How Many Children Can You Have and Still Be Green?

Like it or not, family size greatly impacts your environmental footprint. You can hand down clothes and toys, buy used, eat organic food and so forth, but there’s still an impact when you have more children.

Is that something to feel bad about when you’re trying to be environmentally friendly?

It’s easy to feel a bit of green guilt when you have more than one or two children. I say this as a mother of three. I don’t regret any of my kids, but I’m well aware of the fact that they’re an additional impact on the environment. I can limit the impact now, but it’s going to increase as they get older no matter what I do.

I’m not about to tell anyone how big their family should be. That’s a personal decision. But I do strongly recommend being as environmentally friendly with them as they grow up, and hope that they continue the practices as adults. Not all do, you know.

This is a tangled issue. On the one hand, a growing population overall is hard on the environment. We only have so many resources.

On the other hand, a shrinking population is brutal on the economy. Just how do you support an aging population without a lot of younger people?

In many developed countries, the population is shrinking anyhow. Parents on average are having fewer children than the population replacement rate. Is it then a problem to have more children when the population overall is shrinking, or is it a social good?

I have all these questions. But there aren’t easy answers.

But there are some answers for when your children are growing up and living in your home. You can consume fewer resources as a family. Delight in thrift stores and hand me downs. Enjoy regular vegetarian meals, and if you eat meat, serve smaller portions of it.

Take steps to be more environmentally friendly in your family’s lifestyle. How many televisions does your home really need? How many computers? Do you really need to upgrade before a complete breakdown? Is repair practical?

Start a family garden. Go hiking. Clean up trash. Volunteer for a good cause.

These are things you can do no matter your family size that can make a positive difference in the world. Talk to your children about why you do the things you do. Teach them to make good lifestyle decisions in all aspects of their lives. Teach them that happiness does not depend on having “things.”

The average consumption of resources in the United States is such that it would take 5 Earths to support humanity if everyone lived as the average American does. Think about that as you raise your family and teach them to consume fewer resources as best you can.

But no matter how many children you have, or how many you think are the limit for an eco friendly family, don’t judge those who have more children or fewer. There’s a lot more to the question than just “is it green?” sometimes.