11 Tips on Starting Your Zero Waste Family
Guest Post By Kate Pforr
I am excited to be over the halfway mark of my first pregnancy! While I don’t have the insight of an experienced zero-waste mother, I thought it would still be fun to share my thoughts and the advise that has worked for me.
First off, zero waste while being pregnant is hard. People want to buy you… everything. Things that they think are cute, things they stumbled upon, things they think will help, and things that helped them. But unfortunately, “it’s the thought that counts,” does not take into consideration the future of our planet. For someone who’s worked hard to be zero-waste, this can be stressful. It feels like all the efforts I’ve made have been canceled out. On top of that, after the baby comes there will be even MORE gifts, so it’s difficult to alleviate fears. While the gifts can feel excessive, know that it comes from a place of love.
I created this list to help other soon-to-be-moms enter into zero-waste parenthood.
1. BUY A BELLABAND
Before you buy any maternity clothes, purchase a Bellaband. It’s basically a tube top that goes over your enlarged belly and unbuttoned pants, holding them up. I had extreme bloat starting at 8 weeks and am still wearing my usual pants with the Bellaband (the rubber band method is helpful but not for very long). This is something you could make with some elastic cloth from the fabric store.
2. BUY REUSABLE FEMININE PADS
This might be TMI, but there’s a good chance you’ll have an increased amount of discharge. They will also be helpful when you get your period after the baby is born if menstrual cups are not an option. Green Life Trading Co. sells these organic cotton pantyliners in packs of one and three.
3. LEARN EVERYTHING ABOUT CLOTH DIAPERS
I wanted to invest in cloth diapers from the get-go, but it was difficult convincing my husband to because of the “gross” rumors that many disposable-diaper-parents spread. So instead of pushing him, I gave my husband a reason FOR HIM to do it. I learned everything I could from parents who use reusable diapers by watching YouTube videos and joining Facebook groups. Eventually, I was able to get my husband on the bandwagon because of cost (and I had him watch a diaper video made by a dad). Within 2-3 months, the diapers will have paid for themselves!
I purchased used cloth diapers from baby consignment stores in as many brands as I could, so not only do I have a good stash when she’s born, but I can figure out which ones work best before purchasing more. When shopping for used diapers make sure the band is not worn out. Side note: this is something that grandmothers might be helpful with because there’s a good chance they used these! They’ll also be happy to know all the advances made in cloth diapers and cleanup.
One final thing about diapers: It’s not an all-or-nothing thing. Check with local mom groups to find unused newborn diapers, or purchase some biodegradable ones to keep on hand while you learn the ropes. I plan to cut myself some slack and use cloth diapers more and more as I get comfortable. Like any new task, being prepared can prevent burnout.
4. MAKE MOM FRIENDS
Coming together with new moms has been extremely helpful for my self-esteem, and they often give away things as their child grows. A few relatives were reluctant to give me hand-me-downs because they thought I’d take offense, so it’s important to ask! If your relatives and friends aren’t close, find a local Facebook or Meetup.com group and set up a meet-and-greet for soon-to-be moms. I helped form a local writing group specifically for moms, and I found having a connection (writing) in addition to being a mom really helped bring us together.
5. GET THRIFTING
Once you get farther along and have an idea of what the baby will need, you’ll start to have a list of other things you’ll want to buy. Even if you are going to have a baby registry (see #6), things like a dresser/changing table for the baby, maternity clothes, robes and stretchy pants for postpartum, artwork for the baby room, high chairs and stools, and organizers for baby items can all be bought used.
6. MAKE A BABY REGISTRY GAME PLAN
The consumer baby business is HUGE, because they prey on people just like us who want to do what’s best but don’t know what we’re doing. But getting new things for babies is not necessary. Your best bet is to research and ask questions. Zero waste Facebook groups are a great place to start. When I asked what I needed as a first-time mom, the most common answer I got was, “babies don’t need much” and “wait until you need it before purchasing.” As you gather information, pick and choose what’s best for you. This is again where blogs and YouTube videos come in handy, specifically the “what I regret buying” videos.
