Creating a non-toxic nursery
As you prepare to welcome your newest family addition, it’s a lot of fun to make baby’s room as cute as he or she is bound to be. It’s a room in the house where you can really play, getting creative with colours, patterns, fabrics and more. That said, you wouldn’t want to lay your wee one down in a toxic soup of chemicals, right? Your baby’s environment is an important part of his or her development—not for a minute am I saying that you could make your baby sick, but there are known chemicals found in common household building, design and living products that you might as well avoid if you can. While it might be tough to tackle it all, you can certainly focus on key points that will make a world of difference.
The walls are your building blocks, and while paint may seem like a trivial thing, it’s not something to be ignored. Many traditional paints, even those marked zero VOC, contain a host of chemicals and toxins that release into the air (scarily enough, zero VOC paints do not mean they are free of harmful chemicals, no matter what you might have heard – it’s a misleading term, to be sure). To ensure your paint is safe choose a brand that’s clearly labeled non-toxic and make sure that claim is backed by a third party. Our favourite is Mythic—it’s easy to use, has great colours and is very affordable. You can find it in Ontario at Sustain. They make great furniture paint too; use their semi-gloss for a tough, kid-proof finish.
If you have an existing floor, great, keep it. But, if you have newly installed carpet, you may want to seal in those nasty VOC’s off-gassing from that plushy rug. AFM Safecoat makes a great sealer for carpets, you apply as though you were shampooing. Easy peasy. Hardwood floors are best, better for allergies too, but I’m sure you’ll want to add a little comfort too for when baby starts to bebop around. My favourite rug essential is wool, plain and simple. Try and find one that is un-dyed – I found a great one at IKEA for less than $200 with a jute backing. Perfect!
Whether you’re going for modern and minimalist or vintage and cute, there’s a ton of great options for furniture. Cribs in particular should be finished with non-toxic paints, so pay attention when you’re buying. If you’re going with new furniture, try and source something sustainable produced, such as Oeuf NYC (available at Ella+Elliot in Toronto). Alternatively, upgrade hand-me-downs or thrifted pieces for a unique look. You can find mid-century modern sideboards that double as dressers and changing tables, or ornate and detailed pieces such as dressers and book cases. Paint them a fun colour, or go for a classic look and choose white, which is what I did. Just make sure someone else does the sanding for you, because you never know what’s in old stains and varnishes.
Fabric & Bedding
This is where your creativity really gets to shine. Taking a DIY approach and sewing your own accents, such as crib skirts and drapery, is an awesome way to keep your room feeling unique! Finding organic, upholstery weight fabric isn’t always easy, however, so a compromise here might be ok. For items that aren’t directly coming into contact with baby, such as a crib skirt, it’s ok to use non-organic fabric, but make sure it’s 100 percent cotton or linen. Launder it first, a must for sewing, but also to make sure that chemicals in the fabric are washed away. If you can, wash it several times, in hot water. For baby’s bedding, I really do encourage finding an organic source. There’s lots of gorgeous organic nursery fabrics out there, my favourites being Cloud 9 or Mona Luna. Have fun picking, the fabrics are stunning. If you aren’t up for sewing, try The Organic Quilt Company for adorable handmade goods, or I recently found organic nursery linens at Pottery Barn Kids.
What you might not know about baby products is that there are tough laws about the use of fire-retardants, which involve the use of a host of toxic chemicals that you don’t even know are there but may cause health problems such as allergies or asthma or worse (even more scary is that they sometimes treat clothes with this stuff too – fleecy sleepers are the worst offenders, make sure you read your tags). These chemicals are often found in crib and bassinette mattresses, but the good news is that there are alternatives available. My favourite is manufactured by a Canadian company called Sueno Organic, which utilizes natural latex, wool and organic cotton, all of which are naturally fire retardant and don’t require additional treatment. They are also available at Sustain, or check online for additional retailers.
Celine MacKay is the founder and editor-in-chief of Pure Green Magazine, an independent print publication for stylish green living based in Ontario. She also owns and operates Sustain, a green home improvement store, with her husband and partner Jonathan MacKay. For a daily dose of Pure Green, to take a peek at the magazine or to subscribe, please visit www.puregreenmag.com.