Keeping the Baby's Nursery Green

1 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Living Green with Children

Keeping an eye on what you put in a baby's room can not only help protect the environment, but can protect your child from harmful chemicals as well. Using natural and organic materials whenever possible is one way to reduce the amount of potentially harmful substances your baby comes in contact with.

You can green your nursery by reducing the number of items you buy. Ask other parents what items they used a lot and what gathered dust. Consider obtaining just the essentials in this list before the baby is born and add items as you find you really need them:

  • Diapers: You need to weigh the cloth versus disposable factors for yourself.

  • Clothing: Look for secondhand clothes in good condition, and forget about all the fancy outfits.

  • Personal baby care: Many experts recommend plain old olive oil for use as baby skin lotion.

  • Car seats: Because anchoring car seats properly is a major safety issue, relax your green rules here and buy an extra car seat if you use two vehicles to transport your bundle of joy.

  • Crib: Look for a crib that turns into a child’s bed to reduce the amount of furniture you need to buy (and dispose of) later on.

  • Toys: Choose secondhand toys, soft toys made from organic cotton, and wooden toys with nontoxic paints. And keep the number of toys in check.

When choosing paint, furniture, and flooring for your nursery, be aware that many new materials release volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) into the air. This offgassing releases chemicals that have been linked with health effects from breathing passage irritation to cancer. Try to avoid items with VOCs, especially upholstered furniture or mattresses that contain formaldehyde or PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) as flame retardants. At the very least, keep new items outside or in the garage for a few days to let the worst of the gases dissipate before putting them in baby’s room.

Some strategies for choosing the most eco-friendly items for your nursery:

  • Décor: Choose natural materials wherever possible, including flooring of solid wood, linoleum, bamboo, cork, or organic cotton or wool carpets; water-based finishes for hardwood floors; paint that contains low or no VOCs; wooden shutters instead of curtains; and soft furnishings made from natural, organic fabrics.

  • Furniture: Select solid wood furniture with nontoxic finishes, and ensure that the item is durable. You may have to spend a little more on quality, well-constructed furniture, but the fact that it will hold up much longer than other offerings makes it worthwhile. Look for mattresses made from natural materials such as rubber and organic wool or cotton.

  • Clothing: Natural fibers are great, but organic natural fibers are even better: Wool, cotton, hemp, and even bamboo (if it comes from sustainable and chemical-free sources) are all green options that are becoming more widely available.

  • Baby care: Look for products made from natural, organic, and fragrance-free ingredients. Avoid antibacterial products, and minimize chemical-impregnated items — for example, look for biodegradable, chlorine-free wipes, or use washcloths instead.

  • Cleaners: Avoid antibacterial and chemical cleaners; use naturally based products instead. Stay away from chemical-based fabric softeners, too.

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The Essentials of Living Green with Children

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