At 20 weeks into my first pregnancy we moved into our own home. It was spring 2009, and I’d sit in the rocking chair, in the middle of the freshly painted green and yellow nursery (insert hindsight face palm here) daydreaming about my life as a new mom.
I did tons of nursery research but these were the very early days of my introduction to greener living. I simply did not have the eco-knowledge that I do now thus my questions to salespeople where mainly limited to popularity and quality. My ideas about which products are best for baby have evolved from those that are merely popular to ones that are free from harmful toxins.
Fast forward five years later and it felt especially sweet to have the knowledge and experience to write the article, A Greener Place to Play & Grow! greening your nursery & playroom for the Fall 2013 edition of EcoParent Magazine. This piece will give you tons of practical tips to create a green nursery as well as some product suggestions from eco-friendly Canadian companies. It’s exactly what I wish someone would have given me. Read the full article here or check out the Coles notes version below.
Greening Your Child’s Sleep Space
Children are natural explorers increasing their opportunities to be exposed to harmful toxins. They use their senses to experience the world, putting things in their mouth, and seemingly touching everything. From birth, children spend hours playing on the ground, often in their nursery or playroom.
In an experiment conducted by the Greenguard Environmental Institute and Good Morning America, researchers found over 300 chemicals in just the air of a baby’s nursery. Never mind the toxicants found in dust, plastics, clothing, and more.
The numbers are alarming but as parents, we have the power to change the math. We can take precautions and make household decisions by considering and limiting how our children are exposed to chemicals.
You may not be able to do everything at once but you can do something. When choosing items for your child’s space, consider the age of your little one. What will they be spending the most time doing? Plan to choose a green product for it and do the best you can the rest of the time. Sometimes, our budget needs to catch up with our ideals.
Take Simple Steps Towards A Green Nursery
Let’s break down the six main areas to consider when greening baby’s nursery or playroom with tips, questions to consider, and precautions you can take to reduce toxins in your home.
- Look for solid wood furniture
- Avoid composite wood that can contain formaldehyde
- Items with the GREENGUARD seal of approval mean that they have low chemical emissions
- Off-gas any new furniture or large purchases you bring into your home.
#2. Mattresses and Bedding
- Children spend a large percentage of their little lives sleeping-choose carefully
- Look for an organic crib mattress or one GREENGUARD certified
- Cover conventional mattresses in a non-PVC cover
- Off-gas mattresses preferably outside of your home but definitely not in baby’s room
- Choose from 100 percent organic bedding, GOTS organic certification or Oeko-Tex Standard 1000 certification
- Choose zero VOC paint or milk paint
- Paint far in advance of a new baby or before having your child spend time in the space.
- Clear the air by keeping windows open while working and afterwards
- Bare floors are best for minimizing toxicities
- Consider reclaimed Canadian wood, FSC certified wood, Cork or Bamboo
- Avoid anything treated with Microban that contain toxic triclosan.
- Aim for washable rugs in organic cotton or FLOR recycled carpet tiles
- Vacuum carpets often with a HEPA vacuum
- Think quality over quantity for the toys
- Children also like to play with everyday household items
- Unfinished, solid wood toys and ones treated with natural finishes or non-toxic paint are safe and beautiful choices
- Look for soft toys made using natural fibres such as organic cotton, hemp, and wool that are untreated or coloured with non-toxic dyes
- Avoid plastic toys that contain: BPA, Phthalates, PVC, Latex, Lead, and Flame Retardants
- Choose safer plastics such as those labeled 1, 2, 4, & 5
- Foam changing pads, car seats, infant swings or any item that contains foam has the potential to have flame-retardants
- Look for wool or organic cotton filled pads with PVC-free waterproof materials.
- Conventional nursing pillows are made with polyurethane foam and likely to be treated with toxic flame-retardants
- Choose a natural nursing pillow filled with buckwheat hulls or wool instead
- Companies will likely advertise their commitment and avoidance of toxins-read up on their website or email them for clear answers
Baby steps and taking precautions will go a long way towards reducing the toxicities your child is exposed. If you’ve already designed your baby’s sleep space or are in the midst of planning a nursery, it’s not too late to make improvements!