Next-Gen

Practicing Sustainability as a New Mom Is Easier Than You Think

8 min read

Essential Takeaways

  • Sara Tso is a new mom and the woman behind popular sustainability blog Matchbox Kitchen.
  • "I hope to teach [my daughter]that making a positive mark on the world doesn't have to mean inventing a new product or becoming president, and that we can all have a positive impact by living by example.”

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Diapers. Wipes. Clothes. Nursery furniture. Our culture tells us that in order to prepare for a new baby, we need to buy a lot—in fact, some research suggests that the baby product market will reach upwards of $16.78 billion by 2025.

But while some items definitely veer more on the side of non-negotiable, maybe it's time to rethink the impact these consumption habits have on our planet at large—especially as we raise the next generation to call it home.

It's easier than you think, says Sara Tso, low-waste guru and the blogger behind Matchbox Kitchen. Since giving birth late last year, Tso has managed to maintain the sustainable lifestyle she preaches so well—all with the intent to pass that ethos down to her daughter.

"I hope to teach her that making a positive mark on the world doesn't have to mean inventing a new product or becoming president, and that we can all make a positive impact by living by example," she says. Below, she shares some of the other ways her life has changed since becoming a mother—and how we can all take small steps to make a difference in the world.

How did you find your path to writing about sustainability?

I started Matchbox Kitchen as a food blog when I was teaching myself how to bake bread and pastries. After a few short months, it evolved into offering special occasion cakes made with locally sourced and sustainably grown ingredients. At the time, it was hard to find layered cakes in particular that were made with ingredients I would personally want to consume. I wanted my cakes to be an easy way for customers to support farmers markets and organically grown crops. It was important to me to support these local farmers, but even after a few years of baking, I never truly understood what organic or sustainable meant in terms of environmental sustainability and its affects on soil. I took a year off from baking and interned at an urban farm with beyond organic, regenerative practices. The experience enriched my life in ways I did not expect, and I knew that I could help others live sustainably with more than cakes. After that year, I decided to stop baking and aid others in their journey to a zero- and low-waste lifestyle.

How has living low-waste evolved throughout your pregnancy and now as a new mom?

I always knew I wanted to be a mother, and I worked hard to implement a low-waste lifestyle before having children. It needed to be effortless and not just another thing on my to-do list. Of course, being pregnant and becoming a mother were things I’d never experienced before, so there were a few curveballs, namely food cravings and not having the energy to cook. Sometimes this means ordering delivery/take out, which means a lot of disposables. While disposables aren’t ideal, they are also not the be and and end all of sustainability. At the end of the day, I want my overall actions to reflect how I’d like to raise my daughter to be a steward of the land we live on.

How are old stigmas and definitions around what it means to be a mother changing, from your perspective?

Motherhood doesn't have to mean choosing a family over your career anymore, but there is still an expectation of "balancing" everything and doing it well. It's okay to quit your job and become a stay-at-home mom for as much or as little time as you'd like. It's also okay to go back to work and have your child in daycare, as long as that's what you want. There is more than one way to be an amazing mother and we need to support all forms of motherhood.

How does self-care factor into your daily routine? What steps do you take to nurture yourself, and how does that ultimately feed into your role as a parent?

In the early weeks I was lucky to fit in the necessities like a shower and a full meal. Asking for help, allowing others to help, and taking even a few moments to enjoy the mundane things like brushing my hair all added up to small moments of self-care. It’s easy to slip into the feeling that you need to be there for your child for every single minute, but it’s also important to remember that you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. Moments of self-care, no matter how big or small, remind me of the person I was before I had a child, which in turn gives me the strength to be the best mother I can be.

What did you learn about your own sense of identity when you stepped into the role of being a mother?

There were definitely moments where I mourned the loss of my old self and the things I used to do so easily, like run out to the grocery store for a quick trip or going out to dinner or the movies with my husband. While becoming a parent has definitely changed my daily schedule, it has not changed the person I am. I still teach zero waste workshops, I still go to the farmers market, I still practice zero waste. It's easy to get upset or, let's be honest, even resentful of all the changes you have to make as a new mom, but they don't change the fire that burns inside you. It might take me way longer now to get out of the house or organize a sitter so my husband and I can go on a date, but these changes in scheduling are short lived. I am still my old self, I just need to make a few adjustments to get there.

Is there anything you wish you’d known about pregnancy and motherhood when you first discovered you were pregnant?

I was very fortunate that my pregnancy and childbirth were a breeze. It made me feel so confident to take on motherhood. Then I came home from the hospital, and motherhood kicked in and really humbled me. I wish I could tell myself that it is going to be difficult in a way that you will not understand until it happens. That babies will cry and sometimes there's not much you can do. That breastfeeding doesn't come naturally to everyone, and that your baby is learning how to do it too. That—even as someone who has always prided herself on not needing others—I will definitely need help, and that's all okay!

How do you plan on passing along your ethos of sustainability to your daughter?

I want to raise my daughter to know that caring for the Earth isn't something we set out to do one day a year, or something we have to consciously think of every day. It's in our daily actions that respect the air we breathe, the land we live on, and the food we eat. It's caring for one another and lifting those who might not have a voice. Sustainability goes beyond how little trash we can fit in a mason jar. I hope to teach my daughter that we are meant to live symbiotically with nature, that we are part of nature, not separate nor above, and not for exploiting or capitalizing on.

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