Going greener with little ones

Because their bodies are still growing, babies and children are more vulnerable to environmental pollutants than adults. Give your bundle of joy a head start by creating a safe, healthy, and nontoxic haven, free of hazards that could hinder his or her mental and physical development.

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1. Dress organically. While the pesticides used to grow conventional cotton won't rub off onto your baby's skin, you can rest easier knowing that organic fabrics have done less harm to our fledgling planet. Fixatives that make clothing wrinkle-free, stain-resistant, or flame-retardant, however, may affect your kid's health. For both reasons, baby gear made from hemp, organic Merino wool, and organic cotton are preferable eco-choices, while fair-trade duds ensure your clothes were made for kids, not by kids.

2. Play it safe. Not all toys that seem cute are safe. Take the good old rubber ducky, for example, which can pack a toxic punch if it contains PVC. And no one can forget the lead-paint scare. To make sure they are not harmful, look for labels that claim playthings are PVC-free and nontoxic, call vendors, and learn how to make sure that the toys you bring home are lead-free. We also like wood toys with non-toxic finishes, which not only have old-timey charm, but also last forever. For more tips, check out TreeHugger's guide on How to Green Your Kids Toys or watch the Sara Snow video below.

3. Decorate with care. As in the rest of house, decorating a nursery or playroom with green, natural materials will ameliorate your little one's indoor environment. To start, forego wall-to-wall carpets in favor of hardwood or cork flooring and area rugs and add color with low-VOC paints. To avoid exposure to formaldehyde and other VOCs, pass over conventional pressed-wood furnishings made from materials such as MDF or plywood. Solid wood trumps the cheap stuff every time; second-hand stuff is a great idea, and you can throw on a new coat of non-toxic finish to spruce up older pieces. Need more advice or help minimizing risks from furniture you've already purchased? Check out our tips on eco-friendly furnishings. Then browse some new baby furniture we love.

4. Food for thought. Who wants to spend her time worrying whether baby's supper is filled with refined sugars, chemically modified starches, preservatives, or artificial additives? Instead, know exactly what your little munchkin is eating by making your own baby food from organic fruit and vegetables. It's a snap-and we promise it won't take any longer than it would to vet what's on the ingredients list of that store-bought container. Special equipment includes a blender, ice-cube trays, and glass containers, but beyond that, all you have to do, basically, is push a button. (If only feeding the little monsters was so easy!)

5. Safe sipping. Bottles are a tricky topic-it always seems like today's hot new arrival is tomorrow's chemical culprit. Much of the current debate hovers around a chemical called bisphenol A, or BPA, which may leach from plastic into liquids and disrupt normal hormone function. To skirt the issue, look for bottles made without BPA, or made from glass (though anyone who has seen a raging two-year-old toss his milk across the room know this isn't always the most feasible choice.) Our baby bottle buying tips guide you through the process. To further protect your little angel, opt for bacteria-resistant silicone nipples, and never PVC.]

Find out what's next with Detox Your Home: Nursery Part 2.

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