Zero-Waste Baby Products: The Basics You Should Know to Get Started

This post outlines zero-waste baby products and lifestyle basics if you’re aiming to cut down on the waste that often comes with a new baby.

When you hear zero waste, you might imagine people fitting all of their trash into a tiny jar. Or you might imagine a pantry filled with dried goods decanted into beautiful, matching containers.

For me, zero waste has never been about getting to zero. And my children eat their snacks way too quickly for me to get them into any container, let alone a cute one. 

But, there are some simple (and impactful) strategies you can use to begin to move towards a lower-waste lifestyle. Keep reading for these tips, our zero-waste baby product picks, and more.

baby playing in a stack of diapers

What is zero-waste?

Like all parenting, zero waste can be a tool to make life easier, better, or more enjoyable; there isn’t one “right” way to do it. Here’s a breakdown of zero waste and how you can incorporate it into your family.

Zero waste is a movement where people try to reduce how much they purchase and throw away. For some, the goal is no waste. But, let’s be real, that can feel impossible when you have a tiny human – or multiple tiny humans – who need diapers and snacks and different-sized clothes every few months.

Getting started with zero-waste baby products

Instead of spending a fortune on gear like stainless steel lunch pails or reusable straws. Think of your why. Why do you want to reduce the amount of waste you create?

Maybe you want to save money. Maybe you want to lessen the impact you have on the climate. Maybe you want to vote with your dollars and support small companies. Or maybe you want to use safer products on your baby and at home. 

When you consider a swap, consider whether it is aligned with your “why.”

For instance, it’s important to me that I support companies that care about their impact on their customers and the planet. So, when shopping for baby shampoo, I purchase from small businesses that let me buy in bulk and use safe ingredients. 

Keep an eye on your trash for a week and observe what you can reduce.

Thinking about your why can also stop you from jumping into zero-waste endeavors that you won’t follow through on. If you want to save money, you shouldn’t start by spending five hundred dollars on products. 

The next step is a trash audit. This might not apply if your baby hasn’t arrived, but you can do it for your own trash.

A trash audit means you look at your trash and see what takes up the most space. Is it granola bar wrappers? Takeout containers? Clothing tags? Keep an eye on your trash for a week and observe what you can reduce.

woman holding a bag of zero-waste oranges

How can you reduce your waste (especially with your baby)?

Here are six simple steps you can begin to take to reduce your waste with your new baby. Keep reading for more detail on each step.

  1. Choose where you shop
  2. Consider where your baby clothes come from
  3. Look at hygiene products
  4. Reduce diapering waste
  5. Re-think your wipes
  6. Assess your food serving and storage

As mentioned, thinking about getting started is a great first step. Awareness of your lifestyle and the amount of waste you produce is critical, and every change you make – no matter how big or small – will have a positive impact.

1. Choose where you shop

While everyone can make a difference, the average person isn’t affecting the environment like huge companies. So, the biggest impact you can make is to think about where you shop. 

By shopping locally and supporting small businesses, you’re reducing the gas used to transport those products. You’re keeping money local, which improves your community. You’re also showing larger corporations that your values impact how you spend money. “Voting” with our dollars is how we all can make a difference.

2. Consider where your baby clothes come from 

How you approach clothing depends on your budget and your values. If it’s financially feasible and you’re planning to have multiple children, you can invest in good-quality clothes.

Brands like Primary.com make organic cotton clothes that last for years. I have some items worn and washed weekly for three children and are still in good condition. 

You can also adopt a community approach. I’ve borrowed clothes from friends and family and returned them when they no longer fit. I’ve gotten clothes from my local Buy Nothing group or clothing swaps. Swoondle Society is another ethical way to get used clothes. 

To make clothes last longer, you must be more cautious about caring for them. My kids are pretty wild, and their clothes are usually covered in yogurt, paint, and mud daily.

But, they last a long time because I wash them in cool water with a gentle detergent. I hang most of his clothes to dry for my five-year-old, who is getting new clothes once or twice a year. This means his pants will last a full year and still be in good enough condition for his siblings. 

But what do you do when you’re done with your clothes? When do you ditch those Cat & Jack leggings with a hole in them? Instead of throwing them away or dumping them at Goodwill (to probably just be thrown away or shipped abroad,) responsibly dispose of them.

