1. Many baby carriers have only one ingredient–organic cotton. Those that use more materials in manufacturing usually only involve a few, maybe some metal rings and some plastic buckles. As far as the amount of resources used, they come out ahead of a stroller or car seat any day. Many carriers are also made of conventional cotton, so pay attention to what materials are used in your sling; conventional cotton is grown with a lot of pesticides and fertilizers. You can also find carriers made of bamboo and hemp; look for organic and sustainably grown textiles. For other materials, look for recycled metal and plastic.
2. Using a baby carrier encourages you to walk more. In fact, if you have a baby who’s attached enough to the carrier, you might find that you’ll hesitate to drive anywhere because taking your baby out of the sling is too stressful. I rarely drove anywhere till my daughter was a year old. If something was too far to walk to, I just didn’t go. (I really should have lost more weight with all that walking. But that’s a separate topic…)
3. Many carriers are made in the U.S., which means they use less crude oil for transporting from manufacturer to seller than items that are made overseas. Check where your sling is made–many of the more popular ones are manufactured overseas. However, even the ones manufactured overseas often use sustainable and socially responsible practices in their factories, so do your research.
4. No toxic ingredients. Some carriers do use artificial dyes, so check the ingredients! But it’s easy to find a sling with only natural materials: no toxic dyes, no chemicals, no fire retardants. Since your baby will probably chew on your carrier as well as ride in it, this is an important consideration for any health-conscious family.
5. Reusable. Unlike car seats, which you’re not supposed to buy used, and even strollers, which have more breakable parts, slings are eminently reusable by multiple owners. And used carriers are easy to find online–check out The Babywearer for a wide and ever-changing selection.
6. Easy to make yourself. Of course this isn’t true of all types of sling carriers; I don’t recommend making a soft structured carrier unless you know a lot more about sewing than I do. But I’m a terrible seamstress–I can barely sew a straight line, and I don’t even own a sewing machine (I borrow my mom’s), and I’ve made (and used!) a mei tai. There are only a few seams involved. As for a wrap, anybody can make one–you don’t technically have to sew at all. Ring slings and pouch slings are also easy for a beginner seamstress to make at home. And if you want an inexpensive, locally-made carrier but don’t want to make it yourself, check out my friend Amanda’s wonderfully affordable Ride with Momma wraps! I wear my 3.5 year old on my back in mine!
7. Easy to clean in an environmentally-friendly way. Unlike strollers and car seats, which can be difficult to clean, baby carriers just need to be thrown in the wash. Use a high-efficiency washer to reduce water use, and use biodegradable, eco-friendly detergents. My personal favorite? Make your own laundry soap out of soap nuts.