It was an identity crisis moment. I was sitting sobbing on the bedroom floor with a crying baby and another soiled cloth nappy that had splurged all over the baby, carpet and me. I'd had enough. I was obviously a terrible mother and now the eco-warrior in me had died too. Pass the disposables, sod the planet, I was just trying to get through the day.
My baby's bottom shrank overnight as the bulky reusable sat in the corner glaring at me and the slim, weird smelling disposables changed the way my child felt to cuddle. It had just been too hard; the cloth nappies had not fitted properly and I'd run out of the cash and will to do anything about it.
Then that good old parental favorite, guilt, jumped on to my back like a big ugly monster, taunting me with phrases like 'those nappies will never biodegrade you know' and 'you are condemning your child's planet to be a landfill site'. Still, my baby was happy and I gradually found my way through those early crazy months. I did feel sad though, not to be in the green parent tribe.
Once the brain fog had reduced I realized it wasn't so black and white. Anyone who has ever written a birth plan knows that from the very start, parenthood is about compromise and constantly reviewing your expectations. So what if I wasn't using cloth nappies? There was so much I was doing right.
I found a green lifestyle that would make my family life better, happier and healthier, not worthy, guilt-filled and exhausted. This meant changing things that would benefit us and letting fun and family activity be the guide. I learnt that with the right information, even cloth nappies could be easy, but hair shirts and hand-knitted muesli are strictly banned.
Here are my top seven ways to be greener, happier and healthier without the stress:
1. Make intelligent swaps
That means using locally grown rapeseed oil instead of imported olive oil to save carbon, whilst enjoying the bonus that it's also lower in saturated fat, higher in healthy omega-3 fatty acids and cheaper. Also, it is easy to ditch marine polluting laundry detergent and opt for the wonderfully freaky soapnut shells. They are the dried fruit of the soapnut tree and clean clothes brilliantly without polluting the waterways or upsetting sensitive skin.
2. Don't be afraid of using technology to lure children outside
Whilst we need to create a balance of screen time and outside time, it can be helpful to harness the power of the app for a fun activity. Try treasure hunting with geocaching, star gazing with an app like Star Walk and using the Wildtime app for nature inspiration.
3. Do a better job of reusable nappies than me
I totally messed up because I didn't know some vital information. For example, it's best to try out a few different types before you invest in the 20 or so that you'll need. Some types just won't be the right shape for your baby and having loads that don't fit will be disheartening and expensive.
4. Make your milk feeding green
Breastfeeding is best for the environment and your baby but that knowledge doesn't help you when it doesn't work for emotional, physical or logistical reasons. Step away from the guilt and make sure your bottle feeding is as green as possible. For example, you can buy safe glass baby bottles and make sure you keep your kettle de-scaled for efficient boiling.
5. Learn a few tricks to cut your food waste
Did you know, the banana is one of the most chucked food items? And they have come all the way from the Caribbean or South America to end up as waste. Here are my tips for being a banana saver!
6. Care about carbon, but don't be ruled by it
Get the basics like insulation sorted, try not to choose clubs and activities that involve lots of driving, choose local products with limited packaging, but then be kind to yourself. There is much, much more to being a green parent that carbon counting.
7. Make your outdoors space count for wildlife
Plant a pot with lavender to provide nectar, put up some bird feeders and have a messy 'nature reserve' corner with a stack of logs and sticks and long grass. Now is also the right time of year to plant some wildflower plugs such as ox eye daisy, corn poppy and ragged robin. These will bring color and life in even the tiniest space.
So don't be an eco-worrier. Instead, forget the guilt, take some fun steps and be an eco-warrior. There are happy green days ahead.
Kate Blincoe is the author of The No-Nonsense Guide to Green Parenting (Green Books) and is a freelance writer and mother of two greenish children. Follow Kate on Twitter @Kateblincoe.
Photo by Phil Barnes.