Thinking of going green in the nursery? You’re not alone. As research warning of the dangers associated with chemical-based manufacturing begins to pile up, more and more parents are opting for eco-friendly alternatives.
Eager to cater to their consumers’ needs, businesses churn out thousands of “organic” and “all natural” baby products every year. But how green are these products really?
Are they better for your kids? Yes.
Are they better for the environment? Not necessarily.
Just because something is made using organic materials doesn’t mean those materials are easily renewable or manufactured using sustainable means – a fact that many companies are all too happy to greenwash right over. As consumers, we imagine we are making a difference by buying “green” products. But in reality, our quest to create a healthier indoor environment for our kids may be doing very little to create a healthier world.
So what’s an eco-savvy parent to do?
When shopping for “green” products, it’s important to be able to make a distinction between items that are “natural” and those that are truly ecofriendly. Is the product made using sustainable materials? Are those materials responsibly sourced? What steps has the manufacturer taken to reduce their company’s environmental impact?
It may take a little research, but the answers to these questions shouldn’t be hard to find. (If a company is truly green, they are usually eager to prove it!) That said, if you’re not up on your “green speak,” you might have a hard time knowing what to look for.
Need a crash course? Here’s what you need to know.
What Does “Sustainability” Mean?
If you’ve ever shopped for ecofriendly products, you may have seen labels or logos claiming that a product is “sustainable” or “made using sustainable materials. But what does that actually mean?
In general, the term “sustainable” refers to the use of renewable materials that have been harvested using practices that reduce environmental impact.
Bamboo, for example, is considered a renewable material, as it can be reproduced at a much faster rate than hardwood.
By harvesting bamboo instead of trees, we help to protect finite resources for future generations. But simply exchanging a finite resource for a renewable resource is not enough. In order to be truly “sustainable”, renewable materials must be harvested using sustainable practices that do not permanently reduce supply.
In other words, renewable resources, like bamboo, must be replanted at a rate equal to or greater than the rate at which they are consumed. Furthermore, the process of planting, harvesting and manufacturing those resources must also be sustainable, which means it must not cause irreparable damage to the surrounding area/ecosystem or pollute air or water.
So in order to create a sustainable product, a manufacturer must:
1. Use renewable resources.
2. Actively renew the resources it consumes.
3. Engage in eco-friendly business practices.
“Sustainable” vs. “Responsibly Sourced” Products
Although often used interchangeably, “sustainable” and “responsibly sourced” don’t mean the same thing.
A manufacturer that promises to use “responsibly sourced” sustainable materials promises that, while they may not have been directly involved in harvesting or processing their own raw materials, they have thoroughly investigated the origin of those materials, ensuring that they have been harvested/developed using sustainable practices.
The confusion that tends to surround these terms is often exploited by manufacturers seeking to greenwash their products. Remember, just because a product is made of a sustainable material does not necessarily mean that it has been responsibly sourced, so be sure to check with the manufacturer and do some independent research before you buy.
Making an Eco-Friendly Choice for Your Child
While it’s important to avoid getting greenwashed, you shouldn’t let the questionable business practices of a few unethical companies deter you from making a healthier choice for your little one. In truth, there’s never been a better time to go green!
Thanks to the ever-growing popularity of green living, designing an ecofriendly nursery or kid’s room is easier than ever. You’ll find a wealth of stylish, environmentally savvy nursery products available in stores everywhere. And by insisting on sustainable, responsibly sourced materials, you’ll send a message to manufacturers, asking them to protect our natural resources for the benefit of your children and for children yet to come.