As I mentioned earlier, I was able to score a lot of new baby and postpartum things from friends, but the things that I want new are a mattress, nipples for bottles, pacifiers, teething things, reusable baby food bags, cloth diaper detergents and cleaners, and health care items. For everything else, including cribs, strollers, and car seats, I check consignment stores and stay up-to-date on recalled items on safekids.org or cpsc.gov. If I’m unable to find a car seat or crib that is approved and/or I can’t confirm that it hasn’t been in any accidents, that’s something else I’ll get new.
7. BREAK THE TRADITIONAL BABY SHOWER MOLD
Traditionally, baby showers were for women to share their experiences with new mothers, but now it’s often an all-inclusive party where men and children can come too. While keeping with that basic concept, here are a few zero-waste options that take a little more time but are worth it and fun.
Insist that all gifts are used and food is homemade. This is a great opportunity to share your beliefs while having the bonding experience with friends and family. People can help decorate with zero waste items, using flowers and thrift store decorations as well.
To push that idea further, you could create a Google document or Facebook group event that lists items that you’re looking for, and people can check them off as they are purchased. (People who don’t have Google Docs or Facebook will need extra correspondence but it’s worth it.)
8. BUY NEW MATERNITY CLOTHES (IF YOU MUST)
Some items you just won’t be able to find at thrift stores, and it’s important that you are comfortable. This is also a good time to check out maternity bras, and if you want a maternity dress for a photo shoot or a nice night out, you could try some on (I took photos of myself in the changing room, along with photos of the tags, then checked eBay for used ones from the same brand/size). I work in an office where looking professional is important, so I ended up purchasing a new pair of dress pants. Once I knew my size, I found more of the exact used ones on eBay and Goodwill. I am also taking good care of anything I purchase so I can sell or give them to others once I’m done using them (and take pictures of yourself in them for when you post them for sale online!).
9. PLAN FREEZER MEALS
This includes frozen cookie dough, brownies, frozen protein smoothies, bone broth (which is healthy for pregnancy and postpartum healing), and your favorite sauces that can have fresh items added to them to make a quick stir fry or casserole (avoid cream-based sauces as they can taste funky after freezing).
This is something that will depend on your tastes, what you’re capable of making, and how many things can fit in your freezer. Your best bet is to search for recipes you can freeze and choose what you like.
10. STOCK UP ON CLEANING SUPPLIES
Once baby is born, there will be more messes and less time to purchase more cleaning products. Stock up so you’ll be less tempted to purchase new ones from the grocery store when you run out. I’ve been using Melioria All Purpose Spray Cleaner which works on all surfaces. I also purchase their laundry powder which is safe for cloth diapers. It’s easy to buy in bulk because their products last so long! Green Life Trading Co. also carries Melioria Dishwashing Pucks!
11. FIND ZERO WASTE COMFORT ITEMS FOR YOU!
It seems like everything is about the baby — you exercise and eat right for the baby, read health and parenting books for the baby, and take classes for the baby, but don’t forget about you! Once the baby is born, you’ll need time to heal physically and emotionally on top of caring for a newborn, so now is the time to find some easy-to-implement comfort and care products. Make some DIY beauty, skin, and healing products, and purchase Epsom salt for sitz baths. Research postpartum care (again, YouTube videos are amazing) and have those items on-hand so you don’t have to stop at a pharmacy or rely on Amazon. I purchased creams (in glass jars) for stretch marks, hemorrhoids, and nipple cream, along with some refills on my zero-waste makeup so I’m all set for the next year.
I know everyone will be successful as mothers and in their zero-waste journey. Sign up for email alerts or follow Green Life Trading Co. on Facebook and Instagram for follow-up blogs, including zero waste postpartum meals and other tips as I continue my journey.