I remember it so clearly—decorating a nursery for the first time. There was so much to consider, especially since we didn’t know if there was a baby boy or a baby girl growing in my belly. Just over four years ago when I was pregnant, I didn’t know much about chemicals and other harmful ingredients that may be lurking in paint, carpets and bedding. I quickly learned, though.
To Carpet or Not to Carpet
Both of our spare bedrooms had hardwood floors. I contemplated carpeting the rooms, mostly because I like the feel of carpet against my bare feet first thing in the morning. In the end, we opted to resurrect the hardwood floors that had been hiding beneath carpets for the last fifty years. Of course, not everyone will be as fortunate as we were to find beautiful hardwood floors in their home.
If you choose to install wood floors in your nursery then you might want to consider an eco-friendly option. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has a certification program, which can help you choose wood flooring that is more ecologically responsible. Bearing the FSC label indicates the forest products used are from responsibly harvested and verified sources. Another great option for wood floors is bamboo. It lasts longer and can endure more use than conventional hardwood floors. Bamboo floors are naturally resistant to water, mildew and insects. Additionally, since bamboo grows quickly and abundantly, it is sustainable
Some people will prefer carpeting in a child’s bedroom, but this must be done with caution. Many traditional carpets will emit Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) describes VOCs in greater detail on their website. The main take-away is that there are harmful gases being emitted into the air and these chemicals may have short or long-term health effects. I think it’s important we minimize the exposure our children have to VOCs and since they will be crawling on these carpets, and playing on them for years to come, it’s worth taking steps to minimize VOCs. With proper ventilation, VOCs emitted from new carpets should fall to very low levels within 48 to 72 hours according to the EPA—so you should keep windows open and let a room with new carpeting air out as much as possible.
Thanks to companies like Mohawk Flooring there are eco-friendly carpeting options. There is the SmartStrand with DuPont Sorona carpet, which is made with renewably sourced polymer. Another option they offer is EverStrand, which uses P.E.T. (Polyethylene terephthalate) technology that turns plastic bottles into other fibers—in this case, to make carpet. Finally there is the Wear-Dated Renew & Wear-Dated Renew Natural Nylon carpeting, which uses post-industrial fiber and polymer products created during fiber manufacturing. These fibers would normally make their way into the waste system, but these carpets have created an alternative to that. I inquired with the company regarding VOCs, but as of now, I have not received a response.
When we painted the nursery, and then a couple years later, my daughter’s room we chose Low-VOC and Zero VOC paint. Initially my reason for the choice was that I did not want the smell of paint filling my home. My husband and I were concerned that there had to be harmful chemicals traveling with that odor, and we didn’t want to take any chances with our unborn or young children. Of course, even though we were using Zero VOC paint, there was still some smell and we kept windows open to limit our exposure. The large paint manufacturers all offer VOC-free paint. When you choose your paint, you simply have to ask for VOC-free when they mix it. In my experience, this is often what the people at the paint store will offer. Some of the big names, that carry VOC-free paint include, Benjamin Moore, Sherwin-Williams, Dutch Boy, and Glidden.
Once you’ve taken care of the floors and walls, its time to think about what’s going to be in constant contact with your little one—their bedding. Organic mattresses and bedding are a great option for your little one for several reasons. I like the fact that they do not emit the volatile chemicals found in many traditional options and they are gentler on your skin. In addition, organic bedding “breathes” better than man-made fabrics. Pillows and mattresses made with natural or organic cotton wool or rubber provide protection from dust mites that you won’t find with man-made mattresses and pillows. This helps provide relief for allergy and asthma sufferers. According to the CDC, 7 million American children (9.4%) currently suffer from asthma—that’s almost 1 in every 10 children.
When buying organic bedding there are some important things to keep in mind. For example, many mattresses have polyester backing (and companies are not always forthcoming about this fact). In addition, you want to make sure both the outer AND inner fabrics are organic—if a company doesn’t indicate that all parts inside and out are organic, you may want to think twice before buying that particular products.
The brand of organic bedding I like is from Pure Rest Organics and Eco Baby Organics. They offer a full line of products from crib-size all the way up to king-size. From mattresses, to sheets, comforters, pillows and crib bedding sets, they offer something for everyone. And, if you’ve already purchased a mattress and don’t want to invest in a new one, they even have organic barrier covers. Another interesting point about this company is how far their dedication to keeping chemicals out of their products goes. Not only did they paint their location and seal all of their floors and sewing tables with zero VOC paints and sealers but they only hire people willing to use products with no scents and those who do not live with a smoker.
Enjoy decorating your little one’s room and remember to keep chemicals to a minimum and ventilation to a maximum. Your whole family will sleep better in an organic, VOC-free room. And, who knows, once you’ve tackled your baby’s room, you might be inspired to redecorate your own room.