By Amy Levin-Epstein for Green Goes Simple
Babies are cute, but — I’m sorry to say — they’re hardly green. These tiny little humans need a whole lot of stuff!
“Between the diapers and the plastic bottles, and the packaging it all comes in, there is a lot of waste,” says green parenting expert Dr. Jenn Berman, author of Los Angeles Times best-seller SuperBaby: 12 Ways to Give Your Child a Head Start in the First 3 Years. Whether you’re expecting a new addition to the family or you’re already deep into parenting a baby, there has never been a better time to go vintage. Seeking out vintage — or previously used — clothing, toys and gear is a fabulous way to save money while protecting the planet.
When it comes to reducing the eco-impact of your wee one, every hand-me-down — from a bib to a set of blocks — can help. “The more you’re able to [reuse], the more you’re reducing your carbon footprint … as well as your baby’s,” says Berman. She suggests accepting previously loved items from friends rather than buying used goods from an unknown source. This way, you can help make sure they are safe and clean — that a high chair wasn’t shoddily repaired after losing a bolt and that clothes and sheets come from a smoke- and bedbug-free house.
Here are some other things to remember when you’re on the hunt for vintage goods for your baby:
Organize a clothing swap for mama and baby. “It’s a nice way to have some mommy time and walk away with some new clothes for you and your child without paying a penny,” says Berman. Take clothes directly to your washing machine before putting them on your baby — just in case they come with pet allergens or other potential irritants.
If your child is as fickle with toys as you are with, say, shoes, inheriting cast-offs can be a lifesaver — not to mention a wallet-saver. But be sure to check for any potential recalls (go to CPSC.gov and do a quick online search) and be particularly wary of older items that may not be up to newer health codes. “Anything plastic could have BPA or phthalates if it’s more than a few years old — or even lead,” says Berman. This applies to lunch boxes as well. You also want to be sure that toys are age-appropriate and safe.
- Cribs, Strollers and High Chairs
Baby beds, strollers and high chairs are some of your biggest expenses, and it’s safe to accept a recent hand-me-down as long as you check for safety specs as well as recalls. Check out the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s guide to crib safety at CPSC.gov/cpscpub/pubs/5030.html.
- Breast Pumps
Whether you breastfeed for a few months or a few years, buying a used machine — and simply replacing the tubing to ensure sterility — is an economical as well as eco-friendly idea, says Berman.
- Books and Art Supplies
Books are one thing that can get handed down practically forever — especially board books, says Berman. Just be sure to wipe them down before handing over to little readers. Bonus points if you pass it on to another young reader after you’re done!
Still vintage only goes so far. Some items should always be purchased new:
- Car Seats
You may know that bike helmets should always be purchased new, as they might not protect properly if they’ve already been through an accident. The same goes for car seats. “The concern is that the person loaning or giving it to you may not tell the truth about being in an accident. Or if it was something slight, they might underestimate the little fender bender’s effect on the seat,” says Berman.
Spring for a springy new mattress for your new baby. Research
has shown that using a previously owned mattress can increase the risk of SIDS.
Used mattresses are also more likely to contain harmful toxins, like mold and
Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who’s been published in magazines like Glamour, Self and Prevention, on websites like AOL, Babble and Details.com and in newspapers like the New York Post and the Boston Globe. You can read more of her writing at AmyLevinEpstein.com.