An emerging parenting style is gaining momentum across the continent, and it has many Canadian parents wondering what it’s all about.
It’s called “eco-parenting,” and it’s the answer many have been looking for when raising their children in an age of waste.
Whether it’s another passing parenting fad or here to stay, today’s moms and dads are doing everything they can to be good parents by choosing to be earth-friendly in parenting decisions, and striving to set a good example for their children in the process.
So what sets eco-parents apart from others? It comes down to making decisions based on a more environmentally sound lifestyle.
What does that mean? It means getting back to basics — becoming more in touch with nature and being aware of the products bought for their children.
For example, according to Mother ease, a Canadian-made cloth diaper company, every child will use about 5,300 disposable diapers from birth until toilet training, and between Canada and the U.S., that adds up to more than 20 billion diapers dumped into landfills every year.
This is a problem because diapers are unable to decompose in landfill conditions and actually retain their original weight, volume and form.
Knowing this, an eco-parent might choose to use cloth diapers over disposable. Or they may use disposable diapers without toxic chemicals — like chlorine, latex or phthalates — that could be harmful to the environment when dumped in the landfill.
An eco-parent may also adjust their child’s diet to be more organic, cut down on water by sharing bath times with siblings, save electricity by choosing to hand-dry clothing instead of using an electric dryer, and saving materials by swapping hand-me-down clothing with a friend or family member.
It really is all in the details.
But the decision to become an eco-parent has to be made on a family-by-family basis and may not be for everyone, said Anne Laalo, owner and operator of Eco-Conscious Childcare in Ottawa.
“I think every parent raises their child based on how they know how today,” says Laalo.
“For some parents it’s very important that their child be in a very structured and academic environment because they feel it is the best for them. But another parent may feel that their child will be better brought up in an environment where things are more free and organic.
“I believe every parent does the absolute best that they can and know how to with their child.”
For Laalo, an eco-parent doesn’t have just one definition and may fit many moulds, as it all depends on what parents decide to focus on.
“I think an eco-parent is a parent who is conscious or sensitive to environmental issues where they’re conscious about the environment that their child is in, from the air that they breathe to the foods that they eat and going back to basics to what it was 30 or 40 years ago, to a simpler lifestyle,” says Laalo.
“There’s no clear answer though, because it really does vary from parent to parent.”
Laalo, a mother of two, made the decision back in 2007 to follow a more green form of parenting after her mother was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. When she went through genetic testing, doctors concluded her cancer was caused by environmental toxins.
“I’ve always have been very cautious about plastics and microwaves and things of that nature,” says Laalo. “But that really solidified things for me and put things into perspective.
“I wanted to value my children and the time that I had with them.”
Knowing other parents wanted the same for their children, Laalo soon opened her childcare centre. She is now one of two eco-childcare centres in Ottawa endorsed by the U.S.-based Children’s Environmental Health Network.
“It’s about getting away from the hustle and bustle and letting children just be children,” said Laalo.
“Do what you feel is best as a parent and what you can afford as well, and just make sure everything works for you.”