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How to be a green parent

We share our 10 top tips for being a green parent without the hassle.
While being 'green' used to be seen as a bit alternative, with climate change becoming a very real threat, many parents-to-be are starting to look at life and wonder how they can do more to help the planet they're bringing their baby into. To help you to do your bit for the environment we share our top tips on how to be a green parent without the hassle:

Breast is best

The healthiest and most environmentally friendly baby food available is breast milk. It's nutritionally designed to meet your baby's needs until at least 6 months of age, has numerous health benefits for both mother and baby, has no environmental impact at all (unlike formula milk that requires processing and lots of equipment) and even better its completely free. Having said that, while breast milk is 'nature's baby food' many women are unable to feed this way and, as a happy Mum makes for a happy baby, if it's not the right option for you it's important not to feel bad about it.

Reuse, reduce, recycle

The 3 R's mantra doesn't just have to apply to your tin cans and cardboard and putting them into practice elsewhere will help save more than just the environment. Babies grow fast and despite advertisers trying to convince us otherwise they don't actually need many things to be content. So, tempting as it may be to buy every 'must have' item brand new, try and resist the urge and instead see what you can borrow or buy second hand. Baby seconds tend to be virtually unused and will save you lots of pennies as well as helping you to do your bit for the environment. You can get everything from nappies to clothes and toys to strollers second hand so it's really not worth paying full price if you can help it (although cot mattresses and car seats should always be bought new). What's more, once your baby grows out of something rather than keeping it 'just in case' or throwing it away, why not pass it on to someone else who will find it useful.

Leave your laundry

Tempting as it can be to do a hot wash every day, it's not necessarily the best thing for your clothes or the environment. Washing only when your machine is completely full and using a 30 degree cycle wherever possible will mean that you use up to 40% less energy and that your clothes will last a lot longer. Heavily soiled clothes are likely to need a hotter wash however pre-soaking will help reduce the temperature needed here too. Using an eco-friendly washing powder and detergent will be kinder to your baby's skin and the environment and drying clothes on a line or a radiator will use a lot less electricity and give your clothes a fresher feel than a tumble dryer can.

Say hello to cloth

With the average baby going through 6000 nappies before potty training and disposables taking up to 500 years to decompose, the environmental impact of the type of nappy you choose to use is huge. Going with cloth nappies can save you up to 600 pounds a year (even more if you borrow or buy second hand), reduce the amount of waste you send to the landfill and can be kinder on your baby's skin. What's more, as cloth nappies have come on leaps and bounds in recent years its easy to find a style that's convenient for you. However, if you're put off by the laundry cycle that accompanies cloth nappies why not try using a local laundering service. They will deliver clean nappies to your door (and take away soiled ones) once a week, saving you the trouble and, as they wash in bulk they're even more environmentally friendly. Bio degradable nappies are another alternative to regular disposables.

Baby wipes and nappy bags also have a significant eco footprint as they can also take years to decompose so, wherever possible it's best to go for biodegradable sacs and use a damp flannel or washcloth to clean your baby's skin.

Watch your water

It's easy to waste water without even thinking about it, yet even small changes can make a big difference to your consumption. Ideas to try include turning the tap of while you brush your teeth, fitting a save-a-flush in your toilet cistern, fixing dripping taps and using a water butt to collect water for your plants and to clean your car.

Get cooking

Making your own baby food has many advantages, for starters you know exactly what each meal contains in terms of added preservatives and salt so it's better for baby, there's no packaging or travel miles to worry about so it's better for the environment and you get to introduce new tastes into your baby's diet so that there is less chance they'll grow up as a 'fussy eater' so it's better for you too! All you need to get started is a hand blender and some tupperware and you're away.

Holiday at home

Airplanes and baby's rarely mix so instead of travelling abroad why not look closer to home for your holidays. By exploring the UK rather than seeking sunnier climes you'll reduce your carbon footprint, save money and minimise travel related stress making for a better holiday all round.

Get going

Whenever you need to get somewhere that's less than two miles away why not walk instead of taking the car. This will not only help your baby to enjoy lots of lovely fresh air and you to tone up and lose any unwanted baby weight, but will also mean you reduce your petrol consumption which of course is better for the environment too. If walking isn't an option try public transport for an eco-friendly alternative.

Go organic

From food to clothing, organic produce is better for us and better for the environment as natural farming and production methods are used in place of pesticides and fertilisers. Why not sign up to a local vegetable box scheme for double the benefit as food will be produced locally, supporting farmers in your area and clocking up fewer miles on its way to your dinner table. Additionally, organic cleaning and baby care products will be kinder to your baby's skin and these are becoming more readily available in most chemists and supermarkets.

Say bye to plastic

In the UK alone 10 billion plastic bags find their way to landfill sites every year but it's easy to do your bit and help to reduce this number. All you need to do is take a reusable canvas bag out with you whenever you leave the house. For a 'never forget' approach try leaving a spare bag in your car, in your handbag and in your baby bag so that you have all areas covered and can say no to yet another carrier next time you need to make a purchase.

Pull the plug

Leaving appliances and gadgets on standby uses almost as much energy as if they were actually switched on. So, every time you are finished charging your phone, using the computer or watching TV, remember to press the power button and switch off properly. Turning lights off every time you leave a room and better still, replacing regular bulbs with energy saving alternatives, will help you to use less energy with minimal effort.

Grow your own

There's nothing more satisfying than watching something you've planted grow (apart from perhaps eating it!) and this is a fun way to do a bit extra for the environment. You don't need much space as most veggies and herbs can be grown in pots (even on a windowsill) however if you have the room for a vegetable patch all the better. What's more, once your little one is old enough they'll love helping out in the garden although it might make the business a little more muddy!

Have you tried to be more green since becoming a parent? Whether you have a question or a handy tip that will help other AskBaby members do their bit for the environment, why not visit our forums and share.

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