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Sustainable Baby

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A brightly colored baby rattle

Welcoming a new baby into your home is a wonderful event. However, if some preparation isn’t done before baby arrives, new parents end up exposing their bundle of joy to dangerous toxic chemicals and creating a ton of baby-related waste. Now, with more and more green choices available to new parents, there is no longer any reason why eco-parents can’t raise a green baby.

Organic Cotton

Start your baby on a lifetime of environmental awareness by utilizing and purchasing only certified organic cotton. Cotton is the most widely grown and chemically intensive crop grown on earth. Each pound of non-organic cotton harvested uses an estimated 1/3 of a pound of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. If you think of that in clothing terms, it takes between 1/4 to 1/3 of a pound of fertilizers and chemicals to produce 1 cotton T-shirt or 3 pairs of cotton boxer shorts.

The Canadian-based Toxic Nation reports that ‘exposures to toxic chemicals at critical periods of development can cause health problems, including damage to the nervous system and reproductive organs and behavioral problems’. Organic cotton is grown without pesticides, chemical fertilizers and genetically modified crops – a much better choice for baby clothes, bedding, towels and personal care items like ear swabs and wipes.

A baby will use an estimated 5000-7000 diapers in the first two years of its life. Unfortunately more than 95% of North American parents use disposable diapers.


Perhaps this might be the most difficult dilemma new parents face with their baby – cloth, disposable, chemical-free or flushable diapers. What is an eco-conscious parent to do? It’s an important decision and one requiring careful consideration as baby will use an estimated 5000-7000 diapers in the first two years of its life. Unfortunately more than 95% of North American parents use disposable diapers. Every day more than an estimated 50 million disposable diapers enter the landfill where they sit for up to 500 years. Disposable diapers really have no redeeming feature except convenience.

Although often thought to be the greener choice, cloth diapers also have an environmental cost. Even though they don’t end up in the landfill, water consumption ranges from 20,000 gallons for a top loader machine versus 10,000 for a front-loading machine for the two-year diaper period. North Americans continue to use more than 350 litres of water per day versus 10-20 litres of drinking water in sub-Saharan Africa reports The World Water Council.

Flushable diapers, considered by many to be an environmentally friendly and convenient option, also have their environmental footprint. In particular, by encouraging parents to flush the diaper it will take an estimated 9,600 gallons of water to flush 6000 diapers during the first two years of baby’s life. A standard North American toilet uses between 5-6 gallons of water per flush (1/2 to 3/4 of a daily water ration for sub-Saharan Africa is wasted with each flush of a North American toilet). In many developing nations the water used in the toilet is the same quality of water that comes from the tap. Essentially individuals are urinating, defecating and flushing their diapers away with clean drinkable water. The World Water Council estimates more than 1.1 billion people live without clean drinking water.

There is another choice – green parents around the world can choose to practice what is known as elimination communication, natural potty training or the diaper-free philosophy. Essentially parents choose to follow the baby’s natural ability to ‘consciously release their bladders and bowels’. Parents watch baby for elimination communication through vocal and body clues and take baby to appropriate places to eliminate. Diapers can be used when needed, but most parents find they are able to work with their children to utilize the toilet or potty-pan for all of the child’s voiding needs.


Baby is living in a plastic world. From their plastic bottles, soothers, rattles, toys, teething rings to their sippy cups, babies encounter plastic from the moment they leave the womb. However, plastics hide a host of problems beneath their shiny, brightly colored surfaces. Increasingly plastic baby bottles have Bisphenol A (BPA) as a hidden ingredient, believed to contain hormone disrupters that can stimulate cancer cell growth. Plastics are also made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource.

Children's toys often are made from PVC plastics and contain a number of chemicals including phthalates. Pollution People report you can limit your exposure to phthalates by avoiding PVC toys and vinyl food storage. Greenpeace USA explains, ‘…the PVC lifecycle — its production, use and disposal — results in the release of toxic, chlorine-based chemicals…the result can be severe health problems like cancer, immune system damage and hormone disruption.’

