Why I Don’t Think Having Four Kids Is Un-Green

Today’s post is quite off-topic, and I hope you’ll forgive me for that. This post came about because when I read a guest post on My Zero Waste* the other day, I was inspired to respond to an assumption made at the outset of the article.

*(Mrs. Green of My Zero Waste would like for you to know that she did not pen this intro herself…it was written by the guest poster, who is the mom of four kids)

The introduction says, in part,

“Becky is a freelance writer and Mum of four children aged from fourteen to four. With the huge burden she has added to the planet she is hoping to offset this as much as possible and strive to learn more and live as “greenly’ as she can.

While I do indeed think that we need to tread lightly on the planet, I am not at all certain that four children are “a huge burden to the planet” and I’m going to share a few reasons today.

(I should note at the outset that in order to stay on topic, I’m only addressing the green/un-green aspect of having 4 kids. I have ideological and theological thoughts on the topic of family size as well, but they’re somewhat unrelated to the particular question at hand.)

1. A large household doesn’t necessarily use more energy.

Of course, a family of 6 does eat more food than a family of 3, and a family of 10 will need to have more laundry washed than a family of 4. However, in many cases, a family of 6 does not necessarily use twice as much energy as a family of 3.

Consider these examples.

A TV consumes the same amount of electricity if 6 people watch it as it does if 1 person watches it. A grill full of chicken uses just as much propane as a grill with two pieces on it. A pot of soup for 6 simmers for the same amount of time as a pot for 3. It costs as much to heat a home with 1 person in it as it does to heat a home with 6 people in it (our house is the same size as our neighbors’ homes, which have 1-3 people living in them). A bathtub of hot water costs the same if 1 kid bathes in it as it does if 3 bathe in it.

There are many more instances like these I could offer, but I’m sure you get the idea.

2. A large household doesn’t necessarily consume/throw away more kid-related items.

Think about it. A family with 1 child will probably buy the same baby/child related items that a family with 4 children will buy. The difference is that those items will get used 4 times.

Despite the fact that I have four kids, I’ve owned exactly one crib, one swing (secondhand), one bouncy seat (secondhand), and one high chair (ours actually just sat on top of a regular chair).

And though I have 4 kids, I have not had to purchase 4 wardrobes of clothes. My son is dressed primarily in hand-me-downs, which get handed down to my nephews. My girls wear mostly hand-me-downs as well, and their hand-me-downs get used three times before we hand them on to someone else.

The same thing is true for toys. I do not have to buy 4 times the amount of toys a family with 1 child has to buy. The same set of baby toys was used by all four kids. The same set of Duplos has been used (and is still used) by all four kids. The freecycled girls’ bike Lisey used is now being used by Sonia, and will be used by Zoe before it is freecycled again.

Even if I did buy new items for my children, I still wouldn’t be buying more than a family with one child would be buying…I would just be using the items 4 times before they were passed on.

3. Large households are often forced to live frugally, which often means living green.

Though this is not true across the board, it is often the case that large families have less disposable income. This means that we have to be more careful with our money, and that often means that we live in an environmentally friendly way. We buy food in bulk instead of in individual packages, we stay sort of close to home when we vacation instead of flying around the world, we cook at home, we don’t buy the latest and greatest of everything, we don’t buy enormous wardrobes for our kids, we can’t buy every new toy that comes out, and so on.

And on a personal note (I don’t know how true this is for other families), having four kids makes me drive less. My kids are well-behaved, but it is still kind of a production to get us all out of the house. I only leave when it’s necessary to do so and as a result, my van sits in my driveway most of the time.

4. Parents who care about the earth will likely raise children who care about the earth.

If people who want to be good stewards of the earth stop having children, or only have a few children, the odds of the next generation caring about the earth aren’t all that great. Of course, some people raised in un-green homes will decide to live in an earth-friendly way, but a more sure-fire way of producing a generation of responsible people is to grow them at home. My four children are immersed in our lifestyle, and they all know the benefits of buying secondhand, composting, recycling, freecycling, and reducing our consumption (ok, maybe Zoe is a little lost on the last one. But she is only 3.).

So, does family size matter?

It is entirely possible for a large family to produce mountains of trash and consume inordinate amounts of resources. What I’d like to point out, though, is that it is also entirely possible for a small family to produce more trash and consume more resources than a large family…I’ve seen many families smaller than ours who buy, consume, and throw away far more stuff and resources than we do.

In other words, having a small number of children in no way guarantees that you’ll leave a small impact on the earth, and having a large number of children doesn’t guarantee the converse. No, family size isn’t the issue…what matters more than the size of your family is the size of your commitment to being a good steward of the earth.


What do you think? I’d love to hear your perspective on this topic. Please remember to be polite to others as you discuss a topic that has the potential to make tempers flare. And I’d especially encourage my fellow Christians to be kind and thoughtful…it’s easy to be defensive about this, but instead, let’s be like Jesus. :)


  1. says

    I agree with you. I have three kids, and we reuse, recycle, and buy secondhand all of the time! I think having a big family might be considered a bad thing by some perople, because of overpopulation, but I don’t think it’s un-green. I’ve known families with just one child who NEVER reuse anything, who never cook at home, and who throw clothes away if they get a tiny stain on them. I know families of 7 or 8 who are like that as well.

  2. Merritt says

    Excellent points & my high school debate teacher would have been ever so impressed with your reasoning. It’s refreshing to hear those views on this topic as the commonly held belief in the UK is very similar to the author’s in the article you quoted. Well done!

  3. Theresa says

    Having raised 5 kids, 2 still at home, I echo Kristen’s sentiments. It does astonish me that the amount of trash we produce, even when everyone was home at Christmas, was less than many of our neighbors with smaller families. We have recycled clothes, bikes, toys, etc., initially of necessity because cash was hard to cough up, but now it is really a matter of lifestyle and preference. Now, if I could have figured out a way to bottle the noise they all produced and sell it…..nah, I’d rather have the joy!

  4. says

    I’m going to play a little devil’s advocate. If you feed your children meat, that increases carbon emissions hugely! BUT I do agree with your points. And I think that if you make a conscious effort to reduce, reuse, and recycle, you’re fine.

    I think that your family probably has less carbon emissions than say, a family of 3 that doesn’t do what you do. :)

    • Kristen says

      I do feed them meat. But I’d venture to guess that the six of us consume less meat altogether than many smaller households do, because we don’t eat a lot of it. :)

  5. Alison says

    Thank you so much for this! I get very frustrated by people who make blanket statements about people having “too many kids”. I feel like we use less resources than my DINK aunt and uncle who live in a 3000 sq ft McMansion. Having or not having kids really doesn’t make the huge difference in how you treat the planet. Though, in my case, it makes me MORE invested in treating it wisely because I want to leave it nice for my kids!

  6. Shannon says

    Kristen, I think you may be missing the implicit point of the assertion about large families being “ungreen” eventually your kids will have kids and then their kids will have kids. If your kids have an average of two kids and their kids have an average of two kids, you can see that your having four children has resulted in a lot more people using up the resources of this planet than if you had only two kids. Of course this assumes that your children will have kids, but that is likely given that they are being raised with 3 siblings each…

    • Kristen says

      I’d guess my children will have kids, because we are raising them to view children as a blessing from God. Who knows, though? Maybe they won’t get married, or maybe they won’t be able to have kids.

      And who knows? Perhaps one of my children will make a scientific breakthrough that will help to keep the earth healthy and beautiful. Sometimes people help the earth. :)

      • Barb from Iowa says

        When my husband and I were having children, was at the time of the “Population Bomb”. Lots of talk about responsibly only having 2 children who would theroetically replace you on the planet. I can’t remember anymore if we bought that line or if two just felt right for us, but now that I’m a grandma, I’m thrilled that my kids are having as many as they want! Personally now, I think it’s wonderful when Christian families have lots of kids. There is great potential for influencing the world for Jesus. (I know, not every child in a Christian family will necessarily follow Jesus, but the possibility is wonderful.

      • Pete says

        So what way do you want it? God or Science? Both are offered as an excuse to keep from thinking of the consequences of a large family. If you want a large family, consider adoption. Then you get what you want and are helping the society. You’re right about the planet surviving, but 9 billion people starts to have a quality of life consequence.

    • Sonjiatx says

      Maybe if all this procreation does happen, these wonderful, well educated, planet friendly people will fill in the population vacated by the aging baby boomer generation 40 years from now. We may be over-populated now, but not forever.

    • says

      Based on your argument, if each of Kristen’s kids have two kids, she has increased the population of the planet by exactly 2 people. Remember, when two parents have two children, the population is maintained, not expanded.

  7. Jessica says

    Making an assumption about the number of children Kristen’s children will have is pretty unscientific – one may choose to have none and one may choose to have 3, there is no way to know. The world is already below replacement people levels in many countries and with more education going to developing countries numbers are being reduced there dramatically as well. The point Kristen also made very well is that her children have been raised to be concerned and that in turn will affect how they live their lives – in a non-consumeristic way. Each of my sibling has a different number of children and the one with the most kids (3) produce the least waste while the one with one child has 2 rooms full of plastic toys.

