If things look a little greener around here this April, there's a good reason. Our editorial staff is busy expanding the ideals of Earth Day into a month-long celebration of energy conservation, alternative transportation, recycling tips and about a million ways you can be a better friend to the planet. Welcome to Green Month, Milwaukee.
Parents of infants and toddlers arguably have the most difficult time staying green and healthy.
That's because we live in houses filled with disposable wipes, disposable diapers and, try as we might to avoid them, chemical-laden plastic bottles and toys slathered in lead paint.
According to Kristin Vailliencourt of Sprout! in the Historic Third Ward, parents are more and more concerned with buying greener and this has led her to continue to boost the presence of environmentally-friendlier options in the shop.
"With my first child six years ago, I wasn't as worried or aware of chemicals / dangers and I didn't purposefully seek out organic or green options," says Vailliencourt. "All that is changed with my second child, and I am not alone. When it comes to our littlest customers (under age two), parents are seeking out organic and green choices and I see this only increasing.
"We have always carried German-made (brands like Haba, Selecta, Kathy Kruse) baby toys which are both made of wood or organic cloth. Recently we added an organic clothing line, Under the Nile, which has sold very well."
Here are a few ways you can get greener with baby:
1) Assuming you don't have the kind of lifestyle to support elimination communication (holding your newborn on the toilet, thus avoiding the need for diapers), you'll have to choose between washable cloth diapers and disposables. While the latter are clogging landfills, the former require multiple washings in super hot, sudsy water and you've got to consider the fuel used by vehicles run by cloth diaper services. There are arguments for and against each. But you can use greener disposables, like the ones made by Seventh Generation. They are made of chlorine-free wood pulp fluff and are fragrance- and latex-free. Seventh Generation also makes chlorine-free wipes that are unscented and alcohol-free. Under the Nile is one manufacturer that makes organic reusable diapers and wipes.
2) Organic clothing is made from organically grown, renewable crops like bamboo, hemp, soy and cotton and are free of chlorine. These are available at a number of outlets locally, including Whole Foods, Beans and Barley and Olive in Mequon.
3) Organic food. This is a no-brainer for the same reasons organic food makes sense for adults. And in growing bodies and minds, the absence of pesticides can be even more important. And now that everyone, including Wal-Mart, is getting in on the act, it's easier than ever. Better yet, why not make your own baby food and then you'll know exactly what your baby is eating.
5) Green bathwater. Ick, we know, sounds terrible. But choose body washes, shampoos, lotions and bubble baths that avoid petro-chemicals, alcohol and other chemicals and both your kid and your lake can avoid them too. And save water by not filling the tub. You don't need much water to bathe a kid, after all.
6) Wooden and natural fiber toys. Companies like California Baby and Under the Nile make toys from wood and natural fibers, often organic, that can be safer for kids and for the environment because they're biodegradable. There are also companies making toys out of the same kinds of bioplastics (often corn-derived) that Alterra uses in its biodegradable plastic cups.
7) Recycling baby clothes, toys and equipment. When we were kids they were called hand me downs. Now, parents are recycling clothes, books, DVDs, toys, strollers and more that have been gently used. This not only saves money, but also keeps a lot of things out of landfills. And if you're not buying it all new, maybe some of these things are produced in smaller quantities, which also saves resources.
8) With all the fears these days about the dangers of BPA in plastic bottles, there's no better time to commit to glass bottles, which are also recyclable.
9) Stop! Why are you buying all those individually-wrapped100 calorie packs inside more packaging? Buy some small reusable containers for your on-the-go snacks and you can cut down on a ton of waste.
10) Turn off the TV. Hey, pediatricians say that not only is TV unnecessary for kids 2 and under, they say it could lead to problems like obesity and shorter attention spans. Save some electricity by snapping off the boob tube and taking junior out to play in the yard. Now that it's light out until nearly 8 o'clock and getting warmer, there's no reason to stare at the idiot box. If you're stuck inside, read a book together or draw a picture. Now's the time to teach good habits and show your kids that life doesn't need to be wired for cable.
Use the Talkback feature below to add your suggestions!
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.