Zero waste baby

Filed in Blog, Guest Posts by on January 7, 2010 17 Comments
FavoriteLoadingAdd article to favourites
Becky Graceson questions how much new stuff we need for babies

Becky Graceson questions how much new stuff we need for babies

This week’s guest post comes from Becky Graceson, who is author of NAP Fantastic.

Becky is a freelance writer and Mum of  four children aged from fourteen to four.  With the huge burden she has added to the planet she is hoping to offset this as much as possible and strive to learn more and live as ‘greenly’ as she can.

In her post she questions the amount of ‘stuff’ a new parent needs.

Zero waste baby – That is an oxymoron if ever I have heard one.  Joking aside, first-time parents are the target of possibly more marketing than any other group.  And considering that researchers estimate that first-time parents spend an average of £1,560 before their baby is even born it seems that many succumb to this marketing.

A question immediately pops into my head.  Why do parents buy so much stuff?  The answer is that they think they need it and most new parents today have been living in a baby vacuum.  I don’t mean a miniature dyson, I mean that they don’t know anybody with a baby and so turn to magazines and books for information.

‘Baby Equipment Lists’ seem to be popular.  A handy checklist of all the essentials.  One that I found on a popular pregnancy website includes a playpen , nursery furniture and a pushchair as essential in the first two months!  This seems to fly in the face of common sense for most experienced parents.  When it comes down to it, what is really necessary and what are the alternatives to reduce the mountain of products that you buy?

Car Seat

There seems no way round this one.  If you drive and intend to take your baby with you then you will need a new car seat.  You can’t buy second hand car seats easily, so if you don’t have a trusty friend with a car seat to pass down then you may have to buy.  However, you can be the trusty friend and pass yours on to another new mum, rather than taking it to landfill.

Pushchair / pram

You can buy these easily second-hand, and pass on after you have finished with them.  However, babies tend to prefer to be carried by their parents rather than pushed around, so maybe consider a sling.  The Baby wearer is a mine of information about slings.  Slings are easier to transport, less  polluting to make and the re-sale market is extremely buoyant. At the end of their useful lives they can be cut into cloths, and used until they are virtually non-existent!


The biggie.  We all know how many thousands of disposables end up in landfill per baby and it’s mind boggling.  There is now such a fantastic array of reusable to be bought second hand and passed on that there really is no excuse.  If you need to buy new many local authorities offer rebates.  Again, if you can’t pass them on they can become great cloths and used to death.

Nursery equipment

Moses baskets, play pens, changing units, cots, baby bouncers, baby swings…. The list really could go on and on.  Are all these necessary?  Think carefully and ask around before buying any of these.  If you decide that some of these items really are essential then ask around for hand-me-downs, check on ebay or freecycle or buy from an NCT Nearly New Sale.  When you are finished – pass it on!

Bottles and sterilisers

The easy answer is to breastfeed.  Not only will bottles, teats, sterilisers, brushes, special carry bags and so on become redundant – so will the 60-70 tins and plastic lids that you would need per year.  Combine that with the benefit of breast milk being made just for your baby so it has less smelly waste coming through the nappies and you are in a win-win situation!

If you do find that you need to use formula milk then you can sterilise using a pan of boiling water, and use glass bottles which can be easily recycled.

Buying and selling second hand

If you can’t be doing with ebay, or standing in somebody’s house feeling embarrassed into buying something you don’t want then the best place by far to purchase all the clothing and equipment that you need is an NCT Nearly New Sale (NNS).  All items are vetted for quality and safety and are very reasonably priced.  When you are finished with the clothing and equipment you can then become a seller at a NNS and while doing all this you reduce your waste, save money and help a national charity!

It is possible to substantially reduce the amount that you spend on your new baby, and the amount of waste that you subsequently leave behind you.  Babies do not need all of these items.  Babies need warm arms, breast milk and an interested and loving parent.  This will keep them warm, safe, fed and loved which are really the only essential items on their list.

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (17)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Jane says:

    Great article.

    I horrified (and enjoyed it – wicked me) some people by telling them that my baby would be sleeping in a drawer when he was born! No he didn’t – but the pressure was on me to get all sorts of things and quite honestly it was such a touch and go situation of him ever arriving that I didn’t want to tempt fate. Instead I opted for a moses basket and then he progressed to a handed down cot.

    BTW on a visit to Italy he did sleep in a laundry basket with a towel in the bottom and he was often bathed in a wash hand basin (great height – just have to be careful about the taps).

    It is certainly worth having lots of hand-me-down all-in-ones and then you can keep the best ones for best and try and grab some sleep instead of worrying about the washing. Your relationship with your child is much more important than all the ‘stuff” you can buy… and then have to store or get rid of!

    Join the NCT and other local baby and toddler groups – they are great for networking. I’ll swear the wonderful parent and baby music sessions saved my sanity as we both enjoyed it so much together.

  2. Charity says:

    Nice NCT plugs – I’m a trainee teacher :). One exercise often done in classes is to provide the parents-to-be with a load of pictures from baby catalogues and get them to sort them into essential, nice to have and pointless (baby wipe wamer anyone?). Then with the “essential” list, that generally includes a pushchair and cot (neither of which I used for my second baby), we challenge it. What would you really truly need if your baby was born now and you couldn’t get to the shops for a week?

