Creating a Green Nursery

With your nesting instinct in full effect, you are ready to organize, plan and assemble the hippest nursery in the neighborhood. But, while you’re busy coordinating the mobile with the wall color and closet baskets to changing pad covers, it’s important to remember that this nursery isn’t all just sunshine and polka dots.

Your baby will be spending the vast majority of her time in this room (16-17 hours a day!) and if you aren’t diligently seeking out green options, your beloved nursery could turn into a virtual cocktail of toxins.

Look for choices that will minimize your newborn’s exposure to toxic chemicals, which, (at risk of sounding alarmist) are lurking throughout popular baby products. Yes, we mean you Rubber Duckie.

The main idea behind implementing a green design in your nursery is simply to reduce your little pumpkin’s exposure to toxic chemicals. That being said, creating a green living space for baby isn’t an all or nothing approach. Do what you can – every change you make toward living a greener life will make a difference in the health of both you and your baby, and the health of the ultimate mama – Mother Earth.

Probably the most common project taken on by expectant parents, a fresh coat of butter yellow on the walls is a sure-fire way to transform your old office into a space made for baby. You know that pregnant women should not be involved in the painting process – you will be directing your worker bees from afar, but remember too that the indoor air pollution caused by traditional paints will last long past your due date. Paint contains high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) the danger of which has been well established.

Happy Green Baby Tip: Stop procrastinating! Plan to paint the room at least a month before baby is due.

Choose eco-friendly paints and look for the following labels:

Zero VOC Paints
Also called VOC-free or no-VOC paints, these contain five grams per liter or less of VOCs.
Eco Organic Paints –
Safe Paint –
American Pride –

Low-VOC Paints
Instead of petroleum-based solvents, these paints use water as a carrier, which reduces harmful emissions. They contain no or very low levels of heavy metals and formaldehyde.
Sherwin-Williams GreenSure line –

Natural Paints
Derived from natural substances such as citrus, balsam, clay, chalk and talcum, these water-based paints give off nearly no smell, are petroleum free and very low in VOCs.

Milk Paints
Made with milk protein or casein and lime, and colored with earth pigments such as lime or clay. These come in powdered form and are mixed at home with water.

With baby crashing out 16-17 hours a day, she’s going to be spending a lot of time in her bed. That’s why it’s especially important to create a pure and healthy environment from the crib itself to the bedding and mattress.

The greenest thing you can do when it comes to baby furniture is reuse. Friends with older kids are likely more than happy to clear out their old crib or changing table from the garage. Check craigslist for people in your area looking to do the same. Reusing baby furniture ensures the items have already off-gassed many of the toxins, and it keeps items out of the landfill.

If you’re shopping at thrift stores, just be sure your new/old furniture isn’t painted with lead-based paint and that it meets safety requirements of new baby furniture.

If you can’t resist buying new, choose furniture built from FSC-certified hardwoods with low-VOC finishes and nontoxic glues. And buy quality! Make sure your purchases will go the distance, giving you the opportunity to hand down heirloom quality pieces through the family or to share with friends.

Green baby mattresses are the bees knees when it comes to health and environment. Eco mattresses are chemical free, as well as waterproof and fireproof and with organic cotton and organic wool used in the batting, filling and outer fabric. Your baby will be in close contact with her mattress everyday (unlike you and your bed), making it an extra important purchase for you to consider going green with. Be sure whatever mattress you go with, it meets federal requirements for firmness and flame retardance. Check out our selection of green crib mattresses from Pixel Organics and Naturepedic.

Organic Bedding
I think it’s a no-brainer at this point that you are going to want to choose organic cotton (or toxin-free bamboo) for baby’s crib sheets. Silky soft and free of toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers, organic sheets are also free of harsh bleaches and dyes – making them the perfect place for baby to rest her sensitive skin. And going organic for bedding doesn’t mean you have to choose blah neutrals, take a peek at our assortment of colorful organic crib sets and sheets.

When it comes to finding a cozy blanket for baby to snuggle with, look to organic wool. Unlike its conventional cousin, which is double-dipped in chemical baths, organic wool is free of detergents, dyes and irritating substances. Nui Organics makes heirloom quality organic merino wool blankets.

Unless the carpet in your soon-to-be nursery is a disgusting mold-infested rug, leave it be. You are better off cleaning the current carpet well with a green carpet cleaning system, than replacing it with a new wall-to-wall. If you really must have new flooring put in, consider going with an eco-friendly hardwood floor. Look for hardwood floors that are FSC-certified, or go with bamboo or cork flooring, both of which are sustainably grown and harvested. Just be sure to ask about the finish and the presence of formaldehyde. As for finishes, choose water-based plyurethane, drying oil or hardwax oil.

Most of the brightly colored toys you find at major toy stores are made of plastic. Plastic is a major contributor to indoor pollution (you know that “new” smell that lingers around?).

Soft plastic toys, like the quintessential rubber duckies and soft teethers are particularly worrysome. Many conventional toys still use phthalates to make the plastic soft and pliable. For those of you haven’t read our article on plastics yet, phthalate is considered to be one of the most toxic and environmentally unfriendly plastics around. Also take into account that babies put EVERYTHING in their mouths, and these soft plastic “friends” don’t seem like the best companion after all.

Fill your toy box with clean, non-toxic wood and organic fabric toys. Look for solid wood toys finished with a natural finish oil. Baby can happily cuddle, hug and chew on cloth stuffed animals, rattles and dolls made of organic cotton or wool.

You’ve gone to a lot of work to create a safe, green haven for your baby, now don’t go ruining it all by using conventional toxic cleaners. Today’s variety of natural, non-toxic cleaners work better than ever and will leave your toilet bowl sparkling, without the use of smelly chemicals. Ecover, Seventh Generation and Method (among others) are widely available at grocery stores of all kinds (not just natural marketplaces) plus Target and Costco. We recommend reading Seventh Generation’s Guide to a Toxin-Free Home for more green cleaning tips.

Bath and Body Care Products
Did you know that skin is the body’s largest organ? Everything you put on your skin (and your baby’s for that matter) is rapidly absorbed into your tissues and organs, making it all the more important to ensure the bath and body care products you choose are made with wholesome, organic ingredients. One ingredient you’ll want to avoid as you shop for baby wash is parabens. All the body care products you’ll find on Happy Green Baby are free of parabens, phalates and other toxic substances you wouldn’t dream of putting on baby’s gentle skin.