Green mums

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Mothers today cannot just ignore environmental issues - their children, or the concern for their children, will not allow them. Children across the world are constantly doing homework about global warming, preparing projects about greenhouse gases and saving tropical rainforests. These green kids remind parents to switch off fans and light points on leaving rooms, comment on the amount of water wasted by the washing machine, ask them if they know about green driving, and suggest walking instead of taking the car for short distances. For mothers of new born babies, health is a major issue.

Why should I be aware of this?

  • As moms take initial steps to living a green or eco friendly lifestyle, they find it is slightly tricky at first, especially as they get started and change family practices. Pre-packaged water, juice boxes, and fast packaged snacks can be a huge time saver with kids getting home late and needing a quick fix to get through homework, music lessons or sports practice.
  • Green mums are concerned about the health of their children and work towards a healthier environment for their children's future. Their ever-expanding "to do" list includes preparing waste-free school lunches, lobbying for green building codes, procuring "locovore" - locally grown food - and remembering not to idle the car while picking up children from school.
  • At home they choose to switch to greener electricity tariff, or favour local shops and fairly-traded foods, and buy products to aid ‘greener’ companies and starve those they disapprove of. They have learnt that they can make a difference. By avoiding babyfood filled with added sugar, salt and thickeners, individual mothers can be proud that today 70 percent of the babyfood on grocery shelves is now certified organic. Organic standards restrict additives and ‘processing aids’ and the food is raised on farms that value biodiversity and avoid chemical fertilizers and pesticides – they have a smaller carbon footprint than non-organic farms, too.

All about green mums

Experts advise green mums to take small steps initially and once they are comfortable then they can make other changes in their lifestyles. They suggest six Rs to streamline an eco-friendly mom's life: Refuse (Everything that the baby magazines suggests are not needed), Reduce (the amount of stuff that is bought and the miles that are driven), Reuse (do not dispose of things without asking if they can be of use later), Repair (if a thing can be repaired, do not dispose and buy a new product). And when none of the above can be done, then they should try and Recycle.

Though there are many initiatives that a conscious mom can take to be eco-friendly whatever the age of her child, there are a few steps that are specific to the child's age.

Green measures

Both from the point of view of the cost to the enironment and the health of the baby, it is important to adopt 'green' measures right at the start.

With new-born babies relying on physical barriers such as skin, in the absence of a properly developed immune system, it is essential that babies are not exposed to unnecessary chemicals during this crucial period of development. A few tips for the new mothers.

Avoid using disposable nappies

Disposable nappies and your baby's health

  • According to a study conducted at the Germany based Kiel University in 2000, the temperature inside a disposable napkin was 5 degree centigrade higher than that in cloth nappies. The study observed that future fertility of little boys could be endangered since the semen-producing function is developed in the first 2 years of life, and is dependent on the testicular region being kept reasonably cool.
  • Sodium polyacrylate, a super-absorbent powder which swells into a gel when it becomes wet is used in all disposable nappies. There are doubts over the safety of sodium polyacrylate.
  • Dioxins, which are used to bleach wood pulp, an ingredient in disposable nappies, are known to cause liver damage, immune system suppression and genetic damage in studies conducted on animals.
  • Cloth nappies keep mothers aware about urine and poo frequency and consistency.

Disposable nappies and the environment

  • Disposable nappies are not very environment friendly as they take hundreds of years to rot down in landfill sites, most of which do not have the correct environment for decomposition. Incidentally, 90% of all disposables nappies end up in landfills. It takes 440 – 880 lbs of fluff pulp and 285 lbs of plastic to supply a single baby with disposables.
  • A school of thought argues that the cost of laundering cloth nappies is also damaging to the environment. It also wastes a lot of water, a precious resource. Supporters of cloth nappies point out that the waste water from washing cloth nappies is practically benign, especially if environmentally friendly laundry products are used. The waste products from disposables contain solvents, heavy metals and dioxins.

Disposable nappies are costly

It has been observed that by using cloth nappies, a mother can save around £500 per child during the time that they are in nappies.