    • Kristen says

      Nodding on the population part of that especially. And as can be seen in some European countries where the government is actually paying people to have kids, a falling population has its own set of problems.

      • Linzi says

        I believe it’s only a few countries in Europe giving incentives to residents of small rural villages to have children as governments have failed to lure young couples back to farming communities to raise families any other way. In most cases it’s not an overall fall in the country’s population that has brought about these payments but a desire of it’s youth to live a more modern way of life in cities and towns.
        My head says bringing more people into the world only adds to the drain on resources over the period of that persons life, but I would much rather a responsible family raise 4 ecologically minded children than someone that doesn’t care about theirs or their child’s impact on the world they live in. I am all for more responsible people in the world to overcome the burgeoning millions that just simple don’t care.

  8. says

    Can I just put my hand up and say that the part you quoted was NOT written by me – the author wrote her own bio and I simply posted it up.

    I make no judgement at all on the number of kids someone has and whether they are green or not. What would I know about a particular family’s lifestyle? There are many more things we could do as a family to be ‘green’ with just one child. I know a few child-less couples with a huge carbon footprint and I have a friend with 8 kids who are so green its unreal and totally inspiring.

    It’s all to do with lifestyle, not the number of people living in the house… Great post though; thanks for posting up and sharing your thoughts.

  9. Julie says

    I have 6 children. I think that having a large family makes me more aware of what we use. Waste not, want not. It is more expensive to have a large family, so we are careful of how much of everything; utilities, food, waste, clothing, gas for our van (we have a 12 passenger van), etc. Because we own a huge gas hog, carbon blueprint impression, we are careful about how many trips we can combine, etc.

    We are trying to be good stewards with what God has given us, and that includes our children!

  10. Linda says

    I don’t think you should even entertain the leftist crazies with an answer. They obviously worship the earth in place of God. What about being fruitful and multiplying? And we are to be stewards of this earth but not enslaved by it.
    I really think the person who asked this has major problems in how he or she looks at children. Sick really.

    • Kristen says

      Linda-Oh, no one asked this. A post author just assumed that her own children were a huge burden to the planet, that’s all.

      And while I definitely agree with you that we should not worship the earth, please do remember to be kind as you talk to/about people from other perspectives. You catch more flies with honey and all that. :)

      • says

        One might say that when an entire group of humans, people with names and faces and loved ones and friends and hobbies and jobs and hardships and joy, is cast as a huge, amorphous, nameless, faceless blob of a group with the harsh label “leftist crazies” it makes it difficult to have open conversations about our different but equally valid viewpoints.

        We all have to be here together, we may as well get to know one another and play nice, right? :)

  11. says

    This is a great post. I often think that my ultimate green contribution will be raising children who will be good citizens (recyclers, re-users, considerate of the earth and others– that’s just a short list of the characteristics I hope they will have!) when I am gone.

    Right now, we have 2 biological children and are hoping to adopt a third (and possibly a fourth) this year through the Department of Children and Families. In somewhat crass, indelicate terms, the children we will adopt are already here, using resources. We think it is more green to have them be part of our family! Not that having children is an ecological or environmental decision.

  12. Melissa says

    I am the adult daughter of very frugal parents, who learned their habits from their parents. I find that it is often difficult to be frugal with a household of one when it comes to food, food waste, electricity, etc. Honestly, if my mother (who still has four children at home) and I were to compare our monthly expenditures by category, it is likely that she would come in less than me with her clan of six and my clan of one.

    That being said, my mother gave me every skill necessary to be as frugal as her and should my current situation change, I can keep up with the best of them in frugality and efficiency.

    • danyel says

      i read your response and thought I’d offer a suggestion: Maybe co-housing, or a roommate is a viable option for you.

  13. says

    Green is the new red. It’s more a political agenda than about actually saving the planet (at least for the real hardcore ones.)

    My parents had five kids and maybe that killed a tree in Uganda but quite frankly I don’t care and neither should anyone else. We did produce a lot of garbage back in the day and I suppose we still do. We also are the masters of reusing stuff and finding uses for other people’s junk.

    • says

      I care about what happens in Uganda and am sorry to hear that you don’t. What happens there should concern us all. It’s not about being ‘red’ or ‘green’; it’s about being human.

      • says

        Battra, it’s your opinion that it’s more a political agenda, but I can assure you that for people who dedicate their professional lives to green work, who get undergraduate and graduate and doctoral degrees in environmental sciences, for people whose lives are directly affected by pollution, dirty water, de-forestation, top soil erosion etc., for people who volunteer their time and money to “green” causes it is most certainly not just a political agenda.

        I too care about what happens in Uganda, because this world is actually very small in terms of how local problems affect us globally nowadays. Just to clarify, I think one can be green and not believe in global warming. Because not believing in global warming doesn’t have anything to do with trash, or chemicals, or dirty air- Dallas, TX here- or dirty water, or degraded soil. One doesn’t have to have a political agenda to look around and realize that there are limited resources and there are lots of humans that need to be taken care of, and those limited resources are often not shared ethically or responsibly. I’m ok with being labeled “hard core”, but please don’t dismiss my hard work as a political agenda. It matters what we call things, and agenda is a word steeped in negative connotation.

        • says

          Environmentalism and the Green Movement are very much political. People get PHds and work professionally in other activist fields that are indeed very political. When AlGore goes around preaching how a tree is more important than curing cancer or the president of the United States claims in his campaign speeches that he will lower the ocean level, it’s political. As activism by its very nature is to change public policy it does indeed become a political agenda. When Treehugger posts an article entitled “6 Green Lessons We Can Learn from Communism” the agenda is pretty clear.

          • Sophia says

            I think you’re completely, and totally, missing my point. You seemed to be implying that the Green Movement was all about a political agenda, nothing more, nothing less, and my point was that REGARDLESS of your opinion as to whether or not the Green Movement is necessary the people within think it IS necessary, they believe it is important work that betters all humankind, that the situation is dire, and that the need to act is urgent.

            You reduced the genuine concern and sense of responsibility to a political agenda. You were taking your *subjective* opinion as to the motivations for the Green Movement, and what seems to be an opinion that it is unnecessary, and essentially washing away the sincerity and the conviction those in the movement have. That was my issue with the way you phrased your comment. It read like this “I think the Green Movement is a political agenda, so it is, that’s that”. I was simply trying to suggest to you that while you may think it’s a political agenda, and while you may think they care nothing about the planet- despite commiting their education, professional life, or at the very least volunteer time and monetary donations- perhaps you could take a step back and give them a little more credit than cynicism and judgment.

            Also, I’d be interested in links to where Al Gore was quoted as saying saving trees is more important than curing cancer. Because I’m pretty sure he never said that. And if you spend any amount of time on TreeHugger you would understand the tongue in cheek nature of a lot of their articles. To me that article was clearly named thus because most people have a negative view of Communism, and so it was eyecatching to combine Communism not only with something good, but with something green. However, I have less of an axe to grind and less of a tendency to jump to negative conclusionos regarding the green movement, so I can understand how this was more negative to you than to me. I would say, however, that one article does not a movement make, and it certainly doesn’t define the movement.

  14. Gail says


    Thanks for posting your thoughts on how having a larger family does not mean you can’t be good stewards of the earth and live green. The poster who commented on your children adding more children to the world, needs to realized that they have been taught how to be green, recycle and reuse, and not to be over burdened with
    “stuff”, and materialism. Your children are well educated, not only in academics, but in real life which will make them better people compared to a family with one or two children that live in a McMansion, with all the material stuff, latest electonic gadjetry, a television in every room, etc.

    I hope many people will read your post today and get a “real Life” perspective on living green and the contributions your children will make to this world. Your family
    is a very good model, especially in today’s society of unrest and chaos. I can only hope people will open their eyes and follow your example.

    It is like a breath of fresh air to read your blog daily. Keep up the good work!

  15. says

    I have 4 children and my husband and I always get comments about it, our personal favorite was from an 88 year old woman at the market who asked us if we just didn’t know when to stop…. We just consider it rude and ignorant, or perhaps in tune with the life that they chose to live. We are never surprised, however, when we are asked for financial advice by families that are smaller than ours…and at the end of the day, our observation and advice are always the same — you are living beyond your means, spend less than you make. It’s all about personal choice, our children (ages – 2 (twins), 3 and 6) are so wonderful and bring such great joy to our lives! Too many folks are worried about what others do, they should just focus on themselves.

  16. Shannon says

    Gail – let me respond to your comment. My point is this – there is an inescapable conclusion here – regardless of how well children are taught to live etc, having more children is NOT green. If you are running a “green analysis” of having children, you have to run it all the way – to the time when they move out, and when they get married and when they have their own kids. More people will ALWAYS use more resources and therefore be less green.

    I am not making a value judgment here – each person should have as many children as they want and can raise well. The point simply is whether having 3 or 4 children is as “green” as having 1 or 2 children.

    • says

      I think using a term a subjective as “green” is part of the problem. What is “green.” And can it be quantified? I know what it means when people throw it around in popular culture, but it’s not a scientific term.

