Sustainable Parenting: 12 Simple Ways to Raise Eco-Conscious Kids

Plastic toys, one-use food containers, diapers and more. Practicing sustainability with kids isn’t easy. But for parents who want to incorporate sustainable habits into their lives, you can make a few small changes to be more conscious. And, you don’t have to fully change your life and routine either. There are plenty of small steps you can take at home to be more sustainable.

For example, shopping secondhand is a great way to keep used baby gear out of landfills and reduce the amount of carbon emissions being released into the atmosphere. In fact, buying secondhand can reduce the carbon footprint of the item by up to 82%

For more tips and tricks, we interviewed sustainability influencers and moms, Natalie Costello of Sustainably Chic (@sustainablychicand Katherine Steck of The Junkyard Journals (@thejunkyardjournals), who make sustainable parenting their passion. So whether you’re a new parent or a parent of multiples looking to join the zero-waste movement, let’s dive into their suggestions for sustainable parenting. 

What is Sustainable Parenting?

Sustainable parenting is about being mindful of the decisions you make in your day-to-day life and teaching your kids how to take care of the world around them.

Sustainable parenting is about being mindful of the decisions you make in your day-to-day life and teaching your kids how to take care of the world around them as they grow older through practices like recycling and reusing. Sustainable parenting is more than just using reusable nappies and teaching your kiddos about climate change.

For Katherine, sustainable parenting is about making current and future decisions based on the environment. 

“It’s making individual changes and advocating for systemic changes that will leave the best world for my daughters and for all children. It’s teaching my kids to use what we have, respect the Earth and its resources and to develop a deep sense of contentment and care for their life, community and planet.” – Kat Steck, @thejunkyardjournals 

Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to being sustainable. Do what feels best for your family to instill environmentally-friendly practices in yourself and your kids.

The Benefits of Sustainable Parenting

The many benefits of sustainable parenting including saving money, reducing plastic waste, teaching kiddos about the environment and more

Sustainable parenting can impact many facets of your current and future life. A few benefits of sustainable parenting include:

  • Reduces plastic waste 
  • Teaches kids about the environment 
  • Saves you money (secondhand baby gear is cheaper on average!)
  • Encourages kiddos to love the outdoors
  • Cultivates a slower, more intentional lifestyle
  • Teaches kids to be creative
  • Teaches kids to live with less “stuff” 

12 Easy Sustainable Parenting Tips 

You don’t have to trade in your disposable diapers for cloth or buy a composting bucket to be an eco-conscious parent. Incorporating sustainability into your life can be as big or small as you want: at the end of the day, sustainable parenting is about being conscious of the environment and our role in protecting it. 

1. Use What You Already Have

Katherine suggests looking through your belongings for things you already have before making a new purchase. For example: can you source nursery furniture like tables and chairs from other parts of your home before buying new ones? Or can you find ways to upcycle old clothes, towels or toys to refresh your belongings without the need for something new? 

2. Take Care Of Your Toys

Natalie suggests taking care of your little one’s toys so they can be passed down to others (remember: secondhand shops don’t accept broken toys.) As Natalie says: “Toys can be incredibly wasteful because you lose parts or they break, but if you spend a little time taking care of them, more children can enjoy them in the future.” 

3. Borrow From Your Network

Babies grow out of gear, clothes and toys extremely quickly. So borrowing gear can help you get what you need without having to buy something new. For Kat, borrowing items helps her family get what they need, while also reducing clutter. “Lots of parents are happy to lend out bulky items that take up so much storage space like pregnancy pillows, baby swings, baby bathtubs and activity centers, a win-win!” 

4. Spend More Time Outside

One goal of sustainable parenting for many is to instill in your kids a love of and respect for the outdoors. So of course, you should get outside when possible! For Natalie, spending time outdoors helps her little one find new, outdoor-oriented hobbies like gardening or hiking while also keeping them interested in their indoor toys for a longer period of time. 

"When my son is inside the house, he wants to play with his toys, and the more he plays with his toys, the more new ones he wants. Being outside is a totally different ball game. At age 5, he still loves to collect twigs, acorns and flowers." — Natalie Costello, @sustainablychic

5. Buy Long-Term Items

Buying items that will last your kiddos through multiple stages of life can help you be more sustainable for years to come. Kat says that this long-term strategy applies to many different baby items. “While some toys may be used just for babies or toddlers, more open-ended toys like blocks can last from babyhood throughout older childhood and then be passed down time and time again.” 

A few items that you can buy for the long term include

  • Baby clothes with a drawstring that you can make bigger or smaller
  • An all-in-one car seat that will grow with your little one 
  • Water bottles that can change from bottle to sippy cup
  • Bigger sleep sacks that last longer 
  • Durable, wooden toys

For more durable baby items, check out our curated list of the most durable products on our site. 

6. Lead By Example

If you want your kiddos to lead sustainable lives, show them what that looks like by practicing sustainability yourself and in your household. Natalie says that this is sometimes easier said than done and you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. “Of course, I can still do many more things in our home that would be more sustainable, but I think every little thing counts. I have a list of things I want to improve, and they will be good teachable moments for my children.” 

Some ways you can lead by example:

  • Recycling
  • Composting
  • Going outdoors once a day
  • Growing a garden
  • Opting for reusable water bottles, bags, etc.

7. Make Sustainable Swaps

Sustainable swaps are swaps that you make to incorporate more eco-friendly or low-waste items into your household.

