honest was scared by the number of worn out or recalled cribs being sold at more than half the original price.  Especially prevalent were dropside cribs that were manufactured prior to the establishment of current crib safety laws.

Our choices: New convertible car seat, second hand jogging stroller, and xtracycle conversion.

What was green about these choices:

The jogging stroller was second hand (and again second hand is a good green and frugal choice).  High quality jogging strollers take a long time to wear out and with a little elbow grease they can look and function like new (or at least as good as any stroller would function after a short period of use).

By skipping the infant car seat we've saved money and the waste of having to replace it with a larger car seat in a few short months.  Since the convertable car seat can fit a child weighing from 5-40 lbs and up to 49inches tall we should get a long period of use. Plus I really don't like the detachable/carrying basket function of infant car seats.  It's not so much a "green" issue as a "don't treat you baby like luggage" issue.

The xtracycle conversion to Jim's bike is by far the greenest investment we've made in a long time.  In the present and near future it has significantly cut back on the car trips for in-town errands and trips to the recycling center, and when our little guy is a year old and big enough for a bike helmet we can get the peapod childseat for the bike and eliminate most of our in town driving all together.
How we could have done better:

Purchasing the car seat second hand would have been greener, and I did look into that but once again safety was the stumbling block.  I contacted quiet a few people selling used carseats on craigslist and when I asked about care and maintenance of the seat each person proudly stated that they regularly washed the seat cover AND STRAPS! Apparently the fact that that makes the straps unsafe, and need to be replaced isn't a widely known fact.  I mean does anyone even read their manual, they all say to spot clean the straps don't put them through the damn washing machine.  But I'm getting side tracked on a rant.  So in the end I felt like the used car seats out there were totally sketchy and we bought the most unbelievably expensive convertible car seat that we felt was the safest and best option, hopefully we'll get a lot of years of use out of it.

Something to Eat

Our choices: Long term breastfeeding, new breast pump for returning to work, glass bottles, and breast milk freezer trays to make cubes for long term storage.

What was green about these choices:

It is actually a bit shocking that breastfeeding a baby is an alternative choice people have to make rather than just the normal way all babies are raised, but again that is a different rant for a different day.  Breastfeeding is greener and a much cheaper than the alternatives, and there are all the negative side effects of not breastfeeding that also increase the costs of feeding your baby.

All the accessories of breastfeeding needed for returning to work reduce the "greenness" and "cheapness" of breastfeeding but we tried to go as minimal as possible.

Purchased a new pump without any accessories or fancy carrying bags which just seemed unnecessary and expensive.

The intent of the  glass bottles is to purchase something that will last for a long time and be passed to other families to be well used (like all those old canning jars we're still sterilizing and using each summer).

The milk storage trays seem less wasteful than using the individual storage bags which must create a lot of plastic waste.  this way we can freeze the milk in 1 oz cubes and pop them in to another container for long term storage.

How we could have done better:

The best way to improve this choice would be to not have to pump breastmilk but to be able to feed our little guy myself for the first few years.  That isn't in the cards, so we're working with what we have.

Another alternative would be to buy these accessories second hand.  I looked for second hand glass bottles and milk trays and found nada.  I also researched the second hand pump issue and came up with two big problems:

  1. The main brand you find used (medela) isn't one of the few brands that prevent milk from entering into the pump itself and potentially contaminating it. 
  2. Pumps wear out gradually and can have reduced suction while the motors still seem to pump normally; slowing down the process, significantly reducing your pumped quantities and potentially effecting production.
A Place to Poop

Our choices: Cloth diapers; a mixture of pocket diapers and pre-folds.  Mostly purchased new as gifts from loving friends and family and a few used covers from out local second hand kids shop.

What was green about these choices:  

Cloth diapers is another awesome example of the greenest option being the cheapest option.  For a few hundred dollars we can diaper a baby through potty training and not make a unalterable negative impact on the environment (plus save the estimated $5,000 people spend on diapers for a baby!)

Another big bonus; we were able to register at a local diaper shop and having an on-line registry made shower gifts very easy.

How we could have done better:

Purchase more of the diapers second hand.  We did find some covers at our local second hand shop for a good second hand price (about 1/4 the original price) and we bought everything we thought would work for us.

There are a lot of used cloth diapers on craigslist, especially pocket diapers, but I think most are a ripoff.  They generally sell for 70-80% of the original price which I think is way too much.  I even found some un-usable pocket diapers that needed to have the elastic entirely replaced (presumably the covers were put through the drier repeatedly instead of hung dry over night) that were being offered for 40% the original price!

Well that's it really, a summary of our rationalization for baby preparations.  Now we just need the little guy to arrive and test all our carefully considered preparations.

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