      • says

        Sustainable might have been a better word. For every couple to have four children would not be sustainable, but then again not every couple will have four children. Some will have six and some will have none at all. It’s national or global figures that are important. Where you live is also significant. Developed countries may be relatively underpopulated but their inhabitants leave a larger global footprint.

  17. says

    Given the finite resources of the planet and the increasing claims made on them it is obvious that the earth cannot sustain an unregulated growth in population. ‘Green’ people may very well consume less resources but they still consume their share.

    While it would be totally wrong to criticise individuals for the size of their families I do believe that, in the light of climate change and peak oil, all of us need to reexamine our lifestyle and take responsibility for our actions, if not for our sakes then for the sake of those children.

    • Kristen says

      While I’m not as educated on the issue of overpopulation as many other people out there, I do want to point out that in many, many regions of the world, populations are NOT growing. People are simply not even replacing themselves in many cases, so I’m not even remotely concerned about overpopulating the earth with my 4 kids.

      • says

        You’re quite right. The world population growth rate has falled from 2 to 1.3 per cent, but it wont stabilise until 2200 by which time it will have hit 10 billion (4 billion over its current level).

        I repeat that I make no criticism of your decision to have 4 children. It is a personal choice and, from my reading of your blog, it is obvious that you are someone who treads as lightly as you can on the earth. However I am shocked by some of the comments which seem to suggest that we have carte blanche to live as we please with little regard for the consequences, or that as long as we are doing better than ‘other people’ we’re alright. Our lifestyles have a profound impact on the rest of the world and we would do well to remember this.

        While some might think it foolish of you to have blogged on this subject, I think you have been very brave and I am fascinated by the discussion it has provoked.

  18. says

    What a lovely post, Kristen. I’d never seen the issue explained this way before. My husband is adamantly against having more than two children because of overpopulation. I don’t necessarily WANT more than two kids, but I’ve never fully “bought” his argument. Who says our children will go on to have children of their own? Who says our family would be using many more resources than a smaller family? I know each person comes with their own environmental footprint–but I think it’s worth examining that footprint on the basis of behavior as well.

  19. WilliamB says

    Sticking to the topic of the greenness of children:

    I take a very long view of this – not this week or this year or even this decade, but forever. On that scale, having children is not green. Children consume energy, need stuff, need food, travel, breathe. But that’s not the most important issue to me. To me, the most important issue is that children generally go on to have more children. The most extragavent childless person will eventually die and cease his ungreen activities. Once someome has child/ren, the consumption cycle is perpetuated. One can mitigate the ungreeness by raising one’s children greenly and by teaching them how to do the same. But the effect of having more or fewer children this generation is swamped by the centuries-long effect of having any at all.

    Now remember, I’m adhering to the assigned subject of greenness and having children. No one’s asked me if people should have children, why they should have children, or how to bring them up.

    • Kristen says

      I just approved it. I have noo idea why that one went into moderation and this one didn’t!

      I turn my computer off after I post in the morning and I don’t come back to it until our homeschooling is done, so it took me until now to approve it. Sorry for the delay. And nope, I’m not offended. :)

  20. Jessica says

    If we argue about how many chilren to have, the ultimate answer is people should just stop having children and without humans the earth will be much better off. Since that isn’t going to happen by choice for everyone on the planet to agree to end the human population then the point should be making each family as ‘green’ as possible regardless of size. Green in practice not just political spoutings.

    • Shannon says

      That’s not the point I was making. The point is that IF you want to figure out how how green having children is, you have to consider the entire lifecycle. Nothing more, nothing less.

    • Kristen says

      Yeah, I suppose I should have clarified that I wasn’t arguing that 4 children are just as green as 0 children. I was thinking more along the lines that 4 children are not four times as burdensome to the earth as 1 child, if that makes sense.

  21. says

    I highly encourage you to read this article. http://www.davidrhenderson.com/articles/0698_inmemoriamjuliansimon.html

    It highlights economist Julian Simon’s work on just this subject, only on a much larger scale. Here’s an excerpt:

    “He believed that having more people on earth was good. People–their skills, spirits, and hopes–are the ultimate resource, Simon claimed. He came to these beliefs after years of research, and his writings are filled with the evidence that convinced him.”

    The article goes on to say that as the world population grows resources do not become more scarce, but rather less scarce. It also talks about how though he was continually opposed in his views, mocked even, the research continued to show that he was correct in his views that population growth is not a bad thing.

    I really appreciate articles like this… not everything that is popular is right. In fact, I tend to be skeptical of most popular trends… apparently with good reason. :)

  22. says

    I completely agree with you. You are right and I can’t wait to have my own little family and nieces and nephews to hand-me-down things to.

  23. says

    Shannon—We all understand your point. There’s no need to constantly reiterate it. If you wanted to look at it this way, everyone is technically “ungreen” or not as “green as possible.” (I hate the term green for this…).

    Do you indulge in things that aren’t necessarily organic? That are prepackaged? Individually wrapped? Do you take vacations? Do you drive to a store and buy things that aren’t second hand? Do you buy paper napkins, paper towels, triple-ply toilet paper, etc?

    Then we could say the same about you—that your lifestyle is not green and therefore you are contributing to horrible toxins on the earth. That’s not what this post is about.

    The post is about instilling behaviors in families so everyone can make wiser decisions. It’s not about putting a limit on the number of children a couple is allowed to have.

    Kristen did a phenomenal job describing her reasoning behind it, and I think we should contemplate some of the things she’s said rather than criticizing using our reproductive rights. (I’m sure you’ve got even more to say on the Duggar family—but those kids are more well-behaved and earth-conscious than any I know!)

    • Shannon says

      The reason I am constantly reiterating my point is b/c you still haven’t gotten it! I am not making a value judgment about having four kids and yes I indulge in non-organic things all the time. Personally, I’m not a big believer in being green.

      My point was how is “greeness” to be measured. It must be measured through the entire life cycle, not just when children are living with their parents.

  24. says

    I would have to agree that having 4 children does not neccessary mean less green. I have one child currently, but I notice ungreen things about having a smaller family. First, when we cook we are more likely to have left overs that do not get eaten. We are more likely to eat out than a larger family. I would think that eating at home would be more green due to less packing etc… compared to eating out.

    One would think income that families have actually could effect how green someone is. If you have a higher income, you may be more likely to be less green. You can afford to take longer shower, eat out, drive around from one location to another.
    Larger homes, or buying items more often than you need, just to have the latest and the greatest could be less green. Taking vacations , or having two or more homes could be less green. Of course, if you have a lower income, you may not be able to afford more greener options like someone of a higher income.

    I think there is so many factors, it really boils down to how frugal people are in their lives. It’s personal choices that determine how green you are or can be within your means. Blogs like yours can help people be informed on greener options. Education in how to be green is important. It depends on the person / family on how , if, and when they apply it.

  25. says

    Haven’t had time to read all the replies, but I agree with you. Most large families I know consume less than most small families I know. There are exceptions galore, I’m sure, but in my circle of acquaintance, nearly all of us decorate our homes with thrifted and garage sale finds, eat frugally, and rely on hand-me-down and secondhand clothing. I find that families with fewer children have more to spend per child, and therefore squander a lot more resources because they don’t have to be as careful.

    As for the meat issue which I spotted…regular feed lots consume huge amounts of resources, but sustainable farms do not. My parents raise a cow for us each year. The cost is…Grass from pasture-virtually $0 (other than property taxes…their farm is paid for since they live below their means and don’t believe in debt; the only other expense may be a truckload of manure from a local farm to fertilize)…Water from a small rain-fed pond–$0…

    They do not slaughter themselves, so there is the cost/environmental impact of gas to take the cow 30 minutes to the packing house, and the cost of packing. Of course a packing house will use some electricity and resources, but it’s a minimal impact on the environment because they are packing locally raised animals and locally harvested wildlife.

    So eating meat does not necessarily mean more resources are consumed; it depends on where the meat comes from and how it’s raised.

  26. says

    Thanks for a voice of reason on the topic.

    I have to smile at the reasoning of the original person quoted (about children not being green). It is true that PEOPLE in general will use up the resources of the earth. The problem is, it is all related to our theology. If we believe that God has it all under control, then we really won’t spend much time worrying about whether our 4 children (or 5 in my case) will make the planet overpopulated…

    I figure if we actually “produce” law abiding, productive citizens…let em reproduce! We need to outnumber those who are sitting around with their hands out for a handout. Otherwise, it won’t work! I’m not really worried about overpopulation in our part of the world.

    The ultra environmentalists would rather have no people and all animals as they (probably) believe happened originally as in the theory of evolution.

    We all do many things that aren’t green all the time. How does one live without doing something/wearing something, eating something that someone else wouldn’t consider environmentally responsible?

    Why is taking a vacation “ungreen” anyway? Setting up a tent and sleeping under the stars is somehow bad for the environment?

