I think we can all agree that, second only to getting adorable baby clothes, setting up a nursery is the best part about preparing for a new baby. All those colour choices, baby themes (hello, woodland animals!), and new baby furniture, oh my! As a first-time parent, it’s incredibly easy to get caught up in it all and duped into believing that you need way more than you actually do. When I first started planning for our nursery, I was overwhelmed by all of the options and hefty price tags. But after many months of research and planning, we were able to put together a great nursery that was both affordable and safe for our babe and the environment. The key to our success? Instead of losing sleep over every single item in the nursery, we focused our energy on 5 main areas to help us make sure that we made eco-friendly choices while staying on budget. So, without further ado, here they are…
1. Re-purpose existing furniture
I guarantee you that someone will tell you that you need to get a change table. I can also guarantee you that once your baby is mobile, you will never use that change table again. Instead of buying baby-specific furniture, just take a look around the house and see what you can reuse. We ended up taking an old dresser and attaching a change pad to the top of it. For the time being, it makes a great change station but when she outgrows it we will still be able to use it as a dresser. We also took the bedside table and lamp from the old guest room and now use them next to the rocking chair as a nursing station, which has been a huge help.
2. Invest in sustainable sleep
Babies sleep a lot during the first year of their lives. If you’re going to invest in one or two new items for the nursery, make it the crib and mattress. Thankfully, environmentally-friendly cribs and mattresses are widely available now and at (more) affordable prices too. When buying a crib, look for ones that are made of sustainably-sourced wood and are either untreated or finished with non-toxic, food grade paint. At the low end of the range, Ikea’s Sniglar crib is a good option, made from 100% untreated solid beech and ringing in at just under $100. For our nursery, we ended up choosing the mid-range Jenny Lind crib, which is a bit more stylish, made from sustainably-harvested wood and non-toxic paint, converts into a toddler bed, and is available for around $300. Six months in, I’m still madly in love with it.
Mattresses are a little trickier. There are a LOT of options out there – and even more opinions on which are better for baby and the environment. Really, it comes down to wanting natural materials and as few chemicals as possible. The two main options are natural latex and organic cotton spring mattresses. The first can run a bit expensive here in Canada but Obasan makes a great one, if you can afford it. The second was more realistic for us in terms of cost and is available at just about any baby retailer (aka, you can use all of the gift cards you receive to pay for it!). Naturepedic is the gold standard at $300-400 but you can also get Simmons BeautyRest ones at Toys R Us for as little as $100.
3. Choose non-toxic flooring
Second only to their bed, babies spend the most time cruising around on the floor. While you usually can’t control what your floors themselves are made of, you can choose non-toxic and environmentally friendly floor coverings (think rugs and floor mats). In terms of natural fibers, wool and organic cotton are great choices and are super easy to care for. Under the Nile makes great organic cotton rugs with material leftover from their clothing production (how cool is that?) that cost $50-100 depending on the size. The great thing about opting for a rug over play mat is that you can reuse it in another room of the house once baby has outgrown their nursery.
4. Opt for a low- or zero-VOC paint
This one seems simple but it makes a huge difference. Anyone who’s had to paint during the winter knows first hand that paint fumes are overwhelming and linger for an incredibly long time. We once lived in an apartment that smelled of paint fumes for 5 months. Obviously, that’s not something that you want to expose your newborn baby to. Instead, opt for a low- or zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint that will not only be safer for your baby, it will make the whole painting experience much more enjoyable for parents too. My favourite is the Natura line by Benjamin Moore – it has the same great quality and colour selection but with absolutely no emissions. Win!
5. Get baby gear that does the work for you
There will always be some things that you can’t avoid buying. In those cases, just make sure that you opt for smart technology whenever possible to help reduce your environmental impact. In our house, it was a humidifier because the air gets incredibly dry in the winter. After looking at what felt like a hundred different humidifiers, we went with one that has a built-in sensor, so it only turns on when the humidity levels drop below a certain point (which we could set) and ended up saving us both electricity and water.
At the end of the day, setting up your baby’s new nursery should be an exciting and joyous activity. Don’t lose sleep over feeling like you need to have the newest and best of everything – just focus on having what works for your family. Limiting what you buy and getting gently used things when you can will save you a lot of money and ensure that you create a space that’s safe for baby. Once you accept that, the whole process becomes a lot less stressful and, hopefully, a whole lot of fun!