This post is part of our Conscious Consumerism series to encourage our readers to live – and buy – responsibly. As marketers in the purpose economy, we see it as our job to help people make purchasing decisions that align with their values and contribute to the greater good. Want to learn more about our mission? Download our Manifesto.
Welcome to part two of our guide to sustainable baby-rearing. In Part 1, we discussed sustainable options for baby products you have to buy new – diapers, food, and bathing and cleaning supplies. Now we’ll jump into options for things you might be able to score used like baby gear, clothes and toys (Click to Tweet!). As before, we readily admit that each section could be a post (or book) on its own. Consider this the ABC-primer of green baby care. Use it as a starting point and then explore the ideas that resonate with you.
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1. Baby Gear
There are lots of products “for babies,” but are they really for babies or are they for parents who have no chill? As a conscious consumer, always consider whether an item is necessary at all. Ask yourself how often it will be used, for how long it will be useful and why you think you need it before you spring for a Daddle or other seemingly superfluous piece of baby gear like:
- The Baby Brezza (a Keurig-like thing for formula)
- The Babykeeper, which allows you to hang your baby in public bathrooms
- Knee pads for crawling
Of course there are some things you really do need to get your baby around and keep her safe. You can buy many of these essentials used but be careful – safety recalls are common for baby gear and often only newer models are approved by authorities. Hand-me-down cribs are generally a no go but strollers might be okay if they’re made after a certain year. There are different guidelines for other products. Check out this helpful post on buying used baby gear from Parents.com and confirm that whatever you’re about to purchase second-hand is still safe by checking the product name or model number on recalls.gov.
When you’re ready to start shopping, try thrift stores and yard sales or check out one of the many sites that connects buyers and sellers of baby gear. Once you’re finished with your great finds, re-list them so the next parent can use the goods (and keep them out of the dump!).
Your baby might outgrow those cute clothes you bought before you even cut the tags! What’s a sustainability-minded parent to do?
Find used baby clothes online or in second-hand shops like Kid to Kid and Once Upon a Child and make sure your friends know you’re down to receive hand-me-downs too. Ebay is a great option for clothes as well – just remember to WASH before use and watch out for bedbugs and the like. Other online options include:
- Berri Kids Boutique-online consignment shop offers high-quality kids clothing at great prices.
Josie’s Friends – an online consignment store for children’s and babies’ clothing that uses a percentage of profits to sponsor kids through Children International.
- Kidizen – online buying and selling of clothes and gear with a special section for babies.
- My Kid’s Threads – designer consignment for kids of all ages.
If you want multiple kids and want to buy at least some new clothes, consider more gender-neutral styles that will serve the next baby too. You can also just ignore arbitrary gender-coding and dress them in whatever clothes you want. Babies don’t know the difference.
Seek Clothes That Grow
Some clothes are more sustainable because they grow with your kid to last longer.
- Kid Pants from KOOSHOO last longer thanks to an expandable waistband and cuffs.
- Nula Kids offers innovative designs like a baby’s romper that can turn into a three-year-old’s dress.
- Winter wear company Obermeyer makes kids’ clothes with an I-Grow A couple snips = another season of wear.
Select Eco-Friendly Clothes
If you’re determined to buy new, you can also shop for eco-friendly and ethical fashions. Look for sustainable fibers, fair labor practices, local production and clothes free of chemical finishes and toxic dyes. Here are a few options to get you started:
- B Corp PACT apparel – bibs, onesies, socks, tights and beanies that are sweatshop free, Fair Trade certified and made of non-GMO organic blended cotton.
- B Corp Dhana – clothes for babies that are Fair Trade certified; a 1 Percent for the Planet member that also gives to charities like Climate Ride and Kiddo!
- Little Green Radicals – Fair Trade certified clothes made of organic materials. We love their natural collection made up of unisex and un-dyed pieces for the minimalist environmentalist baby.
- Green Babies – clothing, toys, bedding and more that adheres to safe standards in each category.
- Happy Green Baby – carries several brands of organic cotton baby clothes like Baby Soy, which uses soybean fiber and organic cotton.
While only four percent of the world’s children live in the US, we buy (and then throw away) 40% of the world’s toys. Do what you can to amuse your kids with things you already have – Katherine Martinko of Treehugger describes how her kids preferred banging on pots with spoons to exploring expensive play mats. If you’re on the lookout for real toys consider these tips.
As long as the toy hasn’t been recalled (check the product name or model number on recalls.gov), there is NO reason not to buy used and seek out hand-me-downs from friends.
- Baby Plays lets you shop for used toys then delivers them to you.
- Once Upon A Child runs real-life stores where you can shop for gently used baby clothes, toys and gear. When kids are older their other franchises Plato’s Closet, Play it Again (for sports equipment) and Music Go Round (for the trumpet she’ll give up after three lessons) will keep saving you money and help you save the planet. Once again, remember to sell as much as you buy to keep on keeping kids’ stuff out of the waste stream.
- Kid to Kid is another store that allows you to buy and sell baby gear, clothes and toys.
- Children’s Orchard is the same deal: in-person shopping for used clothes, toys and gear.
- TotSwap is a Maryland-based organization that organizes semi-annual children’s consignment event for toys, games, clothes, books, gear and more. Similar events happen nation-wide, so search online for one near you. Churches and schools also sometimes host swap events.
B Corp Toy Library an online “toy library.” For a monthly fee, they deliver selections to your door. We imagine reducing the demand and manufacture of new toys makes up for the emissions associated with shipping.
Choose Eco-Friendly Toys
Toys made of sustainable materials are a much better choice if you’re going to buy new. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Cate and Levi makes stuffed animals from reclaimed or recycled materials.
- The toy section of The Little Seed offers toys made from recycled plastic, organic cotton and bamboo.
- B Corp The Natural Baby Company stocks a huge variety of toys for infants and toddlers with natural colors and nontoxic finishes.
Still at a loss? Check out these 11 baby toys that are green, sustainable, and too cute to resist.
If nothing else, you can set a positive example for your child by avoiding parenting tactics that can lead to increased materialism in adulthood. Rewarding or punishing children by bestowing or “taking away” toys and other gifts creates adults who also reward themselves with material goods.
The recommendations and products listed above and in Part 1 are just a few of the many options out there for parents determined to raise their kids in a more sustainable way. It’s great to see so many eco-friendly choices, but we still can’t help but feel that there’s a sort of irony in their prevalence.
While parents increasingly insist on safe, toxin-free toys, diapers and other baby products, not all let conscious consumerism guide other purchases. Unless we want those babies to inherit a world laden with the chemicals we didn’t want in their shampoo, we have to clean up our purchasing behaviors across categories. It’s our hope that with time, more people will insist on the same standards for themselves that are so important to them when purchasing on behalf of their children: products that are sustainable, ethical and safe. And as more people buy these, they’ll become more accessible and affordable to everyone.
Are there other products and sustainability strategies you’d recommend that we didn’t cover here or in Part 1? Tell us about them in the comments below.
This post was originally published on July 27th, 2016 and updated on June 24th, 2019.