It’s an understatement that pregnancy upends your life in numerous unexpected ways – it’s likely that you’ll find yourself busier than ever, preparing for your new arrival.
If you’re ethically minded, it’s natural that your thoughts will turn to what steps you can take to towards a greener, more eco-friendly pregnancy. Here are five ways you can do right by yourself, your baby and the planet when you’re pregnant.
1. Source Ethical Maternity Wear
I know what you’re thinking – eco-friendly maternity wear might benefit the environment, but it’s not too kind on your pocket, right? While it’s true that some brands might have a higher price tag than standard high-street maternity garments, there are ways to clothe your bump that don’t cost the earth.
The most ethical maternity clothes are the ones that you already own. Think oversized clothing, stretchy tops, open-fronted cardigans, skirts with elasticated waists and empire line dresses.
Nevertheless, as your bump expands, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to get through your entire pregnancy without buying a few-purpose made maternity items. The smart way to shop is second hand – maternity wear can sometimes be difficult to source in charity shops, but online auction sites such as eBay offer a broad range of garments at very reasonable prices, many of them barely worn. Keep an eye out for maternity bundles, where sellers list clothing in bulk packages. If you shop smart, it’s entirely possible to buy an entire pregnancy wardrobe for a fraction of its original retail price.
If you have the cash to splash and brand new appeals to you, specialist ethical maternity retailers such as Tiffany Rose offer stunning maternity and nursing dresses. Their garments are designed and manufactured in Sheffield, UK, providing local employment and using materials made in British fabric mills. With moral fibres in mind, it’s also worth checking out Frugi. Using environmentally responsible methods, Frugi steers clear of sweatshops, child labour and poisonous pesticides, producing high quality organic cotton clothing for mums and babies alike.
2. Clean Green
Although you might think that pregnancy is a great reason to put your feet up and take a break from chores, there’s actually no safety risk involved in light cleaning tasks such as dusting and washing up – sorry if that wasn’t what you wanted to hear! During the nine months of pregnancy, your body’s immune system has a lower tolerance to bugs, so it’s a good idea to keep on top of basic hygiene.
But before you get your spring clean on, it’s important to consider that many traditional cleaning products contain harsh chemicals, especially toilet cleaner, drain unblocker, carpet cleaner and oven cleaner. Therefore, it’s important to always read the labels and avoid those with words such as ‘poison’, ‘toxic’, ‘danger’ or ‘corrosive’ on them.
If you don’t already use natural cleaning products, now is a great opportunity to start. While there are many recipes for DIY green cleaners, the majority of us are squeezed for time and prefer a more convenient solution. Fortunately, there are plenty of eco-friendly cleaning products available, so you don’t have to compromise on your cleaning standards when you’re expecting. In addition to protecting your baby from harm, these products don’t pollute the environment, are more sustainable to manufacture and do not produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Green Bear are a family-run UK company who make and sell eco-friendly, 100% natural cleaning products. Take a look at their shop for a variety of cleaners that will give a green sheen to your home.
3. Steer Clear of Toxins in Your Food
I get it … you’re tired and the last thing you feel like doing is spending hours in the kitchen. But consider this – when you order a takeaway, dine out or consume processed packaged foods, you can never be entirely sure what you’re putting in your stomach. Preparing meals at home using fresh, whole ingredients, gives you maximum control over what ends up on your plate. If you can’t muster the energy, then there’s even more reason for your partner to lend a helping hand!
Going organic is a great way to minimise toxins in your diet. When you eat organic, you can be safe in the knowledge that your food is produced without the use of synthetic fertilisers, pesticides, irradiation treatments, sewage sludge, antibiotics, growth hormones and non-organic feed. If your budget won’t stretch to a fully organic diet, prioritise organic dairy, meat, fruit and vegetables, as these products are known to retain the highest levels of pesticide residue.
During pregnancy, you’re working overtime – planning, preparing and building a new life. To support all this amazing activity, you need food that works overtime too. That’s why whole foods are a great choice for both you and your baby. Defined as foods that have been refined and processed as little as possible and are free from additives and other artificial substances, whole foods such as grains, pulses and berries are nutritious, filling and are proven to boost your vitality levels.
Able and Cole are a UK online retailer who deliver organic, ethical produce straight to your door in recyclable cardboard packaging. Best known for their fruit and veg boxes, you can try out a range of different seasonal goodies each week, tailoring the contents of the boxes to suit your tastes.
4. Plastic? Not So Fantastic
If you feel as though you’re not so much eating for two but for an entire ravenous army during pregnancy, you’re not alone. When you’re on the go, carrying snacks to sustain your energy between main meals is a great idea. But while that Tupperware box in your handbag might feel as essential as your wallet and keys, storing food in plastic containers and drinks in plastic bottles is not always as safe as you might think.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical found in many hard plastics and items such as food packaging. Numerous studies have found that oestrogen-mimicking BPA can harm reproductive and brain development in foetuses, infants and children. In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the sale of baby bottles and children’s cups containing BPA, the EU following suit. Even though this is a baby step in the right direction, it does nothing to address the health concerns that BPA poses to pregnant woman, which include miscarriage, premature birth and still birth. According to an article in the New Scientist, even BPA-free plastic might not be as safe as you think. In tests conducted at Peking University, Beijing, the BPA substitute BHPF was found to cause fertility problems and pregnancy loss in female mice.
If all this sounds pretty scary, try not to panic. Luckily there are eco-friendly alternatives to plastic for storing your food and drinks. Glass bottles and containers may cost more than plastic and are heavier to transport if you’re out and about, but they’re ideal for the kitchen because they tend to hold up better in the microwave, don’t take on the characteristics of the food they hold and some of them can even go in the oven. For lightweight on-the-go solutions, choose silicone food storage bags and sealable paper bags. UK-based retailer Lakeland offer a wide range of long-lasting silicone food storage and cooking items designed to be kind to your health and that of your baby.
5. Be a Green Beauty Goddess
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit research and advocacy organisation which empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment, the average woman regularly uses 12 different beauty products containing 126 different chemicals. With 1 in 5 products containing cancer causing chemicals, there’s never been a better time to go green with your beauty routine.
A simple way to start is to switch your shampoo. Many natural health experts recommend avoiding shampoos with the foaming agents sodium laureth, sulphate and ammonium laureth sulphate. These ingredients cause shampoo to lather, but they all test positive for 1,4-Dioxane, a proven cancer-causing petrochemical. The Body Shop is a great high street alternative, offering a variety of shampoos and other beauty products that are free not only from sulphates but also parabens. While parabens contain preservatives that prevent the growth of mould and bacteria, think before you massage them into your scalp. According to a study undertaken by Inserm, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, phenols such as parabens may disrupt the growth of baby boys both in the womb and during the first few years of life.
It’s important to remember that just because something is labelled ‘natural’, it doesn’t necessarily meant that it only contains ingredients made by mother nature. A bottle marked ‘organic’ must contain 95% organic ingredients, but those marked ‘natural’ or ‘made with organic ingredients’ may still contain the bad stuff. This is down to the frustrating fact that the beauty industry is yet to be properly regulated. No matter how appealing that body lotion smells, always ready the label carefully before massaging it into your bump.
Do you have any green, eco-friendly tips and tricks that have worked for you during pregnancy? If so, why not share them in the comments below?