Avoid using toiletry products

  • Experts advise against using any products on the baby’s skin during their first year to save worries over all the man-made chemicals in most babycare products. This includes baby lotions, shampoo or bath bubbles. See Harmful ingredients in toiletry products. They recommend plain warm water and organic olive oil – and a little gentle soap at times. Some pediatricians advise parents against using lotions and powders on infants, unless they are prescribed by a doctor. They suggest that parents can treat dry skin in babies with petroleum jelly, which provides a protective barrier but is not readily absorbed.
  • Phthalates, which have been proven cause of reproductive birth defects in animals, are found in many ordinary products including cosmetics, toys, vinyl flooring and medical supplies. They are used to stabilize fragrances and make plastics flexible.
  • Experts advise agaisnt using baby wipes and tissues. The tissues are full of chemicals like alcohol, preservatives, fragrances, surfactants, moisturisers and antimicrobials and constant exposure to these ingredients may cause skin problems, if not in infancy, then later in the child's life.
  • SLS or sodium lauryl sulfate, used in baby wipes and shampoos has been linked to skin irritations, diarrhoea, breathing problems and eye damage particularly in small children.
  • Recent studies have also suggested that there might be a link between the use of talc and ovarian cancer. Baby powders that contain talc are harmful if inhaled. Experts also advise against using talc anywhere near baby's mouth or nose.
  • Baby lotion -- Most of the chemicals in baby lotions is artificial despite manufacturers' claims to the contrary and even natural substances can be irritating to a baby's skin.

Buying eco friendly fabrics

Buying baby clothes made from eco friendly fibres like bamboo, hemp and organic cotton. For special occassions, go for clothes made of ahimsa silk.

Buying green products and toys

A study conducted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG) has found toxic chemicals in many baby products, including toys, sleep products and teethers. See Research Group Finds Toxic Chemicals in Baby Products.

Though green toys cost more, the child will play with for at least five years. To know more about brands selling green toys see Discussion Page. Some green toys such as a huge cardboard box with a window and door cut in it cost nothing at all.

What can I do?

Teaching your school going child to become green

With childen becoming aware of the impact of their actions on the environment, as they work hand in hand with their teachers to make their school a green school, they want their homes to be a green home too. Moreover, mothers are also becoming more aware of the impact of small things on the present and future health of their children.

As they save electrecity, gas and water at home and take up green commute, they teach their kids the importance of living in harmony with their environment. Planting trees, walking and cycling whenever possible, waste management, importance of consuming locally grown and organicaly produced products and taking sustainable vacations -- are some of the activities they undertake with their kids. They realise that there is a strong comnection between saving the environment and the health of their child. See green school.

A few useful tips for green mums.

  • Avoid brightly coloured or highly perfumed toiletries and go for products with short, simple lists of ingredients. By sticking to simple products, chances of the infant or the child suffering side effects are less likely
  • Avoid toiletry products containing Diethanolamine(DEA) Triethanolamine(TEA) and Monoethanolamine(MEA). These are commonly found in children’s bubble baths and when they are combined with nitrosamines they can become carcinogenic. These chemicals have been outlawed in some countries but are widely available in the U.K
  • Purchase reusable water containers.
  • Use laptop lunchboxes to avoid waste.
  • Clean your house with natural items like vinegar or other green cleaners.
  • Go for eco-friendly holidays. Studies show that people with kids are more likely than anyone to book low carbon emission holidays.
  • Encourage outdoor play among children.

CopperBytes

  • From birth to toilet training each child uses approximately 5,300 disposable nappies.
  • Avoid products that are rich in plant extracts, proteins, amino acids or vitamins. These are nutritious and may encourage microbes to grow and contaminate the toiletry. To counter this, the product may contain extra preservatives, many of which have been linked to adverse effects such as allergies and contact dermatitis.

References

  • Why choose green products
  • How to be a Green Mum
  • The Truth about Baby Toiletries
  • How to improve holidays with children
  • Baby toiletries linked to chemical risk
  • Baby Products Unmasked
  • Chemicals in baby products raise concern
  • Eco-anxiety replaces dishpan hands for 'green moms'
  • Research Group Finds Toxic Chemicals in Baby Products