Green parents are now opting to use breast-feeding or glass bottles to avoid prolonged use of plastic bottles or soothers and it is better for both baby and the environment. Wooden or natural fiber toys and rattles eliminate the need for baby to be exposed to plastic toys.

Babies averaged more than 200 contaminants in their blood; the most prevalent chemicals found in newborns were mercury, fire retardants, pesticides and the Teflon chemical PFOA.
—The Environmental Working Group

Toxic Chemicals

We are living in a chemical world; far different than the one our parents were raised in. There are harmful chemicals in our air, food, water, furniture and clothes. A 2005 study conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) - Body Burden - found that American babies are born with hundreds of chemical contaminants in their bloodstreams. The EWG study found the babies averaged more than 200 contaminants in their blood; the most prevalent chemicals found in newborns were mercury, fire retardants, pesticides and the Teflon chemical PFOA.

There are pesticides in our food and in the USA there is bovine growth hormone (rBGH) in the milk - courtesy of genetically modified organisms giant Monsanto. Estimates on just how much of the world food crops are grown with pesticides are difficult to find, but industry reports indicate between 1.5 - 2.5 million tons of pesticide are used annually. If your baby food or formulas are not labeled organic then you are feeding your baby food grown with pesticides or genetically modified ingredients.

Add in all the chemical-laden baby wipes, traditional diapers, shampoos, laundry soaps, bleach, talcum, etc. and you have a very toxic start to baby’s life. Children, from womb to young adulthood, are much more vulnerable to the harmful effects of chemicals due to their developing bodies and brains. Body Burden: Pollution in Infants reports ‘…of the 287 chemicals found in newborn umbilical cord blood, 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause developmental problems.’

Check all labels and if you can’t understand the ingredients don’t expose baby to it. Increasingly, numerous natural alternatives exist to chemical products. Health food stores, and gradually more mainstream shops, are carrying natural, chemical and chlorine free baby care products.


Better Air For Baby: http://betterairforbaby.com/
Beyond Pesticides: http://www.beyondpesticides.org/
Clean Earth, Happy Baby: http://www.cleanearthhappybaby.org/
Diaper Free Baby: http://DiaperFreeBaby.org/
The Diaper Free Baby: http://www.thediaperfreebaby.com/
Environmental Working Group: http://www.ewg.org/
Ethic Baby: http://www.ethicbaby.ca/
Green Baby Nursery: http://www.greenhomeguide.com
Green Baby: http://www.greenbaby.ca/
Life Without Plastic: http://www.lifewithoutplastic.com
Toxic Nation: http://www.toxicnation.ca
Toxic Free Legacy Coalition: http://www.toxicfreelegacy.org/
World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action: http://www.waba.org.my/

Green Pages

About Organic Cotton offers an educational tutorial explaining why consumers should consider switching to organic cotton: http://www.aboutorganiccotton.org/

gDiapers are being heralded as the next green thing for parents - a reusable outer layer with a flushable interior lining. Parents also have the option of flush, toss or compost as everything in the refillable lining gets absorbed in a neutral way: http://www.gdiapers.com/

Chlorine is a known carcinogenic. Seventh Generation offers a wide range of chlorine free products for baby including diapers, training pants and baby wipes: http://www.seventhgeneration.com/

Toxic Nation
conducted a cross-Canada study of pollution in Canadian families, harmful chemicals were found in the bodies of every child and parent tested: http://www.toxicnation.ca/

The Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns, an investigation of industrial chemicals, pollutants, and pesticides in human umbilical cord blood: http://archive.ewg.org/

Bamboo Nappies (UK), bambinex bamboo nappies are 80% more absorbent than cotton; they are naturally anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-static: http://www.geobel.co.uk/

World Breast Feeding Week
is held each year from August 1-7: http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/