As an Inhabitots.com reader you’re probably committed to doing not only what is healthiest for their baby, but also what is healthiest for the planet, keeping in mind that you’ll leave it behind for the next generation. But if you’re a parent on a tight budget, this eco-friendly mindset can be a tricky creed to stick to day in and day out. How do you go green if you can’t afford organic baby clothing or that non-toxic finish crib with special bedding? I have good news for you. Really good news. There is a sweet spot: several green parenting choices that you may already be making are actually extremely frugal — even more affordable than the mainstream alternatives. Plus, there are ways to make those high-end green products you crave more affordable.

Image © Ja-nelle

Cloth Diapers

Want to take a bite out of baby costs? Start with cloth diapers, which have come a long way in the last 10 years. Modern green diapers are easy to use, fastening with snaps or Velcro instead of pins. They are easy to wash: most varieties are machine washable and dryable and can be stored in a waterproof cloth bag or diaper pail liner that can be thrown in the washer with your diapers on wash day. And they are made of high-tech and super-absorbent fabrics and come in a wide variety of prints and colors. You only need 2-4 dozen adjustable-size diapers to carry your baby from birth to potty training, which means an upfront cost of between $300-$800 on average.

Sound like a lot? Disposable diapers cost $1,000 per year, which means that if your baby potty trains at a typical age of two and a half, disposable diapers will cost you $2,500, while cloth diapers cost you about $500. Cloth diapers are designed to last for multiple kids, too, so if you cloth diaper three kids your savings approaches $7,000 even after you pay for your cloth diapers. Add this to the fact that cloth diapers keep 1 ton of trash per year, per kid out of the landfill, and the health benefits of keeping disposable diaper chemicals such as dioxin and SAP off your baby’s skin, and it becomes obvious that modern cloth diapers are a pretty win-win product.

Breastfeeding

You may not think about feeding your baby as a product choice, but if you are able to breastfeed your baby you can save $1,200-$1,500 per year per kid by not purchasing formula. This doesn’t even factor in the cost of baby bottles and accessories! Breastfeeding can be difficult to get started, but once you get going, it’s more convenient and has health benefits for mom and baby. These include preventing some kinds of cancers in mom, helping to melt off the baby weight, and offering Baby boosted immunity and physical benefits as far-reaching as stronger muscles into adolescence.

The best way to assure you get off to a good start with breastfeeding is to hook up with a local La Leche League group, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping women breastfeed—basically free lactation consultants. My local group leader took my calls at all hours when we had trouble early on and even drove to my house to help me through a rough patch. La Leche League leaders are worth their weight in gold if you want to be a green parent on a budget and give your baby the best nutrition possible.

Eco-Friendly Baby Products For Less

This topic is broad enough that I wrote a whole book about it, but it boils down to this: Green baby products can be found online for huge discounts. Check back for part two of this post to learn how you can find green baby gear for free or at deep discounts. If you know where to look, you can do this quickly and easily to save as much as $7,000, or 70%, off the average cost of Baby’s first year.

Guest Post by Laura K. Cowan, the founder of 29Diapers.com, a blog that features tips to make green parenting affordable and giveaways for eco-friendly baby products including cloth diapers, natural skincare products, and green toys and clothing. She is the author of Ecofrugal Baby: How To Save 70% Off Baby’s First Year. Laura lives in Michigan with her husband and baby girl and can be reached at laurakcowan/at/gmail/dot/com.