Building Materials

Resources and information regarding the importance of building a green nursery for baby, alternative building products to use during home construction and renovations and improved environmental options for outdoor lawn and garden care.

Natural Light​

A room selected for the nursery should offer adequate natural light. Daylight helps increase vitamin D, which is essential for the development of healthy teeth and bones. Natural light also helps regulate circadian rhythms to help babies adjust their sleeping patterns to a 24-hour day. Since babies nap frequently, adding organic window treatments to control sunlight will help babies settle in for daytime sleep. Include non toxic, air purifying houseplants in decorative planters on shelves out of the reach of children for a pop of natural color and to create more oxygen while removing harmful toxins from the air.

Color Palette

Certain paints release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which reduce indoor air quality and can linger in nurseries for months after the room is painted. The air pollutants VOCs release can affect children much greater than adults. Be aware of the chemicals present in the paint being used in the nursery color palette prior to baby being born and seek paints with low or no VOCs. When shopping, speak to a sales associate about safe paint options for nurseries and select a paint that doesn’t require a primer. There will be fewer chemicals. There are also water-based or milk-based paints on the market today to consider as safer alternatives.

Carpeting and Hardwood Floors

Carpet is a breeding ground for bacteria and requires constant cleaning to maintain a safe space for crawling babies. A safer alternative is hardwood flooring and throw rugs, which are easily machine washed. Review the hardwood finish. Many finishes contain formaldehyde and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Natural finish offers the best selection, as well as carbon negative flooring products, which use selective harvesting and other sustainable timber management practices during the milling process to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. 

Other natural flooring includes bamboo, cork flooring and wool carpet. Note that laminate flooring is not a substitute for hardwood. Many only have a thin layer of wood and are attached together with toxic glues. Also beware of PVC flooring and other PVC products. The VOCs they emit contribute to poorer indoor air quality. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is commonly used in flooring, wall covering and ceiling material including vinyl tiles. If a flooring renovation is not in the budget, clean existing carpets with pure steam. Alternatively, some carpet cleaning companies offer a chemical-free service.

Cribs, Bedding, & Blankets

Babies sleep 50-60% of their day. The crib, changing table, and other furniture should be made of natural woods and have natural finishes, not chemical finishes. It’s best to seek blankets and sheets made from natural materials including cotton, silk, bamboo, and hemp. Look for crib mattresses made from organic cotton or wool, a plastic cover made from a food-grade polyethylene and a natural mattress cover. If there’s one “chemical-free” change you are able to make, select a non-toxic crib & mattress.

Learn how to keep baby safer by viewing the Magee Women’s Hospital of UPMC: Baby Steps to Green Parenting, a guide to environmental health for families.

Product and Building Materials Red List

The materials red list (commonly shortened to simply “red list”) is a compilation of harmful-to-humans chemicals and materials compiled by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI) as part of its Living Building Challenge. Reference this list when considering home renovations to help select alternative building materials.

Lawn and Garden Care

Most lawn and garden products are sold to control disease, fertilize and kill or eliminate pests (i.e. herbicide, insecticide, bactericide and fungicide). Although these products may keep the lawn green, many have been linked to environmental contaminants, degradation and disease in animals and humans.

There are several steps you can take to promote a “green” lawn while eliminating the use of harmful contaminants on your lawn and garden

Add a compost bin and rain barrel to the backyard. The Pennsylvania Resource Council offers seasonal workshops for backyard composting and conservation as webinars for residents to learn more about the power of waste reduction.

Use natural pest deterrents and homemade remedies to treat unwanted critters and keep homes healthy and pest free.

Practice Integrated Pest Management.

Ask questions, read labels, do your research and learn the Top 10 Tips for Safe Lawn Care.