    I also try to recycle, reuse. I know that with 5 kids, I have reused almost everything–from toys to clothes to car seats. And when my kids are done things with things,we find others to give them to unless they are junk. We set our thermostats cooler in the winter than most of the Polish people who live around here…and some of them crack their windows open in the winter while the heat is running (to let in some fresh air)! To me that is a terrible waste of energy. I’ve been surprised. I’m making scrap quilts now. I’ve cut up jeans with holes in them after my kids outgrow them to make quilts. I am convinced that larger families, unless “money is no object” will naturally be “greener” than a smaller family that doesn’t even bat an eyelash at throwing away something useful.

    Anyway, good job, Kristen. You spoke out for a lot of us.

    • staciokas says

      If you are serious about God having it under control, so we don’t have to do our part, then I assume you don’t believe in reproductive technology that assists folks in having children—since it is obviously God’s will that they not have children we should leave it all alone.

  27. says

    I totally agree with you having raised 3 stepsons and now my own 2 children. Unfortunatly we wern’t so “green” raising the first 3. I see many families in my neighborhood who are very wasteful with only 1-2 children. Don’;t tell my husband – but i would love to have any 1-2 children, especially living the way we are now – green and frugal!

  28. says

    I agree with you. Right now I only have one child, but so far, we’ve used hand me down clothes from his cousin, and clothes bought at a yard sale (I do occasionally buy new clothes on clearance – that is my weakness.) I do plan on reusing all the items we buy on future children. It is about attitude though, if you want to live green you can with a large family.
    However there are some places that are easier to live green. We just moved from a city that encourages green living to a rural place that is not so concerned with green living (ie. baggers in the grocery store look at me weird when I give them my reusable shopping bags.) In the city we were able to pay a little extra (about $3-7) per month to have renewable energy for our electric bill. Here we do not have that option. They also do not really recycle out here, there is only one place to drop off paper and pop cans to be recycled within 50 miles. Living green is just simply harder in some areas, but we do what we can.

  29. says

    I consumed *a lot* more resources as a single girl, living on pizza, freezer meals and driving to the store every day and shopping all the time than I do now as a mom of two kids, enlightened to the importance of thrift and stewardship. In fact our family now produces about a quarter the trash I produced on my own before marriage and kids. I think the size of a person’s family is just a personal choice, and as long as the parents can fund and sustain the kids without being wasteful it’s fine. I always find this debate to be a little weird because those opposed to larger families are just lumping individuals together in a group and creating “straw families” out of them, instead of looking at each and every individual. I mean, a thrifty, environmental family of six is going to have less of an impact than a family of four that eats out of drive-thru’s and goes shopping for new stuff three times a week.

  30. Amanda says

    Kristen, thank you for your post and pointing out that “green” isn’t always a direct result over how many children you have.

    I have a hard time with this subject and reading all the comments. The reason I have a hard time is because I want to turn this in to a moral/ethical topic. Who are we to decide how many people or creatures inhabit the Earth and make a “footprint”? I, and my children, can make a “carbon footprint” but at the same time my children could grow up and leave a “great footprint” that could define and change history. So who is the person to determine if the un-green out weights the green? Also, should I stop having children, to preserve our Earth, and make room so the uneducated unprotected drug addict can have hers? (Sorry to anyone that offends but they are out there…)

    I think the problem with green and population doesn’t lie with everyone that commented here or those that think about the subject. It is with those that don’t think about it and aren’t concerned.

    I am a believer in God and feel the population will take care of itself. If we over populate things happen to control the population naturally. If God wanted us here forever He will make things available to adapt and save ourselves.

    • WilliamB says

      “God helps them who help themselves.”

      I don’t think pushing the responsibility back onto God is the right choice, given that God gave us the ability to be responsible in the first place.

  31. Michelle says

    I also have 4 kids, ages 9-17. I read that quote to my teenagers and asked them what they thought. My 17-year old said, “No, it’s better to teach your kids to live responsibly than to not have them in the first place. Having more people on the earth taking care of it is better than having less people on the earth.”

    The one area where having a large family is less green is that I pretty much have to take my minivan to buy a week’s worth of groceries. But honestly, even if I didn’t have any kids, I’d probably still drive.

  32. Toni says

    Freckles, that was my immediate thought – where does one draw the line? If four kids is “okay”, how about six, ten… eighteen? I find it difficult to believe there is a rational argument that 18 children from one set of parents will not negatively impact the earth, especially when they themselves begin “multiplying.”

    • Kristen says

      That’s a difficult question, but I don’t think it’s one that is particularly important, given that very few people will undertake the task of raising 18 children! Families like the Duggars are very much the exception and not the rule, and there are plenty of DINKs to balance them out.

      Heck, I get lots of stares and questions and I only have four, which makes me think that even families the size of mine are not at all the norm.

      • says

        4 children isn’t the norm any more, Kristen. I have 5 and that is considered quite large by most. I still contend that raising responsible children to be productive, law abiding citizens (even 18) is fine. IMO, the “more the better” if you are actually going to do a good job. People who lose interest in their children, or grow tired of training/disciplining before the kids grow up, would be better off not having them.

        It is difficult to separate a person’s beliefs on this topic from one’s theological ideologies. That’s why I didn’t respond to a previous poster about it–it could get completely off topic.

  33. says

    I think a lot of concerns about resource allocation are unfounded. I was speaking to my math/ economics smarty pants husband about this and he had a really valid point…

    “It is almost impossible for us to “run out” of a resource. If a resource
    truly becomes scarce it’s price will rise to a point where alternatives
    become a better option, and people have incentive to innovate and find
    different ways of doing things. For example, if we started running out
    of the type of oil they make gasoline out of, the price would eventually
    go up to the point where natural gas/battery power etc. would be a more
    economical fuel for cars… Which would eliminate the need for gas
    before we ran out. Also, more resources would be devoted to finding
    alternatives and perhaps an extremely cheap alternative that hadn’t been
    thought of before might be developed.”

    Should we be responsible with our resources? Yes. Definitely. It’s wise on a micro and macro level. But I don’t think we should be consumed with worry that the earth’s population will explode to the point where we’re Mad Max-ing it. The market is a far more reliable regulator of resource allocation than we could ever be. There is a lot of fear mongering on this issue out there. Well, there’s a lot of fear mongering on every issue out there. Not all of the arguments are valid.

    The question of whether having kids is “green” I think represents only the “consumer of resources” side of the issue. What about the amazing innovations these kids may end up producing as they grow up into responsible adults? Maybe they become scientists, or doctors, or invent a new way of doing business that reduces pollution far more than any footprint they or even thousands others have individually. It’s the potential for contribution to society in positive ways that is amazingly undervalued when population control discussions begin. I don’t even have kids and I think that’s a shame.

    • Sophia says

      I could see how this would be true to a point, but a few things…I’d be interested in your thoughts on peak oil, and on recent reports that the oil reserves are grossly inflated. There was quite a dustup about 6 months ago I believe, but I can’t remember exactly when..

      Also, what about resources for which there isn’t a good alternative- clean air, clean water?

  34. casey says

    Wow, look at the can of worms you opened Kristen. :D

    Having 6 kids, I agree with the point you’re making. Lifestyle choices have a significant impact.

    Next week lets look at how kids add to noise pollution! :P

  35. Wanda says

    I love this post!!! Personally I do not see how a “large” family is un-green? I know people that probalby make more waste. Your points are spot on and I applaud you!! I suspect your children will care for the Earth the way you do because they have learned from you.

  36. says


    This is one of the best posts I have read on your blog yet. I completely agree with your argument. The members of your family have very small footprints. There are families in my area where 3 people occupy a 5000+ square foot house. I would imagine one of those families has a much larger footprint than yours.

    Keep up the great work!

  37. says

    I have a lot of people ask me when I’m going to “Try for a boy.” I mean, I already have 3 kids, they just happen to be all girls! Now my standard response is, “Well I don’t have a husband anymore, so there’s no man around to get me pregnant with that boy I so fervently wish I could have.” That usually sends them on their way.:P Honestly, either you’re judged for having too many kids, not enough kids, or kids of the “wrong” gender!

    • Kristen says

      That’s the truth, isn’t it? You can’t please everyone.

      One woman in the grocery store informed me oh, so tactfully that I should “keep my leg shut next time”, as though I was the sort of woman who sleeps with every man who happens along (if only she knew I’ve been married to the same man for 12 years, and that this man happens to have been the only man I ever even dated! lol).

    • WilliamB says

      Too bad it’s so hard to develop the ability to burst into tears and run from the room. That really shuts up people asking rude questions like that.

      • Kristen says

        I was completely dumbfounded when she said that, and I think I mumbled something about how we were done with four. And it wasn’t until later that I came up with a bunch of delightfully snarky retorts. Oh well.

        • says

          A pot bellied man (really big–probably a beer belly) made some snide comment about my size when I was at the end of one of my pregnancies. I was so taken back, I didn’t say anything, but later I realized I could have said, “At least I have a reason for my belly!”

  38. Conor says

    Yikes! Kristen, what a poor post on your part. No definition of green, poor logic (“A pot of soup for 6 simmers for the same amount of time as a pot for 3.” If you double the amount of food you cook you double the amount of energy needed to cook it. Science.) and general rambling about God.

