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Baby being Fed

When I learned I was pregnant with my daughter, my shopping instinct kicked right in. Suddenly I was off to the baby store, already coveting nursery decorations, infant-sized shoes, size 1 diapers and those adorable footed sleepers. My husband said we should buy only the basics, then wait until after the baby was born to figure out what we really needed. Practical advice, but I couldn't help myself. I'd slip a cute pair of booties, a "Daddy's Little Girl" shirt, or a pair of infant blue jeans into the shopping cart. Everything was just so darn cute. And if you think I was bad, I won't even go into the fact this was the first grandchild for both sides of the family.

Flash forward two years later. A quarter of my garage is filled with boxes of baby items. Bags of baby clothing my daughter wore once or twice before she outgrew them sit next to totes filled with barely used toys and a host of other items from bouncy seats to baby bottles. Looking back, it appears that yes, I overdid it. But like so many new parents, I was taken in by the outdated notion that I needed a lot of "stuff" to make my baby safe, comfortable, happy, clean, and healthy. In truth, the baby wipes warmer and two dozen baby bath towels top a long list of things that just weren't necessary. Instead of protecting planet home for my baby, I was adding to its decline by using up resources. I quickly reformed. These days, I've learned the joys of shopping second-hand, at consignment stores and yard sales. I regularly give away the shoes and clothing my daughter outgrows. And I encourage all my friends who are pregnant to seek out every hand-me-down they can find. Here are some more tips for going green when it comes to baby essentials:

  • Recycle. When you're expecting your first child, don't feel you have to buy everything new. Shop around for used items that include cribs, strollers, and clothing, and seek out hand-me-downs. Children outgrew things so quickly that your second-hand finds are likely to look and feel brand new.
  • Freecyle your own stuff. Chances are you have a friend, co-worker, or family member who can use some of the items your child has outgrown. What a great opportunity to see your best friend's daughter in that adorable dress with the matching hat your baby wore once.
  • Swap. I have several friends and acquaintances whose children are very close to my daughter's age. I now realize we could have done a better job of sharing baby items. I could have passed along some things and saved my friends some money -- not to mention helped the environment by reducing the environmental burden of production, shipping, and packaging new products.
  • Pay it forward. Continue the tradition beyond your newborn. Have a birthday party in which everyone chips in for one larger gift or in which guests have to bring a used item. This helps steer your children away from a consumerism mentality and toward learning to love what they have.

photo: Sang Trinh