Choosing to be Childfree to Live a More Sustainable Lifestyle

guest post by: Emily of Conservation Folks

Choosing to be Childfree to Live a More Sustainable Lifestyle

Buying a house, having a successful career, and raising children are all part of the classic American dream. While it may sound idyllic, it’s not always an option in today’s world. We currently have a growing population of more than 7.4 billion people and counting — on a planet that can only sustain a maximum of 10 to 11 billion souls. How can living a childfree life contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle?

Help by Having One Fewer Child

According to science, you don’t have to live entirely childfree to have a sustainable lifestyle — just have one fewer child.
It’s been calculated that having one fewer child could help to reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions by more than 58 tons per year. For comparison, getting rid of your car only reduces emissions by about 2.4 tons per year, and upgrading your light bulbs from incandescent to CFL or LED reduces your emissions by less than 1/10 of a ton.

The key here, in addition to reducing carbon emissions, is to help stabilize the population. While the planet could potentially support a population of around 11 billion, it will not be able to do so well. What is the ideal stable population? Expert opinions vary but many do agree that having fewer children is key. Ideally, the number of children per couple should be 2.1 or fewer. The best way to ensure our planet and resources are able to support the human race is to take steps toward stabilizing our population, but how?

Many modern families have already chosen to limit their family size to one or two children, but for every family that only has one or two kids, there is one that has chosen to shun contraceptive and have as many children as they can carry, i.e. the Duggar family of 19 Kids and Counting. Implementing childbearing laws legally limiting couples to 2 children has been tried before — in China, specifically, though there are other areas that have implemented similar laws/policies. Unfortunately, in some areas, it has lead to a stagnating birth rate that hasn’t produced enough children to take the place of adults and elderly workers who are reaching the age of retirement.

Having one less child — or choosing to have only two children, is one way to be more sustainable. However, to have a large impact on the world, it will have to be implemented on a global scale.

Other Benefits of a Childfree Life

Having a childfree life isn’t just good for the environment — it can be good for you as well. First, you will have more freedom. I’ve always wanted to travel the world — without children, I can pick up and go anytime my career and finances will allow. I don’t have to worry about finding someone to watch the kids or go through the hassle of bringing them with me to a foreign country. While kids can definitely benefit from this kind of experience, there are tons of things that are simply out of reach if you’re traveling with children in tow. Second, you’ll have more money. The average cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 is roughly $300,000. Break that down per year and it comes out to somewhere around $17,000. Think of all you could do each year with $17,000 extra.
The possibilities are endless. Now, I’m not saying that all these things aren’t possible after you’ve had children, but having extra money certainly makes them easier.

Finally, you also have the option to add children to your life in the future — either biologically or by fostering or adopting. According to the Children’s Bureau, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, there is an average of 500,000 children in the foster care system at any given time. Having fewer children or choosing to live childfree is a totally personal choice but it is one that can have many benefits.

More about Emily:
Emily is a sustainability blogger who is passionate about living an eco-friendly lifestyle. You can check out more of her work on her blog, Conservation Folks.

How do you think being childfree helps the environment? Comment below!

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    • Lisa
    • February 6, 2018

    What a great guest post, and a very important topic of discussion in the childfree world. For me and my husband, sustainability is one of our top reasons for staying childfree, so reading posts like this one is always very affirming!

    1. Thank you for sharing one of your reasons for being childfree, Lisa. That’s great! The world is just so incredibly overpopulated, I’m happy not to add more of a burden to an already ailing planet!

    • C Me Anonymous
    • February 6, 2018

    I’ve never understood couples who want large families. All the people I know who had multiple siblings lived in poverty or near poverty. Why would anyone want that?

    I know for some it’s a religious (sorry can’t say that having kids is faith based) decree or desire. But even then don’t church leaders look at their practices and consider changing times?

    1. I’ve never seen parents look anything but frazzled when they have a bunch of kids. I feel frazzled just seeing them! Prior to being childfree, I considered adoption, and only ever one child. I just don’t understand the large family thing, either.

    • Annie
    • May 10, 2018

    China had a one child law, not a 2 child law. The main issue, other than the younger generation being significantly smaller and unable to care for a larger, aging population, was female genocide. There are tens of millions more men in China than women, because parents would either abort or kill their girls after birth, so that they could try again for a boy who would carry on their family name (and girls were seen as basically worthless). Now, there are millions of single men who aren’t able to find wives or girlfriends, and it’s going to further intensify their population issues. Hopefully other places in the world can figure something else out that will gradually diminish the population, without making it implode, while still allowing people some sort of freedom over their reproductive choices. I’ve never understood the appeal of having children at all, let alone people who have far more than they can reasonably care for. Hopefully our country, and all other nations can improve their access to contraceptives, improve sexual educations (and education rates in general, especially for women), decrease violence against women, and decrease their birth rates responsibly.

    • Scott
    • June 5, 2018

    I think the environmental argument for childfreedom is very solid. For some people, that’s a very important value, and it’s a key part of a much larger discussion about the impact of our life choices on our environment. (I work at a college that has a “Sustainability Fair” every year, dozens of tables, handouts, consciousness raising, the whole bit, but there’s still never any mention there about birth control, population control, etc., even though a vasectomy is worth 1000 solar panels.)

    To be fair and honest, though, it’s not the decisive argument for me. If we lived in a world where having a kid *helped* the environment, I still would not have a kid, because it’s not right for me.

    1. You know, that gets my goat! Whenever sustainability is mentioned, the childfree choice is almost *always* left out of the discussion — but it’s a hugely important aspect. Despite more societal acceptance of sustainable practices, like the growing tiny house movement, there doesn’t seem to be the same acceptance of not having children. Perhaps one day! Thanks for your comment, Scott.

    • Scott
    • November 19, 2018

    We should applaud everyone who makes a conscious decision to use fewer resources or tries to live a more sustainable life. “Not having any more children than you do already” is one of the biggest ways you can make life more sustainable.

    That being said, to be honest, I wouldn’t have children even if having children was GOOD for the environment. My decision about it has very little to do with saving the planet. I wouldn’t let environmentalism tell me one way or the other to be a parent, but I’m happy it reinforces my decision. : – )

    1. I can understand that. While I feel like the benefits to the planet are a great perk, it’s not what originally compelled me to be childfree.

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