I already mentioned Swoondle Society, which takes good-quality clothes. You can also recycle your clothing through TerraCycle. Carter’s has a program through Terracycle which shreds and reuses children’s clothing; I have a basket in my twins’ room that is specifically for clothes that need to be recycled. It’s a little extra work, but it makes a huge impact.

stack of neutral baby clothes

3. Look at hygiene products

This is an area where most parents are concerned about safety. As a postpartum doula, I’m in many homes, and I almost always see the lavender Johnson & Johnson shampoo and lotion purchased by a well-meaning relative.

However, most baby products in stores are not effectively regulated or safe for our children. 

Reducing or eliminating products that disrupt our baby’s hormones drastically improves their health. Things like fragrance can impact when your child goes into puberty, their likelihood of having cancer, and their ability to have children

Thankfully, there are so many companies doing better. Companies like California Baby or Molly’s Suds use safe, organic ingredients and reduce waste by allowing customers to buy in bulk. 

You can also reduce waste by buying fewer things. Do you need a special shampoo for cradle cap? Do you need five hooded baby towels? Probably not. Remember that we – especially parents of a new baby – are often conditioned to think we need more than we do. 

baby playing behind the curtain

4. Reduce diapering waste

Babies use about 2,500 diapers every year. And each diaper takes, we estimate, about 400-500 years to decompose. 

So, if you’d like to make a huge impact on your level of waste. Choose a safer alternative for a diaper. You can use services like Dyper, which composts diapers and keeps them out of landfills. 

You can also choose cloth diapering, which is extremely cost-effective and better for the environment. It might seem gross or intimidating, but cloth diapers can be easy to use. Some services will launder them for you if that’s a huge deterrent. 

A side note: solid waste (aka poop) is not safe to put into a trash can. If you read the directions on disposable diapers, they warn people not to put waste in a trash can.

Read next: Four Surprising Reasons to Use Cloth Diapers

Many sanitation workers have become sick, and bodies of water have become contaminated by solid waste thrown into the trash. Instead, your poop is intended to be disposed of in a toilet.

grandma using a baby wipe on babys leg

5. Re-think your wipes

Babies make a lot of mess. From spit up or a parent leaking milk to pee and poop. You need a lot of wipes. Swapping wet wipes with cloth can save a lot of money and waste. 

When you have a baby in diapers, cloth wipes are a game-changer. Instead of using five wet wipes, you can use one cloth wipe. They are much gentler on your baby’s skin as well. 

I have a few baskets in my house filled with a random assortment of towels, wipes, burp cloths, and old cloth diaper pre-folds that my children can grab. They are used for everything from cleaning hands after snacks to “cleaning” windows. If your goal is saving money, cut up an old towel or re-purpose other towels. 

jars of homemade zero-waste baby food

6. Asses your food serving and storage

In the early baby days, you can use longer-lasting materials, like silicone or glass, for baby bottles. Then, you can use them for multiple children or pass them on. You can reduce waste and be safer by storing milk or formula in glass containers, which most people already have. 

Now, I don’t want to be that person who tells you that you have to make your own baby food. But, making your own baby food is much more cost-effective and reduces waste.

Read next: Alternatives for Eco-Friendly Feeding: Baby to Toddler

You don’t need all the gear to make baby food. You can get started with only a steamer, handheld blender, and some old pasta sauce jars. Or, if baby-led weaning is more your style, you can get by with a steamer and a pair of scissors to cut up food. 

Remember that we – especially parents of a new baby – are often conditioned to think we need more than we do. 

If you have older children like me, your trash audit might reveal that your children eat a terrifying amount of string cheese or that you go through a large container of yogurt in one meal. 

Then, you can try to go homemade. While I’m not ready to make my own yogurt, I make a batch of energy bites or granola bars weekly. And I invested in reusable silicone pouches for smoothies. 

Also, there are a lot of (often expensive) products for eating and drinking outdoors. If it’s within your budget and you need it, you can invest in it. If not, you can bring your own supplies with you. My best friend always jokes about how I bring regular plates and silverware on playdates, but it works for us. 

Shop our zero-waste baby product picks

Final thoughts on zero-waste baby products

Remember, there are no required products to start your zero-waste journey. It’s better to avoid buying anything and purchase items more intentionally.

If you’re nervous and unsure how to start, you don’t have to do it all. Try something new each month, or just focus on one or two areas of your life. Take baby steps and be proud of each change you make.

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Gigi Vera Vincent

Postpartum Doula

As a postpartum doula, teacher, and mother, I’m here to streamline the newborn learning curve and help birth parents, partners, and other family members. There isn’t one way to have and raise a little human. I’m here to guide parents to find their way to become confident parents.

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