AND SO TO BED Large pieces of furniture like beds are built to last so why not choose second-hand? You might be able to find what you are looking for through your local freecycle network or friends and neighbours. Put the word out and see what comes up. If you are buying new, opt for a bed or cot made from natural materials. A bedside cot can be useful to give you a bit of extra room – see bloomingmarvellous.co.uk. At Baby Calm (babycalm.co.uk), the Humanity Family Bed is a mattress pad with a long booster to keep babes safe and sound in bed next to you.
TREAD LIGHTLY Carpets hide a multitude of evils – some synthetic materials release formaldehyde into the air for months or even years. Carpets are also a haven for dust mites that aggravate asthma. There are natural alternatives though such as carpets made from paper and plastic bottles. Or choose wooden floorboards with a cosy rug by the bed, like the handmade ones from wetfeltingcompany.org.uk. If you don’t like bare boards fit linoleum (which is made from linseed oil and is biodegradable), or flooring woven from bamboo or grasses. Wool carpets are another alternative – they are biodegradable, fire retardant and help to purify the room (wool absorbs airborne contaminants such as formaldehyde and binds them in).
GREENER BEDDING Synthetic bedding can expose babies and children to formaldehyde, solvents and other chemicals. Choose bed linen made from natural untreated fibres, such as organic cotton, bamboo or hemp. At naturewarm.co.uk the luxury wool duvets are filled with pure sheeps wool to give a naturally cosy night’s sleep. At welovesleep.co.uk a whole range of organic products from mattress pads to duvets are available.
FIRMLY SPRUNG Most readily available cot mattresses are made from polyurethane foam and PVC. Both harm the environment in their manufacture and disposal and may emit noxious gases such as toluene or styrene or fire retardants shown to interfere with infant brain development. Mattresses made from natural biodegradable materials are harder to source and more expensive but better for the environment and longer lasting. Consider wool, coir (from coconut shells) or natural latex (made from rubber trees). At Dojo Ecoshop prices for children’s mattresses start at £85 and are made from coir, latex, wool and organic cotton. See dojoeco.co.uk for details. Little Green Sheep provide a custom sized mattress facility at thelittlegreensheep.co.uk, so that you can get just the right size. If using a conventional mattress consider buying an organic cotton pad to place over the top.
PAPERING OVER THE CRACKS Most wallpaper is not made from paper at all but is actually vinyl and may contain hormone-disrupting phthalates. Emissions are though to be worse over the first year. Increasingly there are alternatives available such as low VOC wallpaper adhesive and papers made from cotton and wood. At My Little Eco, a new range of sustainable papers has just been launched and these are printed with nontoxic water-based ink on FSC accredited paper. See mylittleeco.co.uk.
UP THE WALL The intoxicating smell of fresh paint indicates the presence of climate-changing chemicals known as VOCs (volatile organic compounds). These solvents include toluene, which increase the risk of neurological and developmental problems. VOCs have also been linked with postnatal depression and can trigger headaches. Choose products from small suppliers that specialise in natural paint instead such as potsofpaint.com. Most eco paints are low in VOCs or have none at all.
FREE FROM EMF Avoid any electrical equipment in the bedroom. Some studies suggest a link between electro-magnetic frequencies produced by electric appliances and cables and cancers. There is evidence that spider plants and peace lilies can help to remove airborne toxins. See the books produced by EM Fields publications (emfields.org), available from powerwatch.org.uk.
STORAGE SOLUTIONS Create a calm soothing bedroom environment by choosing clever storage solutions. Tuck bedlinen and toys away in a kaisa leaf chest from love-eco.co.uk and house toys and books in the brightly coloured bookshelves from tidy-books.com. Store loose toys and playthings in bags on hooks for easy access. Canvas sacks are available from cottonkids.co.uk, fairtrade bags and hooks can be found at ethicalkidz.co.uk.
SNUG AS A BUG Many parents prefer a baby sleeping bag to bedding or duvet as it keeps the baby warmer and secure and most importantly avoids the risk of the bedding getting caught over the baby’s head. There are organic cotton ones available and some have removable arms for spring and summer use. Blankets are useful too for maintaining correct body temperature. Silk and bamboo blankets start at £14.95 at greenerbynature.co.uk.
SOFTLY DOES IT You can transform old clothes and sheets into homemade stuffed toys and playthings. If buying new choose items made from organic fabric and stuffing. At o-toys.co.uk all toys are certified organic and there is also an undyed selection of super soft cuddly animals.