    Why couldn’t you have adopted children? There are plenty of kids wasting away in foster care and orphanages who will end up on the streets and in prison while you make excuses via God and the Bible. Funny how your religion keeps trying to destroy my right to get married to my boyfriend and yet we’ve adopted 2 beautiful children that straight “Christians” don’t want. If you say it’s a choice, then you’re right – you chose to have your own kids, knowing that there are children out there who need you more, and then you try to hide behind Jesus to justify it. Horrific.

    • Kristen says

      I’m going to start my response with “yikes” too. ;) I’m sorry that my post has been so upsetting to you, though.

      I didn’t define green because I was operating under the assumption that we’re all fairly familiar with what that means in this kind of context.

      Does it indeed take twice as much energy to simmer 6 cups of liquid for 3 hours as it does to simmer 3 cups of liquid for 3 hours? If it does, I stand corrected.

      I think adoption is a great idea, and I wouldn’t be opposed to it myself. In fact, I don’t know of any Christians who ARE opposed to it. A family from my small church just adopted an orphaned baby from Ethiopia…I took pictures of their family for their dossier, and I think what they are doing is great!

      I don’t really want to delve into the reasons behind our choice to have our children because that’s more personal that I care to get at this point.

      I am sort of wondering where you saw the general rambling about God in this post…I think I only mentioned the word “theological” and then I edited the post later to encourage my fellow Christians to be like Jesus as they interact in the comments.

      • Erika says

        My last company actually had an adoption assistance program! I’m not sure of all the details, but I belive that you would get up to $10,000 in assistance from the company to help you adopt. I think that was very charitable of them :)

        • Kristen says

          Oh wow! That’s really awesome, because it is a daunting task to come up with the money necessary for adoption.

    • WilliamB says

      Conor, please identify the phases you think Kristen is using God and the Bible to justify her kids. Also please identify why you think _Kristen_ is against gay marriage. I’m not seeing these in her post(s); if that’s there, I want to know about it.

      WilliamB, whose stance on marriage is quite unusual

  39. Erika says

    Wow, this really became a hot topic! I read this post this morning and there were 16 comments, and now there are 66! I read through many of the comments and then started to skim. Here’s my opinion, for what it’s worth.

    I agree with Kristen that having 4 kids is not 4x as much of an environmental impact as having 1 child. However, I am not very happy that so many people are making judgement in the other direction.

    1. Having 1 child doesn’t automatically make you less green and mean you care less about the planet. Now, I’m sure that’s not the intention, but that’s how it’s coming off. I was an only child and my parents instilled the importance of recycling, being kind to the earth, using second-hand items, etc.
    2. Just because you don’t have many kids, it doesn’t mean you are not using your resources as much as they can be used. Meaning, just because you may buy clothing for your one child and you don’t have other children to pass the clothes on to, does not mean you are throwing them away. I have always donated all of my used clothing to friends or charity!

    I think the importance of all of this is regardless of the number of children you have, we should ALL be concerned about being green and caring for our planet! For the original author, if having children is her incentive to try her hardest to be green, then great! I don’t particularly care what people’s motivations are, I am more concerned about the positive outcome!

    • Kristen says

      Erika, I agree. People with 1 child are not necessarily wasteful! Mrs. Green has one child, after all, and she is WAY more green than I am. :)

  40. says

    Great post! I think Mrs. Green should link to it.

    I am married with no children, and not religious. I would describe myself as a humanist. And I think this is the kind of topic that pits people against each other.

    Kristen, you make many excellent points. In my opinion, the main issue is not how many children are in the family, but the lifestyle of the family. One family with just two kids, a McMansion, a couple of SUVs and countless clothes and toys would be living a lot less green than you with your four children.

    • Kristen says

      Yes, like a lot of other topics, it does sort of pit one side against the other, but I think it is quite possible to disagree without being disagreeable, and most of the commenters today have done an admirable job of that, I think.

  41. says

    After reading this post and the comments all I can think about is the economy of scale lesson from my Econ class in college and margins of productivity.

    The only conclusion I can come to is that when it comes to the # of kids you have being green is less important then questions like “do we make enough money to provide for them as need/we would like to?”, “are we healthy enough to keep up with kids/ is the potential mom healthy enough to have a good pregnancy?”, “what genetic things do we know we might pass on to our child and how would that effect their life? are we ok with that?”, etc. because unless you have good answers for all of those kind of questions then green or not green is a mot point.

  42. Conor says

    Given that this is a blog about you and your personal life, why suddenly decide not to share why you have so many kids of your own when you have the resources to adopt children who will now almost certainly go parentless? By having your own child you are essentially displacing a home for one who is already born.

    There is no medical reason for having multiple children and the only social ones I’ve heard – apart from “I want lots of babies” – are religious; quiverful etc. So I presume yours are religious. I could well be wrong, but it sounds like that might be where you’re coming from. If it is, you should just be honest instead of denying JC. Rooster crowing 3 times and all that jazz.

    Disappointing that you can divorce supposed frugality and morality from the real-life neglect of children that is caused by our foster/adoption system. “Christians” are perpetually declaring their desire to live like Jesus and I reckon Jesus would have wanted people to adopt orphans and unwanted children before procreating. If people want fewer abortions, they should start adopting some kids. And yet they won’t. Some would call it selfishness, which sounds sinful to me…

    • Kristen says

      Actually, it’s mostly a blog about saving money, and doing so cheerfully. :) And I felt like I didn’t want to share about the particulars of my children’s conception because, well, that’s kind of personal. I don’t exactly want to explain to you how each child happened to get here, although I will tell you that at LEAST one of mine came into being despite very ardent efforts on our part to keep from getting pregnant.

      I have very dreadful pregnancies (hyperemesis 4 times over, if you’d like to know), and I didn’t do that four times on purpose, trust me. And I am not a quiver-full sort of person…I don’t think birth control is wrong, and I don’t feel like it was my moral responsibility to have 4 children. It is what happened, and I am thankful to have the children that I do. If God sees fit to lead us to adopt in the future, I’ll gladly do that too.

      It sounds like you have a large chip on your shoulder towards Christians, and I am sorry for whatever experiences have made you feel that way. I do think that you are operating off of a lot of assumptions about me, though, and I wish you’d take the time to understand me and what I believe before firing off comments like the two you’ve shared here today. How do you even know where I stand on gay marriage? (I think you might be surprised if you knew.)

      • Conor says

        Sorry to hear about your bad pregnancies. I apologise for presuming you had motives other than being a good (albeit surprised) mother – from your previous posts I know you are an exceptional person and in fact someone I try to emulate in my own life. I am sorry for being insensitive and rude. I guess I got my wires crossed and should have taken a minute to think before I posted.

        I am normally very careful not to offend and don’t particularly care what religion people follow, so long as they don’t use phrases such as “If God sees fit to lead us to adopt in the future, I’ll gladly do that too.” That is like me saying “If Santa Claus sees fit for me to tell the truth in the future, I’ll gladly do that too.” We have personal responsibility to do what we do and can’t depend on someone/something which may or may not exist to supposedly direct us. I’ll happily admit that any mistakes I make are of my own doing and not because a supreme being “works in mysterious ways”. I don’t have a chip on my shoulder against anyone, just find it frustrating to read comments about real-life matters that are shielded in mythical language.

        Unfortunately by labelling yourself Christian you almost certainly are against gay marriage. Catholics, Baptists, Lutherans, Anglicans/Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, SDAs, Mormons… all pretty much dead set against the gays. Your book of reference has quite a few quotes saying how evil we are, so apologies if I’m mistaken. Hard to know which parts you choose to believe and which you don’t. When I read a science textbook, I wouldn’t ignore random pages that don’t sound good to me, so I just figured you would feel the same about a book that you hold to be divinely inspired.

        If you don’t want people to question your religion, you really shouldn’t mention it in your public blog. Equally, if you don’t want people to question the size of your family, you shouldn’t try to justify its greenness.

        • Kristen says

          Oh, I don’t mind people questioning my faith or commenting on the size of my family…that’s totally fine. I know that I’m opening myself up to that by blogging. I would just prefer that when people question and comment that they treat me the same way that I treat them. It’s much easier to discuss things when we are not presumptive or unkind. :) And your apology is accepted.

          On the adoption issue, I would offer up that there are other ways to help people in need, and that I don’t think everyone on earth is obligated to help in the form of adoption. I didn’t know a lot about adoption before I became a mother. If I had to go back, perhaps I would choose to adopt…I don’t know. But as it stands now, my four children are here, and my husband and I currently feel like the four we have are about all we can handle financially and otherwise (I am not one to think I could do a great job of parenting 18 children, and I’d rather parent a few well than many poorly).

          I’ll try to send you an email later today explaining my thoughts on gay marriage, not because I am ashamed of what I believe but just because I don’t want to get off onto another potentially divisive and off-topic discussion here.

        • WilliamB says

          I agree that people who label themselves Christian are less likely to support gay rights, but that’s not the same as saying they’re “almost certainly are against gay marriage.” Maybe you’re agglomerating official doctrine with individual opinions.

          BTW, you left out Quakers. I mention them because I don’t know of a single Quaker who is against gay marriage and I know a lot of Quakers.

