Designing a nursery? There’s never been a better time to go green—and we’re not talking mint, lime or kelly. Organic, eco-friendly toys and nursery products are widely available and more stylish and affordable than ever before. Even manufacturers of traditionally toxic products, like paint and carpeting, have joined the green movement, offering a variety of new, eco-friendly alternatives. Green, it seems, is red hot.
Wondering how you can create a non-toxic, eco-friendly space for your little one? These seven simple tips for creating a natural nursery are a great place to start!
01 of 07
Use VOC-Free Paint
Paint is full of nasty, fume-emitting chemicals. These chemicals—known as VOCs—dissipate slowly, compromising air quality as they evaporate. They may even make your little one sick.
Before you pick up a paintbrush, make sure the paint you’re using is non-toxic. Do your homework, or ask a professional about eco-friendly alternatives. Hitting your local hardware store? Look for organic-based brands labeled “Low-VOC” or “VOC-Free.”
02 of 07
Think About Your Flooring
The wall-to-wall carpet may seem cozy, but it’s definitely not the healthiest choice you can make for your little one. Carpets harbor dust mites and allergens, and new, synthetic carpets contain the same harmful toxins found in paint. (Kind of kills the warm and fuzzies, right?)
Can’t afford to rip up existing carpet? Don’t panic. Chemical off-gassing decreases with time. If your carpet is at least a year old, most of the VOCs will have evaporated already.
Starting from scratch? Consider one of the 5 great flooring options for kids’ rooms.
03 of 07
Use Organic Bedding
A natural nursery starts with organic bedding. In fact, an organic mattress is the single most important purchase you can make for your little one.
Conventional crib mattresses are treated with toxic, fire-retardant chemicals. These chemicals evaporate with time, exposing your baby to dangerous toxins—a pretty scary thought considering your little one will spend as much as 16 hours a day in bed.
Organic mattresses offer a safer alternative, but shopping for one can be a challenge. “Organic” labels tend to jack up the price, and questionable certification standards make it difficult to know if you’re really getting what you paid for.
04 of 07
Avoid Ready-to-Assemble Furniture
If you’re looking for eco-friendly furniture, give the big-box stores and their “ready-to-assemble” furnishings a miss. Furniture made using pressed-wood products, such as plywood, particleboard, and medium-density fiberboard often contains formaldehyde—a known carcinogen linked to headaches, asthma, and skin irritation.
If you can afford it, solid-wood furniture is always a better option. However, it is possible to find “greener” versions of the ready-to-assemble variety. IKEA, for example, only uses wood procured from sustainably managed and legally logged forests, and their pressed-wood products meet the low-formaldehyde thresholds established in Europe. Target also offers a line of eco-friendly furnishings. Just look for certified materials labeled “low formaldehyde” or formaldehyde-free.”Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Buy Used Nursery Furniture
Want to make an eco-friendly choice and save a little green along the way? Buy used! Giving old furniture a new home not only conserves resources but also prevents exposure to chemical off-gassing, which occurs primarily in the first year after furniture is made.
That said, be careful what you buy. Antique furniture could contain lead and may not meet modern safety standards. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that parents avoid buying used cribs and used crib mattresses, which tend to deteriorate with time, putting your little one at risk. Lightly used dressers, gliders, and changing tables are a better choice.
06 of 07
Opt for Eco-Friendly Toys
Cheap, plastic toys may look innocent enough, but it’s what you can’t see that could hurt your little one. Many plastics contain chemicals, like BPAs and phthalates, which tend to leach out of plastic and into our bodies. Some toys, particularly those made abroad, have even been found to contain poisonous toxins, like lead.
Why buy dangerous dump-fodder, when there are a growing number of all-natural, locally produced toys made from eco-friendly materials like organic cotton, sustainable bamboo, and responsibly sourced wood? You can even find eco-friendly brands, like Melissa & Doug, at your local toy store.
07 of 07
For some companies, going green is less about organic products and eco-friendly business practices and more about running a well-executed marketing campaign. Don't be fooled! Before you buy green, take a moment to learn how some businesses and manufacturers are taking advantage of eco-conscious consumers.