Go green! Create a green nursery
Pink or blue? – pah! Green is the newest décor trend for baby nurseries, says Camilla Rankin
GOING GREEN IS not a nod to gender-neutral wall colours, or soothing colour therapy (although those are good enough reasons to go green too). No, going “green” is all about making sure that your baby’s first bedroom is toxinfree, sustainable and doesn’t harm either your baby or the environment.
The only problem is that just about anything marked “natural”, “organic” or “eco-friendly” can be pricey and is likely to throw the money manager in the house into a guilty sulk. So here are six ways to make the biggest impact, without breaking the bank.
LESS IS MORE… AND GREENER
With so many great, eco-friendly furniture options available you will certainly be tempted to spend a lot of greenbacks on new nursery furniture, but going green is as much about minimalism as it is about reducing exposure to chemicals and toxins. So, rather opt to repurpose or upcycle furniture you already have, sprucing up a hand-me-down and not cramming your baby’s room with unnecessary furniture and décor.
Do you have a chest of drawers that can be used as a change table? Or a set of bookshelves that can work as a toy and clothing storage space?
In keeping with the “less is more” philosophy, many parents skip a cot altogether and have their newborn sleep in a Moses basket, moving them directly onto a mattress placed on the floor when they are bigger. This not only saves on buying a cot and a toddler bed, but, according to followers of Montessori parenting principles, also promotes independence and freedom of movement.
If you do buy new, look for products made from sustainable solid wood or bamboo that use a non-toxic finish, and that can be used for more than one child, such as Clever Little Monkey’s The Bambu Convertible Cot, which converts into your child’s first bed, which makes it much more sustainable.
MATTRESSES AND BEDDING
There is one area of the nursery where spending that little extra for the eco-friendly version really does makes sense: your baby’s mattress and bedding. Conventional mattresses are made of highly flammable and toxic materials which continue to release fumes long after manufacture, so choosing an organic mattress is highly recommended. Especially when you considering the amount of time your baby will spend asleep (eight to 16 hours a day), it is essential to make sure that it is as safe as possible.
Mattresses are also one area where getting a second-hand or hand-me-down version is not recommended – unless it is from your own older child so you know exactly how well it was looked after and cleaned.
While prices for mattresses made using eco-friendly materials and processes vary, a good place to start looking is online retailer Faithful to Nature, as they stock products from a range of companies committed to sustainable, organic products. 3 PICK PURE PAINT Lead-free paint is now standard in most paint products, but what many of us aren’t aware of is the number of other chemicals that lurk within those colours. So, if you do plan to paint the nursery or add a lick of paint to spruce up old furniture, opt for zero or lowVOC (volatile organic compounds) paints, such as Annie Sloan chalk paints. “Annie Sloan paints and wax sealants are non-toxic and safe, but they are so quick and easy to use, which is such a bonus when you are trying to do a DIY project while pregnant or with a toddler in tow – no sanding or scraping old paint off before you paint,” says Mary Glaister, a Ballito-based mom and Annie Sloan distributor, whose passion is to repurpose and upscale furniture. “You can literally just wash with warm, soapy water, dry and paint, and transform tatty old furniture into trendy retro-look items easily (and safely).”
Regardless of the paint you use, it is also essential to paint the nursery well in advance of baby’s arrival, keeping doors and windows open for as long as possible to allow enough time to let all the fumes escape. “This is true for just about any sealants you use to finish furniture too – even Annie Sloan’s,” says Mary. “You will need at least 28 days for the sealant to cure before exposing your baby to the room or furniture.”
THE BOTTOM LINE – FLOORING
Although it seems like an odd area to focus on, like your baby’s bed, the floor is another place where your child will spend a huge amount of time: playtime, tummy time or just crawling about. For many of us there is not a lot that can be done about the actual floor, but if you have been hit with the “I am pregnant, let’s renovate” hormone, then consider replacing wall-to-wall carpeting (which is a dust and allergen trap) with natural wood, cork or bamboo flooring, and steer clear of laminates or compressed fibreboards, as these can leach fumes.
For a more affordable change, choosing a natural fibre rug – wool, pure cotton or hemp – for your baby’s nursery is a small change that can have a large eco-friendly impact, especially if the rug is made with natural dyes. Look for a machine-washable rug for easy cleaning to help keep the allergens at bay.
CLEAN GREEN Just type “homemade cleaning products” into Pinterest and you will be bombarded with effective, eco-friendly cleaning products using ingredients such as vinegar, lemon, bicarbonate of soda and tea tree oil. But for those of us who are not as industrious, many of the major South African retailers have introduced eco-friendly cleaning products to their shelves, such as Pnp’s Green or Woolworths’ Earth-friendly range of cleaning products and toiletries.
The same goes for cleaning up and caring for your baby’s skin – you can make your own moisturisers with olive or coconut oils, and use washcloths and water instead of cotton wool balls (which are bleached with chlorine and fill up landfills) to pamper dirty bottoms.
TOYS AND CLOTHES One of the easiest ways of being environmentally friendly in your baby’s nursery is with all those toys and clothes. When buying new, look for products made from wool, 100% cotton, hemp, linen and wood (for toys), as they are not only made from non-toxic, sustainable materials, but they will also likely last longer.
While stocking up on clothes and toys made from pure organic cotton or bamboo is a fantastic idea for the environment, remember that creating an eco-friendly nursery involves more than just using safe materials. Try repurposing and buying less, and accept hand-medowns from friends.
Going green in your baby’s nursery does not need to be an expensive overhaul. YB