If you would like to lessen your environmental impact but don’t know where to start, here are ten baby steps you can take.
(Also, if you haven’t checked out my list of ways to be more environmentally responsible while caring for an infant, many of those also apply to toddlers.)
Being more environmentally conscious about stuff
1. If you’ve got a voracious reader who can’t get enough board books or I Can Read books, be kind to the planet and your wallet. Instead of buying books, get a card for your local library. Test drive books there before buying them, and then consider buying them used.
2. If you’ve got a voracious eater, make it a habit to pack snacks in reusable containers rather than plastic bags.
3. If you’ve got…well, most kinds of toddlers, really, there are plenty of messes to clean up. Instead of using consumable paper towels, repurpose those burp rags you used in infancy.
4. Because toddlers have unpredictable growth spurts, clothes can be hard to buy. Additionally, if you have or plan to have more than one child, you might end up with lots of winter 2T clothes for a baby who hits 2T just as spring rounds the corner. Instead of relying on separate wardrobes for separate seasons, focus on layering pieces. This way, the same bottom layer can work year-round with just additional layers on top for colder weather. This cuts down on the number of clothes you need and reduces the footprint left by clothing your child. (This can also be true of gendered clothing.)
5. Toothbrushes need to be replaced every 3-4 months (and possibly sooner if they end up on the floor or in the toilet during a particularly vigorous brushing session). Switching from plastic to wooden or bamboo toothbrushes will still get those teeth cleaned while being better for the environment. (Sorry, they won’t solve the on-the-floor/in-the-toilet problem.)
Being more environmentally conscious about activities
1. Turn trash into craft projects. Egg cartons, clothes that are no longer usable, boxes or packaging, and containers can get one more use as art supplies before you say goodbye to them.
2. If you have a local community garden or a backyard, try composting. This can be both a good learning activity and a blast: worms are fun! You can create your own composter following online instructions or can buy one that suits your needs.
3. Teach your toddler how to ride a tricycle or bicycle. While this may not have a short-term impact on the environment, it may turn into a lifetime hobby or means of transportation for the whole family. At the very least, it will get them some fun exercise.
4. Plant a garden with your toddler, either in a backyard, in a nearby community garden, or even in a pot next to the windowsill.
5. If the environmental cost of toys and gear wears you down, consider writing holiday wishlists with your toddler that focus on experiments rather than stuff. Going to the local zoo, or receiving a membership to a museum, will provide fun and meaningful alternatives to adding more plastic to your home.
Do you have another idea? Share it in the comments!