It was Valentines Day of 2019 and a classic Santa Cruz mountain winter storm was taking place.
The melodic and calming raindrops were playing music on our little 1 bedroom cabin tucked up in Felton while baby Waylon decided he wanted to see what Planet Earth was all about. The sporadic and painful contractions contrasted with the soothing sounds of nature. Somehow, despite the massive tree that fell down and blocked car access to our home, our doula and midwife were still willing to brave out the cold rain and hike up to our home to safely deliver our baby boy.
They say going through labor is like a marathon, one in which you are ascending and descending mountain peak after mountain peak. For me, it felt like a mountain was ascending and descending me, not the other way around. There was not much to do but breathe through the ups and downs that were involuntarily happening to my body.
At last, Waylon, the closest thing to perfection we have ever seen, emerged Earthside just as the sun broke through the blanket of clouds. And just like that I was hired onto my new full-time job as Mom.
Over the last few years, I had slowly drifted away from the zero-waste lifestyle I had always aspired for.
With a family in tow, I knew I wanted to re-commit to this lifestyle and show my son what an intentional life is all about. It seemed like another full time job to commit to - cloth diapers, homemade baby food, no plastic toys or brand new clothes, hitting up the right grocery stores and farmers’ markets for the right things, and the list goes on and on, right?
So yeah, the list that would give me an A+ in zero-waste and probably a spectacularly A++ in mamahood -did NOT actually happen. And I unfortunately can't say we are a zero-waste family that produces a mere quart size jar of waste once a year. <Though check out this blog post here to help get you closer to your truly zero-waste voyage!>
But I do want to share a list that does work for us - a list that greatly reduces our footprint compared to many families. I like to think of this as our minimal-waste voyage rather than a more perfected zero-waste voyage.
Every mom and every newborn are so different. Some zero-waste lifestyle habits that were out of my reach, may be really convenient and easy for you to adopt. And some minimal-waste habits that I found easy to commit to, may be out of the question for you. So be easy on yourself, be open minded, and remember to lean on the support you have.
Minimal-Waste Tips for a New Mama, from a New Mama
- Compostable Diapers & Wipes
- Single use, disposable diapers account for 1.4% of landfills each year, totalling at 27.4 billion plastic diapers a year in our country alone. A low impact, minimal or zero waste diapering option felt very important for our family’s journey of minimal-waste. I was so excited to stumble upon a compostable diaper service that serves my area here in Felton. It is SO easy, and decently affordable. Both the diapers and the wipes end up in compostable garbage bags that are collected each week by the diapering service. Upon collection, they drop off your coming week’s supplies. These diapers are turned into compost within weeks, and the compost is used for municipal landscape efforts. AND the plastic material of disposable diapers doesn’t have to wrap your baby’s bum for their first couple years. Feels like an easy WIN-WIN!
- Breastfeeding rocks for a million reasons, and the zero-waste that comes along with it certainly deserves a shout out. Being the healthiest primary source of nutrition (and only source of food for the first months) is deservingly the number one reason to stick with it, IF YOU CAN. Every woman and baby are so different and I don’t want to downplay the struggles that come along with breastfeeding. So when you want to give up, breathe deep, remind yourself of all the wonderful reasons you want to try your absolute hardest to breastfeed, and see if you can stick it out. If not, we are so lucky to have a lot of great options for formula.
- Used Clothing & Toys
- Find a used baby store in your area. This minimal-waste step is easy, saves money, and actually gives you an opportunity to make money or get store credit. Skip the unnecessary packaging that comes with brand new clothes, and the weight of supporting poor conditions of some factory made items, by purchasing gently used clothes and toys. Shop owners of used baby item stores meticulously go through what they purchase to ensure cleanliness and safety. You can also come here to sell the clothes your baby grew out of before they hardly got a chance to wear it! Same goes for toys and basically all the other supplies you thought you’d use but ended up collecting dust in a corner.
- Meal Plan & Make as Much Baby Food As You Can
- I love this in theory but know it is hard for mama’s to always make time for this. I love grocery shopping and cooking so I try to prioritize this in my weekly goals. With a little bit of meal-planning, and a couple of hours in the kitchen, you can actually make tons of food pretty quickly. Meal planning became crucial for me. I used to grocery shop nearly every day but now with the little one I have to be so careful with my time and errands. Meal planning allows me to make 1-2 trips to the grocery store or farmers market a week. I purchased silicone ice cube trays, and a great selection of glass tupperwares for storing and serving food. I make large batches of food and then freeze it in the 2 ounce compartments of the ice cube trays to mix and match each meal for Waylon. I love knowing he is eating fresh and nutritious food.
- And When You Can’t, Buy Baby Food Packaged in Glass Jars
- Even though I try to prioritize making Waylon’s baby food, I of course have time where I need convenience. Glass jars of baby food are a more eco-friendly option than the single use plastic alternative.
- Cloth Napkins
- Babies are super messy. Rather than using paper towels and baby wipes to clean them up, get some soft cloth napkins that can be used over and over again.
- Stay Clear of Plastic
- SO many baby toys and items are made of plastic. It is so hard to avoid. Your friends and family love being supportive, and unfortunately this may often mean you receive a lot of plastic crap that you don’t want your baby constantly putting in their mouth. It has been really hard for me to find a way to minimize the incoming plastic gifts without seeming ungrateful or rude. Making a registry for your baby shower is one great way to give examples of the brands and style of toys and clothes you want to support. And when you receive the plastics anyway, donate them. A plastic toy is better than no toy for many families.
- Choose Items that Grow with Your Baby
- When possible, purchase items that will serve multiple functions. I’ve been loving the basket bassinet we have, that now gets used to store toys. And Waylon still loves sitting and playing in it and with it. The silicone ice cube trays I purchased to store Waylon’s purees in, can also be used to store bone broth and other future food projects even after I stop making Waylon purees.
- Minimize Toys
- There are SO many adorable and irresistible baby toys out there. Sometimes I find myself worrying that Waylon doesn’t have the “right” toy, at the “right” time for his proper developmental stages. And then, I remember that this is only my consumerist culture pervading my mind. Babies seem to want to play with everything BUT the fancy toys they have. It really reminds me of cats. They’d rather play with the box than the toy inside, the mason jar ring over their toy giraffe, the pots and pans over their talking stuffed animals. So try to resist unnecessary purchases. And remember, for thousands of years, babies have been developing and growing perfectly without push toys, activity centers and stuffed animals.
Hopefully some ideas on this list resonate with you, whether you are a new mama, an experienced mama, or just a human with hopes of minimizing your footprint.
We'd love to hear from you ~ What zero, or minimal-waste tips do YOU have for new mamas?! Comment below, or tag us in your related posts! @anatolife.
And P.S - We know how much mamas deserve indulgent self-care. Even a solid minute (yep, just 60 seconds) of massaging Anato's Regenerative Elixir into the skin, or a quick, enlivening boost with our Baume Réparateur can serve as the treat you deserve.