Prince Harry's climate concerns: How each child affects the planet - and ways to limit their carbon footprint

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Will Prince Harry and Meghan only have two children? [Photo: Getty]
Will Prince Harry and Meghan only have two children? [Photo: Getty]

The Duke of Sussex has revealed that he and Meghan will have “two children, maximum” to help protect the planet.

In an interview published in British Vogue’s September issue, and guest edited by his wife Meghan, Prince Harry discussed his views on the environment, climate change and responsibility.

“I’ve always thought: this place is borrowed,” he said. “And, surely, being as intelligent as we all are, or as evolved as we all are supposed to be, we should be able to leave something better behind for the next generation.”

How does having a child impact the environment?

It’s a well known fact that the number of people on our planet is increasing every day. Stats from the UN show that there are now more than 7.5 billion people on Earth, with that figure expected to rise by 30% to a population of nearly 9.8 billion people by 2050.

With the planet already strained environmentally it follows that bringing more people into the world is going to exacerbate the problem.

But exactly how much of an impact does having a child have on our carbon footprint?

Actually, quite a lot according to research released in 2017, which claimed that bringing a baby into the world is the most destructive thing a person can do to the environment.

Researchers from Lund University in Sweden found having one fewer child per family can save “an average of 58.6 tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions per year”.

That makes bringing a child into the world far more environmentally destructive than eating meat, driving a car or travelling by plane.

“A US family who chooses to have one fewer child would provide the same level of emissions reductions as 684 teenagers who choose to adopt comprehensive recycling for the rest of their lives,” the study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, revealed.

According to William Richardson, founder of Green Element, aside from bringing an extra person into the world, having a child impacts you environmentally because of the paraphernalia that you have to buy and the extra 'stuff' you need for children.

“Children need nappies, toys and different food,” he explains. “If you have more than two kids then maybe you will need a new vehicle. Life becomes more complicated and with that complication comes more choice with an environmental knock on effect.”

How much of an impact do children have on the environment? [Photo: Getty]
How much of an impact do children have on the environment? [Photo: Getty]

What can parents do to reduce a child’s carbon footprint?

Reusable nappies

Not only are disposable nappies purse-unfriendly, they’re pretty harmful to the environment too.

According to the 2008 life cycle analysis, by opting for reusable over disposable nappies, families could make up to a 40% carbon saving.

While, WRAP (the Government’s Waste & Resources Action Programme) estimates that households using cloth nappies reduce their household waste by up to half compared to those who use disposables.

As if those figures aren’t shocking enough, at the moment it is estimated that UK families send 355,000 tonnes of single use nappies to landfill and insinuation each year, costing Local Authorities (and tax payers) a whopping £32 million a year. They can also take up to 500 years to breakdown in landfill.

Still not convinced? Here’s five reasons to give them a rethink.

READ MORE: We're unintentionally consuming huge amounts of plastic - what's it doing to our bodies?

Re-use, recycle and repurpose

According to Richardson, it helps if parents are conscious of buying as little as possible new.

He suggests trying Facebook groups or Gumtree for baby and child toys and other paraphernalia.

“That will absolutely bring that carbon footprint down,” he says. “People talk about plastic being evil. But plastic does last and if you're using it and then passing or selling it on then that's a really positive way of reducing that carbon footprint.”

Rethink the food you give children

Richardson suggests giving children the food you eat, when appropriate.

“This means we’re not actually making additional food,” he explains. He also suggests encouraging children to eat everything on their plate and only giving children the amount of food you know they will eat.

Teach them to have an environmental conscience

Encouraging children to have an environmental stance from a young age will hopefully help reduce their carbon footprint in the future.

Simple tips like encouraging children to turn off the tap when they’re brushing their teeth will all help them to think about the impact their actions have on the environment.

READ MORE: People are confused about recycling, here's what you can and can't recycle

Miley Cyrus (pictured here with husband Liam Hemsworth at a Saint Laurent fashion show in June 2019) has concerns over the environmental impact of a child, too [Photo: Getty]
Miley Cyrus (pictured here with husband Liam Hemsworth at a Saint Laurent fashion show in June 2019) has concerns over the environmental impact of a child, too [Photo: Getty]

Miley Cyrus also has concerns over the impact of having children on the environment

Harry and Meghan aren’t the only couple who are considering the environment when it comes to making decisions about having children.

Miley Cyrus has also recently spoken out on the issue.

“Until I feel like my kid would live on an earth with fish in the water, I’m not bringing in another person to deal with that,” she told Elle.

She went on to say that millennials, like her, “don’t want to reproduce because we know that the earth can’t handle it.”

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