There’s an argument going on among some radical environmentalists claiming that having more than two children is about the greatest sin one can commit against the planet. While many developed countries are characterized by reduced reproduction rates, I would like to argue that large families – and now that we have four children, I believe we have officially crossed that bridge – are often a lot more environmentally friendly than households with no kids, or two children at most.
We are frugal. On average, with each child added to a family, the per capita income is lower. In addition, it’s more likely that one parent, usually the mother, will stay home to be the primary caretaker. This forces large families to be creative with their resources, and make a little go a long way. Around here, a lot less food gets thrown out now than when we were newlyweds. We use less disposables, among other reasons, because when you need to put out plastic dishes for a lot of people, it gets pricey.
Our households are more efficient. The more people live in the same household, the less, on average, they use up per capita in terms of space, water and energy. Children share rooms. Our electricity bill has grown with the addition of children, but not proportionally to the number of people in our family. That’s because the same amount of energy is used, for example, to bake a casserole for two people or for seven (you just use a larger pan). When we use the water heater, we take advantage of every drop of hot water. We take shorter showers because there are other people waiting to use the bathroom, and often two children will share a bath. Oh, and we have much more incentive to declutter and bring less junk into the house to begin with, because we just don’t have the room!
We are hand-me-down experts. Not only are clothes, shoes, toys, books, baby equipment, etc, passed from child to child, but we’ve become experts at looking for, and finding, the best second-hand deals. That’s because the price of new clothes, shoes, toys, and so on, even if you choose the cheapest bargain, really adds up. It makes a lot more sense to buy a gently used item of good quality, or accept hand-me-downs from friends and family. I currently have three huge bags of children’s clothes to sort through. I’ll choose what we’ll keep, and pass the rest on.
We travel less. Before I got married, I traveled abroad on average once a year. I’ve never boarded an airplane since, and now, with four children, it’s unlikely we’ll do that in the foreseeable future (unless it’s relocation for purposes of my husband’s work). With the addition of a fourth child, a standard 5-seat vehicle is no longer enough. This means we need a bigger car – which burns up more gas, that’s true, but here’s the incentive to drive around less! Plus, when you have a bunch of kids and no babysitter, you have to tote everyone around, and this teaches you to be efficient with your errands.
Our entertainment is more family-centered. The more kids you have, the more expensive (and more of a hassle!) it becomes to take everyone to eat out, to the movies, to an amusement park, or indeed to any paid entertainment venture. Finding a babysitter is more challenging, too. Our outings, if we go out, are family friendly and free – to local parks, the library, farms, farmers’ markets, etc.
Disclaimer: we are religious and do believe that earth was created for the benefit of mankind, and not the other way around. Nevertheless, it is our duty to be good and diligent stewards of the resources we have been given, and make sure we “waste not, want not.”