Non-toxic

A Simple, Non-Toxic Nursery

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[EDIT: Come check out my new web site Naturally Safe Home! and follow me on Instagram for more up-to-date tips and information, including my best baby product suggestions! @NaturallySafeHome]

When creating a nursery, I like to think of it as a calm, soothing little cocoon. Our nursery is made of varying shades of white and cream with natural fibers (seagrass, wicker, cane) added for texture. Both our son and daughter used the same room and if we have any more children, I don’t anticipate it will change very much for them. We keep the room comfortable yet spare—limited furniture, decorations, and toys. Like many parents, I also strive for it to be as non-toxic as possible (easier said than done!). If you are looking for ideas for your nursery, here are some suggestions:

Crib. We are not co-sleepers, so a crib is center stage in the nursery for our children. Ideally this would be made from non-toxic materials. (Here and here are some good posts about non-toxic cribs). Ours is from Ikea, but if I was doing it all over again, I’d get this one from Land of Nod. It is made by El Greco and seems to be wonderful.

Crib mattress and mattress pad. The mattress is the one serious, no-compromise-must-be-organic item in the nursery. Ours is from Naturepedic. If I was doing it over again, I’d get this one from Naturepedic without the waterproof cover (the waterproof layer is supposedly safe, but I’d still rather be more cautious. We have a waterproof  mattress pad anyway, so there is no reason for the mattress itself to be waterproof.) This is our organic mattress pad. Natural Baby Mama has a great post about all of this.

Crib sheet. Preferably GOTS certified organic cotton (companies can say the cotton is organic and then still treat it with chemicals). We like these from Naturepedic.

Chair. A comfortable place to sit, feed the baby, read books, etc is paramount. Unfortunately nearly all conventionally upholstered gliders/rockers contain excessive amounts of flame retardants. We had a very comfortable but very toxic glider. I’ve replaced it with a vintage, solid wood rocker with a cane seat and back. The caning makes it surprisingly comfortable (it has more give than solid wood).

Dresser. I don’t need to tell you that dressers are the perfect multipurpose piece of furniture. We use ours as a changing table, as well as a place to store diapers, creams and supplies, clothing, bedding and blankets. Ours is an old family dresser that will grow with our children and hopefully one day live in their homes.

Changing pad. This is another item that really needs to be organic. Conventional changing pads are made of polyurethane foam and contain flame retardants. Naturepedic makes an organic version (which is what we have). Here is the changing pad cover we use.

Bookcase. The shelves can house books and toys, while the top is a surface for a lamp, white noise and a plant (plants help filter the air. Peace lilies are great). Avoid pressed woods and MDF—ideally it would be made from a solid, hardwood with a non-toxic stain or paint.

Window coverings. Whatever you choose, make sure it adequately blocks out the light if that is a goal. We have cotton black-out curtains that I open and close for nap time and bed time.

Rug. Toxins are incredibly sneaky and rugs are often an overlooked haven for these guys. The ideal solution is hardwood floors (with a non-toxic finish) with a natural fiber rug on top (wood floors without a rug could be very loud and echo-y). Wall-to-wall carpeting is nearly always chock-full of toxins, which is why I strongly suggest steering clear from it if at all possible. (Side note: Do not ever remove wall-to-wall carpeting yourself. Ripping it up releases tons of toxins into your house and lungs. Have it professionally removed by someone who specializes in non-toxic removal). I love these seagrass rugs from Curran. They come in any size, and they are made without any treatments, pesticides or finishes (some companies treat their seagrass with pesticides, such as Pottery Barn). The backing is natural latex without any adhesive. Seagrass also naturally repels stains due to its naturally-occurring waxy finish. We have these rugs throughout our house, and I am thrilled with them.

Minimal art and decorations. I prefer to keep things simple and clean in this department. No need to go crazy and feel pressure from Pinterest to bedazzle every aspect of the room.

Mirror and clock. I like having a mirror in the room so I can see if that sweet little baby has dozed off or not on my shoulder! A discreet yet illuminated clock is vital during those nighttime rendezvous. More on this here.

White noise. Indispensable in a creaky old house like ours. We use an old ipod on a dock.

Baby monitor. Brace yourselves: we’ve given up the monitor. Once I learned that video monitors actually run on wi-fi (What did I think they used? Magic??) I removed it from the room. It wasn’t close to our children (probably five feet away), but I still felt uncomfortable. If we have another baby, we will use an old-fashioned noise-only monitor. The pros of the video aspect are not worth the risks to us. (Talking about wi-fi being toxic definitely could make you think I’ve gone off the deep end. Unfortunately, it might not be as safe as we think. The CDC recently issued a warning about it, and I imagine it will become a much more mainstream concern in the coming years. On that note, we’ve never allowed our children anywhere near our iphones, ipads or laptops, and we keep our wireless turned off in our house most of the time. We—the adults—also only use our phones on speaker or with a headset—never against our heads. No doubt your eyes have glazed over by now!)

A small selection of books and toys. Preferably all non-toxic (no plastic, no batteries, etc.). Fewer is always better when it comes to toys. I promise your children will not be bored! More on this soon. Here are some of our favorite baby toys.

Paint. This must be VOC-free (primer, too!) We use Natura by Benjamin Moore for all of our paint. [EDIT: I used Natura MANY years ago. I would now suggest Ecos brand paint.]

