Hitting the Road With a Smaller Carbon Footprint

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Whether you give birth at home or the hospital, at some point you're going to have to hit the road. And that means you need a car seat. This is one item you should not buy used, child-safety experts say. There's no way to know whether it's been in an accident or otherwise damaged.

But you can hang on to it for siblings, as long as the seat's expiration date hasn't passed. Read the instructions closely; most seats expire within four to six years as the plastic degrades and other components wear out.

There's nothing green about the hardware in a car seat, but concerned parents can replace the standard cover with an organic one. Rittenhouse Industries, based in Minnesota, sells a wool one for $57.75.

Most new parents buy a stroller, often as part of a "travel system" that includes an infant car seat. If you decide to get a separate stroller, it can be borrowed or bought secondhand.

Also, look for baby carriers and strollers that have a long lifespan. Front-pack carriers are ubiquitous, but some parents find their children quickly outgrow them. Other carriers offer more flexibility, including ring slings, pouches and mei tais. Even the organic versions are often cheaper than name-brand front-pack carriers.

The Moby Wrap, which is basically a long, soft piece of fabric, is available in organic cotton for about $70. The regular version retails for $35. "It's a $35 dollar investment that you can use for up to three years if you need to," said Carrie Hill, a local spokeswoman for the company. "The Moby is so simple. No buckles, no snaps. It's very back-to-basics."

For things you do buy new, comparison-shop, looking at smaller merchants as well as the big retailers. The small companies often offer discounts. Jennifer Sprague, owner of All Natural Mommies in Vienna, makes custom baby carriers -- including organic ones -- and gives a 10 percent discount to military families, foster parents, pastors and missionaries, and families with multiples. She also gives single parents a break on the price.

Before dropping money on any of these items, though, test them. You want to know if they fit your baby (not to mention your back). Call your local La Leche League or Attachment Parenting International chapters and ask about any free babywearing workshops.

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