Designing a Green Nursery Room

Wednesday September 02, 2009
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Nothing stimulates the creativity of parents–to–be more than the impending arrival of a newborn. As the time draws near their excitement and anticipation escalates while thoughts turn towards the baby's room. The proud couple find themselves drifting naturally toward the nursery sections of stores.

Decisions have to be made! A room has to be decided on to be converted into a nursery. Once decided, further decisions have to be made...that of decoration. Is it going to be a boy or girl? What color scheme should we have; what theme? The expectant mother agonizes in delightful anticipation over these problems while the father’s thoughts turn toward the work in hand. But there is more to decorating a nursery than just deciding on a color scheme, a pretty theme or beautiful furniture.

Re–decoration starts with a thorough cleaning of the floor, walls and ceiling. Many synthetic detergents and cleaners contain chemicals that could potentially be harmful to a child, especially a new–born infant. An infant is young and delicate, with organs that are highly susceptible to harmful toxins. Most chemical cleaners release certain amounts of chlorine or ammonia gas, or both, which could cause irritation of the respiratory tract, lungs and skin. These could have an adverse effect throughout the growing process and inflict themselves in later life. So care has to be exercised at every stage...beginning with cleaning, especially the floors.

Green, organic cleaning products are always the preferred choice. Many green products, including eco–friendly floor cleaners, are made with natural, environmentally friendly materials that contain little if any synthetic or harmful chemicals that could impact the baby. When cleaning the nursery the best homemade detergent is a mild solution made with water to which a small quantity of lemon juice, vinegar or baking soda is added. The solution cleans and disinfects as effectively as its chemical equivalent, leaving no potentially–harmful residual gasses.

Painting is the next part of the exercise which needs careful consideration. Washable or enamel paints contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are unavoidable. They are known irritants of the respiratory tract that, in addition, could cause headaches and nausea. A preferable alternative is to use low VOC paint available at almost all home improvement stores. Painting should be done well in advance and the room ventilated till all residual odors are expelled. If natural ventilation is not possible then exhaust fans might be required.

Floor or wall coverings are also major area of concern when designing a baby room. A vinyl floor, wallpaper or chemically treated carpet are best avoided. They all release gases that could be slowly absorbed by a baby’s system. The gases could be potentially toxic and may sometimes affect the kidneys and liver.

The best alternatives are low VOC paint, bamboo or cork floors, or eco–friendly carpet. Low VOC paint releases minimal quantities of gases while specific types of bamboo and cork floors release none at all. If using low VOC paint, the same precautions should be observed of painting well in time and keeping the nursery adequately ventilated to be free of any remnant gas.

Here is a checklist to create healthy nursery conditions:

  • Protect all furniture from dust and debris, or better still, remove it.
  • Keep doors and windows open for maximum ventilation.
  • Remove old paint by sanding or scraping.
  • Vacuum and remove all dust and debris.
  • Mop all surfaces with a damp cloth.
  • Clean surfaces using a green cleaner or a natural dilute solution of vinegar, baking soda or lemon juice.
  • Paint all required surfaces using low VOC paint.
  • If flooring is to be changed, opt for eco–friendly carpet, bamboo, or cork floors.
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