Book Review: The Zero Footprint Baby

If you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint as a parent, pick up  The Zero Footprint Baby. It’s more of a narrative than a how-to manual, but the tips Chatterjee includes will get you on your way to reducing your family’s carbon foot print.

Most of the advice is simple, such as riding public transportation or not buying anything new, but she’s really done her research.  In general, the more simply you live the lower your carbon footprint.

A lot of the advice mirrored what Rebecca and Joy wrote in The Green Baby Guide’s companion book, The Economical Baby Guide.  For example, don’t buy a lot of plastic toys and other baby gear that quickly ends up in the landfill.  And if you must buy new, find something that will hold up long enough to pass along to friends (or to hand down as heirlooms).
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Downsizing Domestic Dreams: How Much House Does Baby Need?

When winter hit this year, the walls of our small house seemed to close in with the darkness and cold.  Listening to updates about lowering interest rates and the drop in housing prices, I was suddenly hit by a wave of cramped angst.  Should we consider searching for a larger house before our family grows beyond our square footage?  The thought of going to open houses with a precocious toddler in tow was enough to make me nauseous. (And no, I’m not pregnant.) Below, Roscoe contemplates a new home and the concept of snow.

baby-and-snow.jpgSo I started to evaluate why we were thinking about purchasing another home.  My first reaction was that our son needed more room.  Together my husband and I wrote a list of all the things we would love in a future house.  We imagined a living room and a family room for Roscoe to play in with an ultra-efficient gas fireplace.  I envisioned a kitchen full of windows and long countertops to undertake summer canning events and large homemade meals. A huge row of solar panels and a solar hot water heater would be the icing on our dream-house cake. 

Then it dawned on us–-only one of the items on our list really involved our son-and to be honest, he has no idea that we’re missing a family room.  All the other details on the list were our housing fantasies.  Was it possible that we were inadvertently giving into social pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” by moving up into another house?  After all, Roscoe seems to be perfectly content with our home.  He especially enjoys the bathtub. 

bath-baby.jpgCoral Serene Anderson’s article “Towards the Ecology of the Home,” posted here on our site, helped put things into perspective. Her family of three happily contemplated moving into a home with just 400-some square feet. Hmm… All of a sudden our living space of around 1,000 square feet became rather luxurious. Then I looked into how house sizes have changed over the last fifty years, and was astonished (and validated) by the data.  According to the National Association of Home Builders, in 1950 the average new single-family home was just 953 square feet.  AND family sizes were larger than they are today!  By 1970 it had jumped to 1500 square feet and by 1990 it had made it just over 2,000 square feet. The NPR article on the exploding increase in home sizes has some excellent information.   Although we didn’t intentionally think about our carbon footprint when purchasing our small and affordable home, the limited square footage has also shrunken our annual emissions and kept our utility bills low.  We need less than half the energy to heat and light our home than the average 2349 square foot American house.  In the summer we’re shaded by a giant maple tree that provides all our air conditioning.   A small, enclosed entryway provides solar heat in the spring and fall and keeps the warm air inside during the winter. 

Because we opted for a small house, we can afford to live in an area that is within walking distance to shopping and parks–and my husband can bike to work for more than half of the year.  The cost savings in taxes, commuting, energy consumption, and house payments has provided us with the freedom to cut back on our work hours to spend valuable time with our baby. 

dad-and-baby-read1.jpgOur cozy home has kept our family quite comfortable-even with all the gear that a new baby brings to the picture.  In fact, our limited space is a great consideration when it comes to accumulating baby paraphernalia.  We don’t buy it unless we’re willing to trip over it. There’s no need for gates simply because Roscoe isn’t ever far enough away to get into too much trouble. (Well, most of the time!)

 So, have I become proud of my tiny house?  A little.  Also, I’ve learned that with some bundling we can easily get beyond these walls and spend time outside, with friends, or touring the supermarket on toddling legs. And while we’re here, I appreciate the fact that I’m never more than a few feet away from my favorite people.