In honor of World Oceans Day, I’d like to share some actionable, easy, and budget-friendly ways for new parents to make decisions that are gentle on the oceans.
We don’t have to feel like we need to do everything or give up entirely. Each thing we do makes a difference in the overall health of our families and our planet over time. You have the opportunity to create systems that you instill in your children that will have an enormous lasting impact starting from the time they are infants. How cool is that?!
I’m going to take the Top 3 sources of ocean pollution and give one tip for how you can personally make a difference in your growing family.
By every estimate, the amount of plastics in our oceans is by far the biggest risk to long term ocean health. New parents are bombarded with suggestions for what to purchase and many of these baby and parent items are made of soft, non-recyclable, non-biodegradable plastics.
The biggest way you can combat the increase of plastics in our oceans is to BUY LESS overall. Most of the items parents feel are necessary for their children in infancy we can do without. The plastic wipe warmer that you also have to plug in? ...Definitely not necessary. Twenty different “development” toys made of plastic? ...2-3 age-appropriate toys made from organic materials are plenty -- babies need your voice and love to develop, not a lot of plastic toys. If you do want to purchase more than less, you could get items second hand or focus on gathering non-plastic items that grow along with your child instead.
Another big way to limit plastics in infancy is to NOT BUY PLASTIC BOTTLES. I’ve written about how using glass and stainless steel bottles is not only good for the environment, but significantly better for your baby’s health before. Even if it says it’s “BPA free,” the materials used for children’s feeding items (in infancy and beyond) are full of many chemicals known to cause problems for long term health of children AND the ocean. Major bonus - you don’t need to sterilize glass and steel bottles, cutting out extra work and loads of extra plastics and other energy sources. This will save you a ton of time and money, too.
The cumulative amount of plastic produced since the mid-20th century is of the order of 5 billion tons, enough to wrap the Earth in a layer of plastic wrap. The amount projected by 2050, on current trends, is about 40 billion tons, which is enough to wrap 6 layers of plastic wrap around the planet.
source - Saftey4Sea
Here’s another action I love sharing because it hits on three huge things parents care about - infant health, saving money, and being more ocean-friendly. DON’T BUY TWO SETS OF CLEANING SOLVENTS.
Run-off toxins in waterways is called “non-point source pollution.” Chemicals from land, including toxins from car gas, agricultural runoff, and chemicals from items in our homes enter our waterways and reach the ocean in enormous concentrations. They can cause areas of algae bloom or “dead zones” and wipe out marine life across huge patches of ocean.
Many families are rightly concerned about the chemicals touching their baby’s sensitive bodies. There are loads of companies which make gentle cleaning products for baby items and that area of the beauty and home cleaning industry has exploded in recent years.Where that may address some issues around chemical exposure in babies, in reality, this in isolation isn’t doing much for your infant’s health or the environment.
It’s two-fold : For one thing, it’s not environmentally friendly to purchase two sets of things -- One that’s okay for adults and one that’s okay for babies. That’s usually two sets of plastic containers, two sets of shipping emissions, two sets of production emissions, and so on. Secondly, your baby is exposed to the chemicals present throughout your home and your person. Even if you have separate cleaning materials for baby’s food containers, laundry, and room, if you use harsh chemicals to clean the rest of your home and personal items, your baby is being exposed to those chemicals at the same rate and so are the oceans through runoff.
Purchasing all home cleaning items in bulk, in glass containers, with low or no non-biodegradable chemicals, or making your own cleaning items with natural ingredients will go along way in improving the health of you and your baby.
Other Single Use Disposables
Our beaches are littered with trash from all over the world. Non-recyclable paper and cotton items are one of the largest contributors to global ocean waste.
Many parents utilize several items of single use paper and cotton items in infant hygiene. Giant boxes of diaper wipes go by in a flash. Cotton swabs and Q-Tips start to be purchased in bulk. Plastic-covered absorbent pads suddenly enter your life as disposable on the go changing stations.
Though you might not think it’s possible to keep your baby clean easily without these things, they are very very recent developments in parenting and you can definitely use less or go without. Plus, going without can save you a ton of money in the long run.
Even supposedly biodegradable wipes that get flushed or taken to industrial landfills are rarely completely broken down, often clog waterways and drainage systems, and very often contain some plastics in the weave of the actual wipe and of course in the packaging.
It might not be realistic for many families to use cloth diapers, it is pretty easy to switch to reusable wipes for pee diapers and other baby hygiene purposes, saving the disposable wipes for poo diapers only. Since baby pee is rarely as smelly or concentrated as adult pee, it’s easy to throw these small washable wipes into a basket by your changing station and be thrown in with any load of laundry. This will save you a TON of money, stress about restocking your wipes, and it’s great for ocean health.
You can easily make your own from cotton flannel, or you can purchase them online. It’s great to have a few different sizes around. Once your baby is out of diapers, these make for great replacements for your cotton face wipes for removing makeup, cleaning small wounds, or cleaning up the constant debris on your growing child’s face.
Hope you consider making one or more of these easy and ocean-friendly switches in your family. I see families implement these things all the time and can tell you they’re just as easy as the heavy polluting options, if not easier.