Green Baby

    Baby's Green Furniture: Simple Is Eco

    Carpets and paints have gotten a bad  rap on environmental issues, while baby and kid furnishings have been largely untouched by the eco cops. Meanwhile, aisles upon aisles of pretty cribs and changing tables, dressers and rockers, toy boxes and mini chairs - many of which will be tossed after just a couple of years - are depleting our forests, clogging our landfills, making giant carbon footprints in production and offgassing VOCs. Here’s what you can do:

    • buy stuff that will last because it’s durable, adaptable and designed to grow with your kid
    • look for vintage pieces made of solid wood (but make sure they comply with federal safety regulations; cribs made prior to 1991 may not)
    • pare down and improvise (do you really need all the items the baby store carries, plus every bell and whistle?)
    • and seek out green pieces – think bent or molded plywood, which is a low-waste product, and sustainable woods. There are some wonderfully innovative pieces out there created by young mom-and-pop design companies that consider the environmental impact of every stage in their process, from the materials themselves to packing and trucking.

    Here’s the scoop on eco trends in baby furniture.

    Cribs and beds
    A crib has to be strong enough for you to trust it with your sleeping child, even after thousands of hours of use. Simple designs made of solid hardwood tend to do the job best. They also tend to be the soundest environmentally, as do cribs finished with nontoxic paint or sealant - a good choice healthwise, since the top rail is likely to double as a teething aid. Toddler beds follow the same principle: simple designs spell longevity, while that novelty race-car or princess bed’s cute factor is very age-specific.  
    The greening
    Many of the coolest and greenest cribs emerging from the drawing boards of young eco-design firms are created to do double duty - add an optional piece here and there, and your crib serves as a changing table or gives you extra storage. They’re also adaptable. As your kid grows, you can reconfigure the crib to be a toddler bed, youth bed, sofa and even chairs (you will probably have to buy a separate manufacturer’s kit to do so). That’s a saving of resources - yours and the planet’s. For growable sustainable furnishings, check out Argington, Duc Duc , Oeuf, Stokke and Nurseryworks. More reasonably priced convertible - but not sustainable or nontoxic – you’ll find a few at Babies “R” Us (check out the Casual Collection by Carter and Simplicity for Children) and Target.
    The greenest
    • Adaptable cribs and beds built with hardwoods from managed forests; some, including a line from Q Collection Junior, are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (qcollectionjunior.com). These tend to be pricey, but slightly less green, lower-budget versions are available (think Ikea).

    Tables, chairs and storage
    You can find pretty much any style in mini furnishings for kids. Just as in the grown-up world, what’s considered stylish now is clean-lined, modern and playful – all good eco qualities. That means plastics are out, plywood is in; so is any natural wood, making a simple vintage piece a good find (toy chests must meet federal safety standards; watch out for lead paint). For simple nursery chairs and tables made from birch and birch ply that’s not from intact natural forests, check out Ikea.
    The greening
    Back when you were a kid, the plywood and engineered woods (composite board, particle board, MDF or fiberboard) that were used to make your little tables and chairs were bound with toxic formaldehyde-based glues. Since the ‘80s, manufacturers have gradually reduced the level of VOCs in these products; they’ve also paid more attention to sealing the woods to minimize off-gassing. And today, some children’s furniture designers are using woods bound with new nontoxic glues.
    The greenest
    • The greenest is the simplest – it uses the minimum amunt of wood, has nontoxic adhesives and finishes, and comes flat-packed (less packing material). Check out Ecotots
    • Pieces made with a steel or wood frame and organic cotton (check our the baby bouncers at Ouef (ouefnyc.com) and Nest (nestplease.com)
    • If you’re thinking tiny armchairs, look at the Landing Pad’s soft seating stuffed with eco-fleece made from recycled soda bottles instead of off-gassing foam.
    • Superinventive design company Foldschool (foldschool.com) makes basic but totally green mini pieces from folded cardboard, and Pallet Art (palletart.com) makes whimsical furnishings and accessroeis from dicarded shipping pallets.

    Changing tables and dressers
    Any solid wood dresser, repainted with nontoxic color if necessary, can work in a child’s room, but if you’re buying a new one, think about making it work as a changing table too, and consider how it will look in a few years’ time when the crib’s turned into a bed and the bears have been displaced by robots. Clean design is one solution.
    The greening
    Innovative young designers (moms and pops themselves) have come up with solid wood changing tables that are also simple dressers. Some have designed changing boards that attach to the top of a crib (argington.com).
    The greenest
    • Tables made of natural woods, and nontoxic glues if the product has MDF or particleboard components.