          • Sophia says

            Ah yes, Quakers! I consider myself a Quaker even though I don’t attend meetings. I’m always blown away by how they stood up against slavery, stood up for women’s rights, were pacifists, etc. when pretty much no one was supporting any of those things.

        • says

          Conor, it sounds like you’re asking that every potential belief someone has should be catered to you, but hiding under the guise of trying to be openminded. You say you don’t care what religion someone follows so long as they don’t talk about it – that kind of means you DO care what religion people follow. Your Santa Clause analogy is a poor one at best. Beliefs are not supposed to be realistic, non-mythical, or unmysterious. If someone wants to say something about God, they’re allowed to. If someone wants to worship pinecones and say that’s how they base their life decisions, they’re allowed to. As unfortunate as it is, real life is sometimes frustrating, particularly when we’re trying to communicate our beliefs to others.

          I’m not bringing this up to create an argument, but hopefully to point out that some of what you said is kind of offensive, even though you say you’re trying not to offend. Your decision to group all religious people into the category of “against gay marriage” (or some other exclusive belief based on the Bible) is particularly troubling to me. People have contradictory beliefs sometimes; people ARE contradictions sometimes. You are being fairly hypocritical here. You are saying “all of these religious people are against gay people, and that’s wrong.” But you’re also saying “all of you religious people run your lives exactly the way the Bible says you should.” I believe both are inaccurate, and I definitely believe both are wrong.

          Just to put some perspective here – I am not even remotely religious, I am an extremely liberal person (even by some liberal standards), and I often get frustrated with conservative, religious beliefs. I do have sympathy and understanding for your argument – but I don’t think that by attacking people’s beliefs, even if you think they’re attacking yours (which, as a side note, I do not think is happening here), is a good way to solve any problem. This is just finger-pointing and trying to fight fire with fire. I think that both sides of many issues out there could be a lot nicer to each other, and definitely a lot more understanding and receptive to other people’s feelings.

    • Lauren says

      I have been reading this blog for the past month and have really enjoyed what you have done with it, Kristen. This is the first time I have really been moved to leave a comment, though.
      In regards to Conor’s antagonistic comments, if he has read any of your other posts he will have seen that you are unapologetic about your faith, but that you do not wish to push that faith upon others. While it is the belief of most Christians to herd more sheep in to the flock, I see you doing so through a very commendable example instead of hollow words with no action behind them.
      That being said, it is a personal choice to have as many children as you want and that choice, (just like the choice to terminate an unwanted pregnancy) should not be dictated by someone else. It is a wonderful thing to adopt children, if you can afford it and be approved. I hope, Conor, that it is your intention to adopt if you have not done so already and that you will be successful in your endeavor.
      Kristen, we are reading your blog because we wish to lead a frugal lifestyle which consequently lends itself to better stewardship of resources. If we would all live as frugally (children or no) we would lessen the impact we make upon the earth.

    • Alison says

      Actually, multiple children do generally help a woman’s ovarian cancer risk, and if she breastfeeds, it greatly helps her breast cancer risk, so there ARE medical reasons to have multiple children. I doubt that’s the primary reason most families have, but it IS an added benefit to the mother.

  43. Dylan says

    What a fascinating topic, Kristen. I’ve really enjoyed reading your thoughts on the subject, and the comments for other points of view.

    I think it boils down to lifestyle choices, rather than the number of children you have. 1 wasteful person *can* be worse than 6 frugal people combined. It doesn’t have to be, but that’s where the choice comes in. :)

  44. tidee says

    excellent post kristen and great response to the pregnancy remark. my wife and i tried various birth control methods… and we still ended up with three sweet kids that have been the joy of my life.

    i think you do a great job focusing on living simply and leaving the smallest carbon impact you can on our planet.

  45. says

    Kristen, don’t defend yourself to that guy. He’s just a hater who resents his generic view of your lifestyle. I’ve had people comment on my blog and say that I’m a leech on society, because the government pays for me to go to college, I get tax credits, and I’m on the WIC program. Apparantly It’s my fault that my husband decided to go and sleep with every primate on Earth who would sit still for it. The only people who should have to explain anything, are people who have 4 kids and then don’t want to take care of them. You obvieously take care of yours…Who cares what that guy thinks. He’s probably just a garden variety gay man who hates all “breeders.”
    And before he freaks out again, know that I’m not gay bashing, I’m hater bashing.

    • staciokas says

      If you are not gay bashing, then why the gratuitous insult to gays instead of a gratuitous one about hater bashing?

          • Conor says

            In fairness, I was being fairly antagonistic and my comments on gay marriage were a bit tangential. That said, I hope people realise that most gays and lesbians have no problem with straight people having kids. Some do, but certainly not the garden variety gay man, who is actually likely to want kids himself! :)

    • WilliamB says

      It occurs to me that people get pretty worked up about BBQ (especially tomato vs vinegar) and chili (beans: tasty or anathema?) – now that we’re in practice we could probably get something interesting going on about that.

  46. Priskill says

    Wow — No more lurking in the shadows — must comment on this fascinating discussion. First, kudos to you, Kristen, for your even-handed and calm demeanor — on this, as well as pretty much every other touchy thing you’ve broached! I am not religious, a homeschooler, or nearly as frugal and talented as you, but I have learned so much from a daily gander at your lovely, fair-minded, and cheerful blog. I had one daughter — cause it happened and we felt like it. Enough said! No one needs to justify their progeny or lack thereof — this is our ultimate freedom as human beings, our divine spark, if you will (and remember, I’m fairly — okay, very — agnostic)
    Yes, CONOR, i would probably agree with your right to marry and do admire your generosity in adopting — what a wonderful gift to those children! But this is not everyone’s choice, nor should it be! Your reasoning is specious — are you suggesting that no one should give birth until every child is adopted? And that anyone who chooses a birth child is a selfish monster? And the cheap shots at Christianity tend to weaken your argument. Finally, thank goodness someone decided to procreate, thereby providing you with a family — and I wish you every good fortune with them! I know you must be a kind, good person, since you are giving this ultimate gift. L’chaim!
    Battra92 — I always look forward to seeing your comments. But — one Treehugger posting about Communism does not a movement make. You are making the common logical mistake of generalizing from one example to a whole
    movement, as though every “green” person is necessarily a communist. And i never
    heard Al Gore say a tree is more important than curing cancer! :)
    Sorry to blather on — but this was so interesting — happy Wednesday, all! Thank you, Kristen!

  47. simplymichele says

    I am the 3rd of 4 children.( Mom brought 2 to the marriage and my dad adopted them) My dad was self-employed and my mom went through times when she did work outside the home. We always had a garden and my mom canned. My mom would sew dresses and there was always a hand-me-down. (My little sister always freaks when I say that mom made our underwear and my dad is quick to say that we were never that poor.) I would have to say, compared to my life as a single mom of 1, my parents were much more resourceful with what they had and managed what they had better. With the current economy, some job changes over the last few years and the x behind in child support, I am making choices that result in living a more simple, frugal, greener life.

  48. says

    It seems to me that you could pretty easily make the argument that in certain ways it’s almost greener to have more kids, rather than un-green. You’re dividing all that energy usage between so many more people, you’re constantly re-using things, buying in bulk, and making do with fewer consumable goods (I remember what this is like, having grown up in a house where I was one of five kids).

    Thanks a lot for writing this. I don’t blog about kid stuff, not having any kids of my own, but I really love big families, and it’s great to see people out there standing up for them.

  49. says

    Is Un-green a word? Is the opposite of green, red? Just kidding, a well argued point. I have one kid and I sometimes wish I could pass on his good used things to a sibling. Freecycle gets a lot of our goodies, and that’s green. You are right, a small family could be very wasteful, but I try not to be.

    • Kristen says

      That was an awkward title, wasn’t it? I’m thinking of editing it to say, “Why I don’t think having four kids is bad for the planet” or something like that. But it’s probably a little late now! lol

  50. unlurker says

    I believe anyone has the right to have as many childrens as they want (well maybe with the exeception of the Octomom). But I can’t agree that one can argue that it can be “green” to have more children. It’s just simple common sense – more people use more resources. You have 6 people in your household flushing the toilet “x” many times a day- taking showers – laundry – using toilet paper – consuming food – who are eventually going to grow up to drive automobiles, etc. that equals more consumption versus a family of 4 but less than a family of 8. My main concern for people who have lots of kids is they cannot afford to take care of them, educate them and devote individual love and attention that every child is entitled to.

    • Kristen says

      No, I certainly wasn’t arguing that! The “green”est thing to do is to have no children, and live in a tent. lol I was just arguing that 4 children aren’t SO much harder on the earth than 1 child is, and that some small families consume/throw away much more than some larger families.

  51. Conor says

    Frugal Liz – I’m not hating anyone, just confused as to why people continuously use religion as a “personal” reason not to own up to bad choices. While some people (gay and straight) may dislike “breeders”, I’m not one of them. I’m glad people have children, but not happy when they have big families that are unnecessary for stable repopulation and seem to be for selfish/religious reasons. Our constitution gives you the freedom of speech to promote your religion, but equally I can question your expression of religion by overpopulating my country. Too many children can have a deleterious effect on society. Just because Kristen is an exceptionally good mother and frugal person does not mean her decision to have a relatively large family will not later cause significant burdens on resources and society. It may not, but there is a good chance it will. Adopting, however, eases social burden.

