Preparing to welcome a child into your life – whether it’s through birth, adoption, or surrogacy – can be nothing short of terrifying. But doing it with the added challenge of trying to limit your environmental impact? It can be easy-peasy. I promise.

1. Throw out (recycle) those “must-have” lists

These can found on every baby site and mommy blog out there – must-have items for the nursery, for the hospital bag, and for your home. 

I’ll save you some time and let you in on a little secret: one person’s “must-have” item is another person’s “never-used-it-and-it-sat-gathering-dust-in-the-basement-until-we-finally-sold-it-on-craiglist” item. Whether or not you will need a swing, a bottle warmer, a wrap, or 10-gallon buckets of coffee depends entirely on the unique combination of child and parent. There’s simply no way to predict it.

Rather than covering your bases by buying all the things, remind yourself that systems of commerce will not cease to exist with the advent of your child’s birth. Stores will still be open, friends will still have hand-me-down’s.

If you find that you truly need something, you can purchase it at that point and feel good knowing that it was a purchase essential for the well-being of your child and your sanity, rather than a purchase made from the sheer terror of being a first-time parent.

2. Shop secondhand

While some baby items are optional, you will most definitely need the basics: a place for the baby to sleep, clothes to bend its’ terrifyingly small limbs into, and approximately two thousand burp cloths and receiving blankets. Oh and hats! Tiny, tiny hats.

All of these things can be readily found in droves at any children’s secondhand store or consignment boutique. By shopping secondhand you are temporarily interrupting the consumer cycle, putting money back into another mother’s pockets, and keeping some in your own, too.

3. Consider cloth diapering

The positive environmental impact of using cloth versus disposables is staggering. Even if we conservatively estimate eight diaper changes a day, assuming your child wears diapers until they are two and a half you will prevent more than 7,300 diapers from ending up in the landfill, where they can take hundreds of years to decompose.

It may seem overwhelming in the beginning, with so many different types, styles, and brands, but many stores offer diaper trials so you can see which works best for you and your child. Or, ask around!

Approach other parents on the playground or in your pre-natal classes and see what they’re planning to use. This won’t be the last conversation you’ll ever have about diapers, so you may as well start now!

4. Switch to eco-friendly or homemade cleaners and body care products

Babies are notorious for putting everything in their mouths. Ensuring that the products you are using in your home and on your body are safe for your little one is a fantastic way to ensure that they are starting off on the right foot.

Feature image: Louish Pixel at flickr

By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.