There are countless things to consider when preparing a house for a baby, and not just in the nursery. Here are a few random thoughts on happy green baby homemaking.
By Shannon Gallagher
Photograph by Sandra Seckinger
I’m a nester by nature. I always have been. But I’m also a compulsive mover; I’ve moved a dozen times in the past five years. If I were a bird, I would be a migratory one — strongly inclined to nest despite my transitory ways. I developed a reverence for space when I moved into my first apartment, alone, my sophomore year of college. And if my homemaking tendencies were in overdrive at 19, one may imagine how I feel now, just three months away from the arrival of my little one.
This weekend I moved yet again (#12). But this time around the whole moving process was different, from start to finish. Forgive the cliché, but I wasn’t just looking for a place to live, I was looking for a home, one that would be suitable for a baby (and a mother). There are countless things to consider when preparing a house for a baby, and not just in the nursery. Here are a few random thoughts on happy green baby homemaking (as I tackle the nursery I’ll be sure to share some more nursery-specific tips)…
There are all sorts of undesirable compounds in paint, even the lead-free ones. So if, like me, you find yourself moving into a home with some pretty special two-toned walls (Pepto Bismol pink with salmon trim anyone?) and need/want to paint, make sure you choose a product that’s no- or low-VOC, meaning its got five grams per liter or less of volatile organic compounds. While it’s a definite step towards reducing indoor pollution, you can go one step further and look for natural or milk based paints that will be completely free of biocides, fungicides, and dangerous pigments. But first things first: If you suspect your walls were painted before 1978, send off some paint chips for testing; to find an EPA-certified lab visit www.epa.gov/lead.
I was very lucky to find a place with a spectacular backyard, complete with a large deck and beautifully maintained garden beds. I’m extra lucky to have a landlord that assumes all responsibility for lawn care — and promises to do so without the use of pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides. It’s even in the lease, and while it may seem an unconventional or over-the-top term, it’s great to know that I’ll have a green yard and garden, in more ways than one.
If you live in the Hudson Valley you are undoubtedly used to driving most everywhere. I have certainly grown accustomed to the implications of living in relatively remote locations — at this point I actually prefer a little space around me. But with baby on the way, a lil’ proximity seemed pretty appealing. My new place is right in the village, and being able to walk into town means I will use my car a lot less, which is gentle on the earth (and on my wallet). I also anticipate feeling far less isolated once I have the baby.
As I mentioned in a previous post, “clean is green.” Well, when it comes to household cleaners, that isn’t necessarily true. Conventional cleaners are toxic, and their use leaves surfaces from floors to countertops covered in chemical residue (and contributes to indoor pollution). Switch to an eco-friendly brand like Seventh Generation that is biodegradable and free of chemicals, solvents, and dyes. You can also try to make your own cleaners out of basic kitchen ingredients: Try using club soda instead of Windex to clean your windows, or baking soda instead of Comet to scour the tub.