    I have never smoked, drunk alcohol, taken drugs, cheated on a partner, knowingly broken a law (except before the Christian anti-sodomy laws were overturned 7 years ago), am a surgeon and work for underserved communities. My partner of 8 years was a career military man until the Clinton’s Christian Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy forced him out of his job. Being Christian in the USA not always but very often means being anti-gay and anti-family. If people cared about children and abortion they would allow decent same-sex couples to apply to adopt kids and get married so we can provide a stable home and not have to worry about wills and hospital visitation rights, you know, all those things that heterosexual couples don’t have to think twice about. I don’t care about your personal relationship with God or Allah or Yahweh, but there’s no arguing that it tends to seep out into politics and policy.

    I grew up in Catholic Ireland and know people who had families of 10+ kids, including one woman who has 23 living children! I would never legislate to stop people having children, but strangely Christians have no qualms about legislating against my private life.

    Priskil – they’re not cheap shots but rather valid criticisms, none of which, I note, you actually prove incorrect. In Western countries where child mortality is low, there is no practical need to have more than 2 children – it was different prior to vaccination and modern medicine when children died young and so a large family was required to ensure survival and to support the household. There is an argument for 1 or 2 children, but 4 is surely excessive.

    Christians spend a lot of time waxing lyrical about life choices and yet are so quick to defend their own bad decisions with reference to the Bible. For shame.

    • Kristen says

      If we’re going to pick on people for not responding to criticisms, may I ask you to help me and WilliamB out by answering our questions to your earlier (about which phrases you were referring to when you said I was dithering on about God). It seems almost as though you aren’t even talking to me but are instead venting your frustrations about “traditional” marriage advocates and evangelicals as a whole.

      If you’d like to point out where I’ve waxed lyrical about life choices and defended my bad decisions by referencing the Bible, I’d be happy to respond. But throwing vague accusations out there like that isn’t really very productive.

      I’m left kind of wondering what you’d like me to do about my “excessive” family. Which kids should I get rid of? Perhaps you would have preferred that I abort the ones that were unplanned and were in excess of 2?

      • Conor says

        You made a reference to Jesus in your main post and in the comments you replied: “I’d guess my children will have kids, because we are raising them to view children as a blessing from God.” Sorry, I took that to mean you see Biblical endorsement/encouragement for large families. I apologise for making the wrong assumption.

        The only reason I am commenting on the size of your family is because you wrote an article about it. Your article is a defense of your life choices.

        As I explained in a different comment string above, I made (seemingly incorrect) assumptions about your views on marriage based on your description of yourself as Christian. My experience is that the default among Christians is to be conservative about civil marriage. I know that is not always true. Sorry if I got it wrong in your case.

        I presume your question about abortion is rhetorical and/or a jab at what you presume is my stance on the subject. I’m sure that we can all agree that fewer abortions would be a good thing. Maybe instead of trying to make unnecessary excuses for having a large family, you could actively encourage people to have smaller ones.

        • Kristen says

          The Bible does say that children are a blessing from God, to be sure, but when I quote that, I don’t associate it with a number. God blesses some people with 1 child, and that one child is just as much a blessing as my 4 are. I’d say that verse is more of a rebuke of a “Children are an annoying, runny-nosed, and unnecessary addition to society” attitude (I’m sure you’ve seen the blogs and sites of this group) than it is an order to have a large family.

          In the face of a positive pregnancy test (and months of being sick )at a very, very inopportune time for our family, I had to remind myself that children are a blessing…it was very tempting to look at it differently then. And when I have hard days here at home with my 4, I have to remind myself that children are a blessing. They are often exhausting, but they are a blessing.

          Anyways, hopefully that gives you an idea of how I interpret that verse…it’s all about the attitude towards children, in my opinion.

          My questions were honest questions because I was at a loss for what you wanted me to do or to have done differently. Not all pregnancies are planned, and sometimes they happen despite valiant efforts to the contrary, so aside from the option of abortion, that means that sometimes families will rise to the “excessive” level of 4 children (I don’t think my family size is excessive…I’m just using your term).

          • Conor says

            Sometimes it just makes my heart sore to think about people having children when so many already born and waiting for a family will grow up unloved and alone. I used to work with youth as they aged out of the adoption/foster care systems and they were thrown out on their own. If I believed in God, I guess I’d think adoption/fostering would be the ultimate way to serve, but as you said, it’s not an option for everyone. As Priskill also pointed out, life and love don’t happen logically and it’s different for me as I don’t have to worry about surprise pregnancy :) I enjoy how honest you are, and looking back now I can appreciate your post if it’s looked at as a way to have children while minimising the negative impact on resources. Sorry for any anger on my part – it was misdirected.

  52. Priskill says

    Conor — well, this is a far more reasoned missive. Still, i think you are quick to dump on and generalize about one group (Christians) and that bitterness mars your argument. Again, i have no religious affiliation — but your possibly reasonable points (overpopulation, misuse of finite resources, unfair adoption policies, etc.) are not supported by taking potshots at anyone. It’s entirely possible to support zero population growth without resorting to name-calling. I didn’t hear many people in this discussion “defending their own bad decisions with reference to the Bible.” Rather, I read about people who love their kids and families and are striving to care for them, and how is that a bad thing? People are entitled to their personal choice, even as you and your partner are entitled to yours. Yeah, 23 kids is excessive, but hardly a trend, at least here in the US. I don’t have statistics to hand, but am guessing the average per capita birth rate here is considerably lower. You speak of “no practical need to have more than 2 children” as though we meet and fall in love purely as an exercise in good, gray social planning. Now, you know that’s not true — at least not yet. You are clearly making brave and socially responsible choices in adopting, and this is admirable. It is less admirable to berate others for making a different choice. Thanks for your response — i have really enjoyed the discussion.

    • Conor says

      Cheers. I rarely comment on blogs and never realised how easy it is for me to be judgemental and have a fit of pique! :)

      • Kristen says

        If you do this rarely, then I have great sympathy for you! lol I’ve been debating/conversing online since 2002, and when I first started, I was DREADFUL at it. I just had no idea how to properly behave myself and I give great props to my message board friends who put up with me.

        In fact, without my message board experience, I don’t think I’d do too well at this whole blogging thing!

      • priskill says

        Hi Conor — Me, too — Sorry if i came off like a prig :( Must thank you and everyone else for a really stimulating conversation. I “am just learning how to behave” as Kristen pointed out and the exhilaration of seeing myself in print quite got the better of me. You sound like a great steward of the earth AND its denizens – your example is truly humbling. Cheers 2 U!

  53. Priskill says

    Conor, sorry , i didn’t see your latest response and Kristin’s before i answered (#13 & 14)– you both make admirable points, and made me think — thank you!

  54. says

    Wow, Kristen. Knowing you had hyperemesis with all four pregnancies…well, that just gives me more respect for you. I’ve only been pregnant once (with accompanying hyperemesis) but “dreadful” is definitely the word!

    I admire your ability to remain gracious and kind in the face of such harsh criticism.

    • Kristen says

      Oh, I didn’t know you had that too! It is awful, isn’t it? And mine got worse and worse each time, unfortunately. I have heard of women who had it with one pregnancy and then never had it again, though, so maybe you’ll be like that instead of like me!

      Thank you for your kind words…I appreciate the encouragement. :)

      • says

        It was terrible! Before I was diagnosed with it (in the ER, no less), I had no idea such a thing even existed! My mom had ZERO morning sickness with me or my sister, so to say I was unprepared is an understatement…hopefully my next pregnancy is more pleasant.

        Is it any consolation that you produced some adorable children? ;-)

        • Kristen says

          I know…my mom wasn’t even faintly nauseous, and no one in my extended family had ever had anything even remotely resembling hyperemesis, so I didn’t know it existed either! I totally expected to float through pregnancy as easily as my mom had, but I was certainly in for a surprise.

          So, the only time I didn’t cry when I got a positive pregnancy test was the first time, because I was happily clueless then. Every other time a positive test was met with tears by me, not because I didn’t want my babies (I love them to pieces!) but because I dreaded the process of getting them here. I HATE HATE HATE being pregnant.

          I am happy that it’s not hereditary, because I figure my three girls have a good chance of a normal pregnancy when they are grown.

          • Franci says

            Yeah, what’s the deal with mothers having no hyperemesis and then we daughters get it real bad? Last year was a bit of a write-off for me as I was pregnant from Feb-Nov. But oh my, what a totally worth-it gorgeous baby! :-)

            Ugh Kristen, when you made that comment about ‘which one shouldn’t I have had’ I got a sick feeling just thinking that there’s the option that one of your beautiful children might not have been here! My husband is one of 8 and I sometimes hear comments that that’s waaay too many, but looking at them – they are all amazing people making this world a better place – how can anyone say “too many”?