Must-Read: A Beginner’s Guide to Non-Toxic Living

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A question I am often asked is “what should I do to live a less toxic lifestyle?” Such a wonderful question, and I so appreciate any interest in the topic. The tricky part is the vast quantity of things to consider. I admit it might feel overwhelming for someone new to the subject.

My best suggestion is to start with this fabulous, comprehensive, free PDF guide from Healthy Child Healthy World (or free e-book version here). While it is targeted toward pregnant women, I think it is highly beneficial for everyone to follow their guidelines. Though there are some things it has left out, for the most part, it is pretty all-encompassing, rock-solid advice. It might seem long at first glance, but it is a quick, easy (free!) read. Two important things the guide leaves out are the Skin Deep (cosmetics and personal care items) and Cleaners databases from EWG (Environmental Working Group)—key parts to finding the best, safest products available. Combining EWG and HCHW, you are on your way to an extremely healthy lifestyle.

Healthy Child Healthy World also has some really helpful guides here, here and here on DIY/ remodeling, which is always important and particularly important while pregnant (all of you nesting out there, proceed with extreme caution and care).

More to come on living a non-toxic lifestyle. I hear your requests and appreciate the interest! :)

An Eye Cream Worth Knowing About

A few months ago, I shared my morning skin care routine. Not long after, my eye cream ran out. Because it was rated a three EWG, it still had some ingredients I’d rather avoid. Replacing it was an opportunity to search for something new and better. It took me a while to find one worth trying, but I did. And it is fabulous.

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Beautycounter’s Vibrant Eye Perfector is just that—even after two weeks of burning the candle at both ends (work hard! play hard!), I don’t have dark circles under my eyes. They are more vibrant and bright than I would have imagined possible. The cream is supposed to help decrease fine lines, as well. I have noticed my skin feels smoother, but I don’t have too many eye wrinkles yet, so I cannot speak to its efficacy on that front. But if you have dark circles (with or without sleep, like me!), this is your cream.

The cream took about five days, applied morning and night, to really make a difference. At first I thought I had been duped, but I am very glad to say it is a wonderful product. And with an EWG rating of one, this is safe and non-toxic.

Beautycounter has a lot of products that look worthwhile. I love the company’s mission and aesthetic. The thing the bothers me is they don’t allow reviews on their web site. Not only is this less helpful, but it always makes a company seem suspect in my eyes. Maybe they will change that soon. If I try anything else, I will be sure to let you know.

What eye cream do you use?

EDIT: I recently became a consultant for Beautycounter (several months after posting this)! After loving their products for many months, I decided to represent the company, as well. More details to come!

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Simple Pleasures: Community Loaves’ Fresh Bread

Although I would love to be someone who bakes her own bread, it isn’t in the cards these days. Thankfully we can still enjoy homemade bread from Community Loaves in Murray Hill. Baked with organic ingredients (many of which are locally sourced) in a shop that feels more like a friend’s kitchen than a commercial venue, the bread and other bakery treats are worth going out of the way to get. On top of that, they don’t store their breads in any plastic, which is the real reason I started buying from them. (We are slowly removing all plastic as much as possible from our lives, and it is quite challenging.) We indulged in a few treats after a morning swim today and devoured every bit.

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Community Loaves
1120 Edgewood Avenue South
Jacksonville, Florida
w-f: 7:30-2pm
sat: 10-3pm

If you cannot get to their primary location, they also sell a selection of their menu at Grassroots and Native Sun (this is where I often get it), as well as a few other places. At these locations, the bread also comes in paper bags, so not to worry about the plastic here either. At $6 a loaf, it is only $1 more than an organic pre-sliced loaf from a traditional grocer, and it is far superior in quality. Not to mention it supports lovely people in our own community.

A few tips: this is not your regular bread. It isn’t sliced, and it should not be until you are ready to eat it. Yes, this is slightly less convenient, but aren’t most things that way that are healthier and safer? And after a little while, the extra step or two becomes the norm. For storage purposes: keep your bread in its paper bag and then either store in a wood or stainless steel bread box or a loosely wrapped plastic bag (yes, it is plastic, but at least not touching the bread). Do not place it in a sealed ziploc (as I have!), as this cuts off too much moisture. If the bread gets too hard, loosen your container a bit. If it gets too soft, open it up a bit. In the future, I might buy a few loaves at once and freeze them for convenience, but I’d like to ask the owners about this first.

We are still new to eating bread this way, and both children are not completely on board, but we are working on it. If you go, don’t miss the savory stuffed baguettes. A certain one-year-old I know tore this to bits, and I was able to sneak a few bites, too.

A Softer Alternative for Those Messy Hands

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Watching your child learn to feed herself is a wonderfully messy stage. Nothing seems cuter than a child covered in food … until the clean up starts. Although I do sometimes use paper towels to clean up, I find these cloths do the job more quickly and effectively. I first started using them when I tried (and failed) to go paperless a few years ago. They are softer than paper towels, very thin (in a good way) and the clean up is over much sooner, so children are happier. I only use these for hands and faces and wash them out right away so that stains don’t set.

I bought my set of cloths in natural (just like the ones pictured above) at the local arts market a few years ago, and the same dealer now has an etsy store. You could easily sew these yourself, but that’s a project I will never get to ha. I think I am about due for another set.