  3. Poppy says:

    Proud to say that we avoided most of the money traps courtesy of DH’s sister who has a child about a year older than ours. Moses basket and rocking stand, bath, cot and pushchair that all came our way for a minimal price (that’s another story … grrr!)

    Being new to the parenthood challenge we also had some things that we wasted our money on that I wouldn’t buy if I was starting again. A microwave steriliser again from the Sis-in-Law which I used twice and I’m ashamed to say that we didn’t go down the Real Nappy path, but I also didn’t change him as often as the hospital and all the articles said we should. He was fine though and certainly wasn’t left to sit in anything uncomfortable!

    It’s the same as these ridiculous stories about the thousands of pounds it costs for a wedding. The basics aren’t expensive at all if you stick to your guns and don’t give in to peer or media pressure.

  4. Ann says:

    Great, thanks for sharing and I will pass this on to two people I know who have just had babies.

  5. LJayne says:

    Great article. I am a burden to the planet because I have 3 children and so the basic principle behind this is very important to me. Fortunately I am married to a marketing man’s worst nightmare. My DH hates buying stuff! We were also lucky in that a few friends had already had babies when we had ds so they were happy to form a pool of equipment that has circulated round and round. I think dd2 was the 9th baby in the Moses basket! We also borrowed a cot for her as dd1 wasn’t yet ready for a bed.

    We’ve accepted mounds of hand-me-down clothes which has been a godsend. A little on the pink side for me in some cases 😉 but I pass them on, give them to women’s refuge, charity shops and the like when I’m done. We’ve also had books and games.

    There is this cultural mentality that everything has to be new and it just isn’t so. My biggest failure is that in 7 years I’ve not managed to persuade one single person to use cloth nappies like we have for all 3. I am the laziest person I know so if I can manage it, there really isn’t much excuse for anyone else.

  6. If I had to do it all again, I would most definitely not have bought as much new stuff as we did for my now 8 year old. However, the biggest problem we had was all the kind gifts from so many people. I would have loved to have swapped their presents for babysitting time. I’ve learned a big lesson from having accumulated so many things, that these days I never buy anything for a new baby and instead send a bottle of bubbly for the parents to enjoy at a suitable date. Great article Becky 😀

  7. @Charity: He he. I am also an NCT antenatal teacher, and the NNS have been a godsend for me and many a parent so I like to spread the word.


  8. @Poppy:

    I think it’s almost impossible to avoid buying stuff you don’t need, especially the first time. But just getting the message that babies are most entertained by their parents and don’t need loads of ‘stuff’ and the ‘stuff’ they need doesn’t have to be new should help with that!


  9. @LJayne: I love that idea! Pools of equipment to share. That is wonderful. I wonder if it could catch on …


  10. @Almost Mrs Average:

    What a fab idea. The volume of gifts, especially for a first baby, is wonderful but practical help – a casserole, a visit *after* the first 2 weeks, an hour of housework or something like that would probably be so much more useful.


  11. @Jane: Try telling them the baby will be sharing your bed then! You can see fingers itching to dial social services 🙂 LOL

    Seriously, I think people are so unsure about babies by the time they are due to have one that they desperately check around for information and drink it all in. Unfortunately most of it is put out by the people making money from it!


  12. Jane says:

    How I would have loved a casserole as a gift! Or some babysitting. I remember the walk to the shops pushing the buggy was wonderful and I’d buy the ingredients but as soon as I walked through the door at home he’d start yelling and all my energy would evaporate into thin air and exhaustion would take over.

    I used to maintain that I hadn’t had a bath for years…! I’d do everything else first and would even get as far as running a bath but would then have to abort mission bath. I would dream of long relaxing scented candlelit baths and the bathroom to myself for once but would only end up with a quick wash and brush up (no shower).

    The NCT and other local baby and toddler groups give you a chance to share and pool and swap and buy each other’s equipment and experience. They can also give you somewhere to go for coffee that isn’t too far and an introduction to people you can meet up with in the park. It took such a lot of energy to just get out of the house!

  13. LJayne says:

    We have this scheme at our church where any family having a new baby is cooked for for a week after the baby is born. This can start from when they get home from hospital or when visiting family have gone home etc. The cooks deliver a main meal for the whole family that can either just be reheated or is ready to go on the table.

    I had this for my 3rd child and it was an absolute godsend. I was back in hospital for a week when E was 10 days old and they cooked again when I came out. A fabulous fabulous gift.

  14. That is a really fantastic scheme, wonderful! What a gift 🙂

  15. Becky says:

    I love your closing line, made me wish my youngest was a tiny baby again!

    I would usually say go for glass over plastic for bottles BUT if you need to use bottles because your baby won’t suckle correctly (I had to do this with my daughter who was 3 weeks early and wouldn’t latch until she was term), don’t use glass. Fat from breastmilk tends to cling to glass and doesn’t end up going into your baby! BPA bottles should be fine, especially those handed down from family members (I wouldn’t have second hand ones from strangers personally). I would get new teats, however, if you do this.

  16. Becky says:

    Sorry, I meant BPA-free bottles!

Leave a Reply