          • says

            Is it weird that I’m glad to hear someone else hated being pregnant? I know hyperemesis is kind of rare, and if there’s any reason to hate being pregnant, that’s it, but I got SO tired of people telling me how glorious pregnancy was and how it was the “best part” of parenting (I thought that was particularly strange). Meanwhile, I practically couldn’t get out of bed without feeling nauseous and crawling right back in. It is relieving that it’s not hereditary–I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, much less my daughter.

          • Kristen says

            I totally understand, Cate…and if you ever need to rant about how much you hate pregnancy, you’ve got a listening ear here. I love the product of pregnancy, but I have a very dim view of the experience of pregnancy itself. lol

  55. says

    Holy Moly, this went in an entirely new direction which I had not previously considered when reading the article. I say, whether you have one kid or six, as long as they are cared for and loved it is no one’s affair how many people sleep under your roof. As for being green, I don’t see how the family size relates to that. It is a matter of living sustainably. Each person, no matter how many siblings they may or may not have, is responsible for taking care of their footprint. Or, until they grow up, they can have their mommy help them :)

  56. says

    I’d like to chime in to say, I have two kids (no more for now) and I definitely have become more green. Partially because of my kids but even more so because my crazy cool husband is. A while back I threw a post-it in the trash, he found it, brought it to me and asked “do you hate the earth?”

    We don’t do as much as everyone who has written these big paragraphs do, but are sure conscience about it.

    I agree that adoption is probably the greenest thing to do. I also think as a Christian that adoption is such a great picture of what God has done for us.

  57. a says

    This was great! I haven’t already read all the other comments, now I think I should go back and see what your other readers have said. We have three children, are planning to adopt at least one child (pray for twins) and I’d love to be pregnant and have another baby. That’d make 5-6 children. However, my husband is not so keen on the large family bit. :) He’s of the mind-set to responsibly train up a few children so as not to loose any through the cracks. Pray for us as a couple too.

  58. a says

    after reading some of the comments, this is what I will say: “World View: is it humanism (man is the be all and end all) or is it Judeo-Christian (God is the be all and end all). By clarifying what everyone’s world view is–that explains why the passionate arguments. Responsibility to self or responsibility to God.

  59. says

    I think you are one of the greenest people I “know”. You compost, you buy used, and you don’t use many paper products. I’m positive you leave less of a footprint with your family that most families with only one or two children. I KNOW that your carbon footprint will be smaller than mine. Keep up the good work and ignore people that you know are incorrect. You’re fantastic and I still enjoy your blog every day!!

  60. Joely says

    I can’t say that having 4+ children is “green” considering we live in a world of limited resources and bigger families do consume more and fill our landfill more in general (even if your family does not. For every family like yourselves, there are probably way more families that do consume more and waste more.)

  61. Gail says

    This is a response to the many opinions Conor has had. My feeling is that because you say you are not Christian and are gay, and therefore you and your partner cannot reproduce naturally, you advocate adopting childre, versus conceiving them. Have you adopted your alloted 2.5 children that are apparently “green” because you adopted them? I have an adopted son as well as having given birth. Children are a blessing, in whatever way they come to you. Since having children seems to be “ungreen” and children are going to make the environment worse, I could say the same about you. Do you drive a car? Do you not breath and produce carbon dioxide, and have bodily functions that excrete urine and feces? Why is it good you are on this planet but not for children to be on this planet? Religion has nothing to do with having children or not having children. It is a personal choice and a natural event. A man and a woman’s body were made for mating and reproducing.

  62. says

    While I do believe that it’s “greener” to not have kids, in the end it’s very much a personal decision. As you pointed out, there are many things that we wouldn’t do personally that would be “greener.” (Getting rid of the computer, for a start… :P) This post is an excellent that when all things are equal, it’s not that much more “un-green” to raise four as it is to raise one. The most important thing is for the children to be raised responsibly.

    With that being said, I still twitch a little at all the brand-spanking new baby things my niece gets. Really…there is perfectly good, barely-used baby stuff in abundance out there, and my sister buys it all new. Ughughugh. Well, all her gifts from me are used. :P Eventually there will be a set of Duplos…creative and intelligent kid toys for the win.

  63. says

    Love this post! Well thought out and inspiring. We only have 2 kids (would like 1 more!) but I still see that we have a much smaller carbon footprint than many of my friends who have 1 child. Or even no children. I definitely think that they way that you live influences how green or thrifty or whatever you are much more than the number of people in your household.

  64. says

    wow, are there people out there that even care how many children someone else has? I mean, as long as I am not funding them, then who cares? I’m pretty sure the blessings of bringing children into the world outweigh any environmental inconveniences.
    Nice post.

  65. Julia says

    I know I’m late to the party, but here goes: I have one child, an eight-year old boy. For health, financial, and yes, environmental reasons, we will not be having any more. An interesting book that addresses the impact of children on the environment is “Radical Simplicity: Small Footprints on a Finite Earth” by Jim Merkel. Also, a study by Oregon State University last year discussed the environmental impact of having children—and how much impact each American child has compared to kids in other parts of the world, especial down the line, when those American children grow up and have children of their own. Here’s a link to an article about it: http://oregonstate.edu/ua/ncs/archives/2009/jul/family-planning-major-environmental-emphasis. Sorry for the long comment, but I have to add this part from the article:
    “The researchers make it clear they are not advocating government controls or intervention on population issues, but say they simply want to make people aware of the environmental consequences of their reproductive choices.

    ‘Many people are unaware of the power of exponential population growth,’ {Paul Murtaugh, OSU professor of statistics} said. ‘Future growth amplifies the consequences of people’s reproductive choices today, the same way that compound interest amplifies a bank balance.’

    Murtaugh noted that their calculations are relevant to other environmental impacts besides carbon emissions for example, the consumption of fresh water, which many feel is already in short supply.”

    This is not to criticize your decisions and your family, Kristen, but just to let your readers know how to find out more about these issues, and why some people have chosen to limit family size for the sake of the environment.

  66. says

    I’m trying to find out how to live frugally for a family that eats more home cooked meals like steak and potatoes with vegetables, chicken & vegetables; how can you spend less. what happens when life gets boring and you want something different, you’re just tired of chicken all the time… (i would like for it to be good and different and easy on the stomach and non gasy

  67. says

    I have 11 kids (gasp). This post is great! I agree with all of it.
    Our decision to “allow” this many kids was definitely one that was from the Lord. We are like you & have mostly 2nd hand clothing items as well as other things. I have more to say but need a bit more tea in me to wake up lol

  68. Karen Trefzger says

    I’m new to your blog, so I just read this post for the first time.

    I’d like to say that your reasoning is clear, detailed, and compelling. Most people who are interested in a green lifestyle seem to subscribe to the belief that having more than one child is bad for the earth (see Bill McKibben’s book Maybe One, among others). I was thrilled to read your fantastic answer to that argument — you brought up excellent points that I haven’t read anywhere else.

    My children are nearly grown. They were homeschooled K-12 and are both 4.0 students in college (one is in graduate school). It’s great to see a new generation of parents on the homeschooling path. God bless you and your family!

  69. dana g. says

    no matter how you look at it, having more children is going to add up to a greater impact than having one or two. population doesn’t grow in a straight line. If your four children each have four(if earth conscious parents raise earth conscious kids, if you follow that logic, then probably parents who believe in big families will raise kids who do), and those 16 kids each have four kids, and those 64 kids each have four kids, you have your original family expanding to 256 (plus 84 kids who begot kids) additional people over 4 generations. If two children do the same it results in 32(plus 14 kids who begot kids). 340 v. 46. that is a big difference. And, even with the best intentions, as families grow that large, it would be a stretch to assume that you would be able to impart your values on that many people. I know people who have five, six even 12 kids, but even with all the talk about going green, no one wants to look at the fact that population alone is a huge impact. A human drinks water, eats food, makes waste, creates garbage, drives cars that, at least at this point, still pollute, consumes/burns energy or fuel to heat their home. I could go on. My opinion? You simply cannot think green without considering the size of your family.

  70. says

    I just came across this post while browsing your archives, but what strikes me funny is that people consider 4 children a large family. That perception is primarily cultural. In the middle east a family of six is quite small and “modern.” In many societies eight or more is the average. I wouldn’t start worrying about the “greenness” of it when you “only” have four! I do agree with your points, larger families do not necessarily necessitate more waste. It’s all about how you choose to live your life. Great article.

  71. scientist says

    Oh my goodness. Please think again about your arguments.

    1-3. The fact that there are economies of scale in larger households–that per-capita consumption rates are lower–is irrelevant to the fact that total consumption (carbon production) rates are higher in larger families. Dramatically higher. This is what has the impact, not the per capita rate… unless you’re proposing to have other people’s kids for them, which you’re not.

    4. The fact that you will teach your children to care about the earth while you yourself have a disproportionately high impact is a strange form of procrastination and hypocrisy, especially if they grow up to tell themselves the same thing. It’s a little like those, “But my kid could grow up and cure AIDS!” arguments. If the average person cured AIDS (or did the carbon equivalent), we wouldn’t have an overpopulation problem.

    I realize this post is years old, but I badly hope you and other commenters have thought harder about this topic. The lack of critical thinking here makes me worry about the future of our planet.


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