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Nurseries That Nurture: Eco-Friendly Baby Spaces

Tips on keeping your baby's nursery healty and eco-friendly

By Rachel Hulan, IIDA, CID

Preparing a nursery can be a treasured experience as you anticipate your little one's arrival. While you peruse paint colors, furniture, and decor, don't forget the importance of choosing safe, green-living products for your child's space. Your thoughtful selections will benefit not only the environment but also your precious baby's health and development.

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Light Contemporary Kid's Room
Amanda Moore
Children are innately resilient, and at times it may seem like an overreaction to be concerned about every little chemical exposure. While it's true we can't protect our children from toxins for their entire lives, it is crucial to keep babies' and toddlers' exposure to a minimum. Even small exposures can have a big impact on tiny bodies with lungs, hearts, and minds that are still maturing. It's all the reason you need to create a nursery with love and healthy materials.

Unsure where to start? Here are some of the things to consider when designing a nursery that will be beautiful from the inside out.

Get inspiration from these Nurseries That Nurture.


If at all possible, avoid carpet— it is a perfect hiding spot for dirt and allergens. Good old-fashioned linoleum, cork, and wood are far better choices for nursery flooring. In fact, just about any smooth surface flooring will do, with the exception of vinyl. Studies have shown a higher rate of asthma for children in homes with vinyl flooring, and since vinyl doesn't biodegrade, it is also a burden on our landfills.

If hard flooring leaves you feeling cold, bring in washable area rugs to add warmth and softness to the room.


You may have seen the words "low-VOC" or even "no-VOC" referring to paint. VOC stands for volatile organic compounds, and the most common ones in conventional paint are ammonia, benzene, pro-formaldehydes, ethanol, and acetone. Yuck! No wonder paint stinks. Unfortunately, waiting until you don't notice the paint smell to move into a room doesn't ensure your child's safety. Studies have shown that VOCs can "off-gas" from walls for three years after paint is applied. That is definitely not good for little lungs. Fortunately, there are now many VOC-free paints available from even the major paint manufacturers, making this an easy way to keep your nursery a healthy place.

You can also use Gorgeous and Green Wall Coverings.


When it comes to furniture, the closer the wood is to its natural state, the better. Solid wood furniture is generally the most expensive, but as long as it is finished with beeswax, tung oil, or water-based urethane, it will be safe for even a teething baby. Painted furniture can also be safe, provided that the paint is VOC-free and the piece is new. If you have a painted heirloom or even something you picked up at a garage sale, be cautious. Have the old paint tested to make sure it doesn't contain lead. 

There are good options in non-solid wood furniture as well. Make sure any plywood or MDF (medium density fiberboard) the manufacturer uses has no added formaldehyde and was finished with non-toxic paint. As with solid wood furniture, it is a bonus if you purchase something that is from sustainably forested wood.

Also look into:


Natural Born Organic Crib Bedding Set
The Land of Nod
It may not seem like babies sleep much to bleary-eyed parents waking with them at two in the morning, but little ones do spend a lot of time slumbering. That means where they sleep has to be as free of toxins as possible. Organic cotton sheets are chemical free and a good place to start, but even more important than the sheets is what you are putting them on. Most crib mattresses are made of vinyl (for waterproofing) over springs, foam, and/or polyfill, which must be doused in flame retardant by law. Not the most natural or chemical-free place for an infant to rest her head! Try using an organic cotton-wrapped wool mattress instead. Wool isn't flammable, so it requires no flame retardant to be used in a mattress. Naturally water-resistant wool pads are also available, in case you are worried about your baby's leaky diapers.

Window Treatments

When it comes to darkening the nursery for that much-needed afternoon nap (the baby's, not yours), the simpler the better. Decorative roller blinds are a great way to go, as they are very effective at blocking sunlight and are easy to maintain. Plantation shutters can also be effective, although the initial expense will be higher. Curtains are lovely to look at, but keep in mind that soft, billowy fabric is just another place for dust and allergens to set up camp.

The word nursery comes from the Latin "nutrire," which means "to nourish." Giving your baby a beautiful, toxin-free nursery is another way you can nourish his or her health and well-being for years to come.

Tips for after the nursery stage:

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