A few popular sustainable swaps from Kat, Natalie and others include:

  • Cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers
  • Reusable rags instead of paper towels
  • Reusable water bottles instead of plastic
  • Experiences instead of physical gifts
  • Reusable bags instead of disposable 
  • Homemade baby food instead of single-use pouches
  • Organic cotton instead of non-organic
  • Swapping single-use snacks for bulk snacks 

8. Progress, Not Perfection 

You don’t have to be a picture-perfect zero-waste parent right away. In fact, there’s no such thing as a picture-perfect sustainable parent. Kat says that the most important thing is to make swaps that work for your family and focus on making progress instead of being perfect. She says, “Pinterest and Instagram accounts can be great sources of knowledge and inspiration but don’t get caught up trying to do it all or do it best—you do you!” 

9. Feed Smaller Servings

It’s more sustainable to add less food to a plate than it is to throw away uneaten food. Start with smaller servings and add more if your kiddo is still hungry when they finish their plate. That way, you aren’t wasting food and your little one still gets to eat until they’re full. According to KidsHealth, a couple of tablespoons is an appropriate serving size to start with anyway. 

10. Ask For Cash or Sustainable Gifts

It might be a little awkward, but asking for cash gifts for holidays and birthdays can reduce the amount of stuff in your home. Of course, kids are going to want to have presents to open, so you don’t have to ask everyone to opt for the cash option, but asking a few close friends and family can reduce the clutter of new toys.

You can also encourage those who want to gift a physical item to get it from a secondhand resource or a sustainable brand

11. Sell Your Gently Used Baby and Kid Items 

Selling gently used baby and kid items is a win-win. On one hand, selling baby items reduces clutter in your home, keeps gear out of landfills and helps curb consumerism—so far, GBG shoppers have saved 270,000 baby and kids items (and counting!) fram landfills. On the other hand, you can make money by selling your gear to secondhand sites (like us!).

Sell Your Stuff

12. Shop Secondhand 

Just like selling to secondhand shops is a sustainable practice, shopping from them is, too. In fact, shopping secondhand is one of the easiest ways to bring sustainability into your life. Katherine and Natalie both agree that shopping secondhand is a great eco-conscious practice. 

Kat says she loves shopping secondhand becausefinding out what brands are truly sustainable and ethical can be quite a headache with all the greenwashing out there! Shopping secondhand and using up what’s already out there is the best loophole I’ve found.”

“I love that shopping secondhand often puts money right back into the hands of parents in my community.” – Kat Steck, @thejunkyardjournals 

As an online consignment store, all the products we sell are sustainable, so you don’t have to scour the web to find earth-friendly baby and kid gear. . 

10 Sustainable Products & Brands to Get You Started 

two toddlers playing with wooden sustainable toys

There are many sustainable products, brands and shops that you can shop to start sustainable living and parenting practices. We’ve rounded up a few of our faves:

  • Perelel: Perelel is an OB-GYN-founded vitamin brand that actively reduces their carbon footprint and has 100% recyclable packaging (they use an average of 300% less plastic than their leading competitors). 
  • Lovevery: Lovevery is a toy brand that uses natural and organic materials to create sturdy and sustainable toys. 
  • Green Toys: Green Toys makes their toys from recycled materials, meaning less waste in landfills. 
  • Tegu: Tegu makes wooden block toys and encourages sustainable manufacturing. In addition, they ask patrons not to dispose of their products. Instead, the company will pay for shipping so your family can send the toy back to Tegu to be recycled. 
  • Finn & Emma: Finn & Emma is a clothing company that makes their clothes with organic cotton and natural dyes. They’re also a fair trade company that focuses on empowering their workers. 
  • Honeysticks: Honeysticks are crayons made from beeswax, offering a safer option for kids who want to unleash their inner artist. 
  • Plan Toys: Plan Toys manufacture their toys with three pillars of sustainability in mind: “Sustainable Material, Sustainable Manufacturing and Sustainable Mind.” 
  • Melissa & Doug: Melissa & Doug is a toy and puzzle manufacturer that believes in making durable, long-lasting toys. Not only do they make wooden toys, they also plant trees and support thriving forests. 
  • Tender Leaf: Tender Leaf produces their toys with reclaimed wood, packages in cardboard and other recycled materials and uses paints free of toxins. 

Shop Sustainable Brands

Raising Eco-Conscious Kiddos

As we said before: becoming sustainable doesn’t have to mean an upheaval of your routine and life. It just means being more aware of how your actions impact your carbon footprint and our planet for future generations.

Just last year our community of parents saved over 270,000 baby and kid items from landfills. And, we’re pledging to save one million baby and kid items from landfills before the end of 2024. Join the movement by shopping and selling secondhand with us!

read sustainability report



Kat Steck is a mom of two, thrifting addict and self-proclaimed jar hoarder living in Nashville, Tennessee. She is passionate about helping others (especially moms) opt out of consumer culture, buy less new junk and use what they have. After challenging herself for ethical and environmental reasons to buy no new clothes for a year she realized she could adopt a lifestyle of buying (almost) nothing new for life and wanted to encourage others to join too! She loves sharing secondhand finds, budget-friendly sustainable living tips and simple living mom hacks on Instagram at @thejunkyardjournals.

Natalie Kay Costello is the creator of Sustainably Chic–an online resource for everything sustainable fashion, beauty & lifestyle. She is a mom to a 4 year old boy, and soon a little girl! 



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