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Montreal Families

Create an Eco-Friendly Nursery

Montreal mom-to-be Jamie Allen has excellent “green” credentials: she cleans her home with baking soda and vinegar, shops for local produce at the Jean Talon Market, uses cloth hankies and counts vermicomposting worms among her pets.

Now, with her first child on the way, Allen has decided to create an earth-friendly nursery for her little one. “I believe in caring for the environment,” she says. “I’d like to instill these principles in my child, and there’s no better place to start than in the nursery.”

Allen has picked out green paint for the nursery walls — literally. To replace the room’s existing white-and-red colour scheme, she’s chosen an apple-coloured hue from Benjamin Moore’s Aura line, which is low in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Regular paint emits noxious fumes for years which have been linked to everything from headaches to cancer.

“We’ve used this same low-VOC paint in other rooms,” Allen says. “We like it because you don’t need primer. And since you can get away with fewer coats, you don’t need to buy as much.” While there are zero-VOC paints out there (such as Freshaire and Bioshield), Allen found the limited earthy colour palette quite restrictive, so she struck a happy balance between environmental and aesthetic concerns.

But she may use milk paint on the wooden furniture in the nursery, which is as natural as it gets. Composed of milk protein, lime, clay and earth pigments, it’s manufactured by companies such as Milk Paint and Homestead House Paint Company Inc. “You can even make it yourself — there are recipes online,” she says (Check out marthastewart.com/goodthings/milk-paint-recipe.)

While Allen would rather buy second hand as opposed to new furniture (which depletes natural resources like wood), she has been cautious about purchasing used items for the baby’s room. Safety standards can change or items may have been recalled, so parents should exercise caution. For example, Health Canada recommends several precautions when it comes to cribs. They urge steering clear of pre-September-1986 models which don’t meet current safety recommendations. (By law, cribs must have a label indicating the manufacture date).

Also, these items need to be assembled according to the manufacturer’s instructions and never modified in any way. (The full crib safety fact sheet can be downloaded from the Health Canada website at www.hc-sc.gc.ca.) To find out if an item has been recalled, do a Google search with the model number or call the manufacturer.

Keeping in mind the safety guidelines, Allen recently found a hardwood crib from a couple on the Plateau. While delighted with the bed, she’s ditching the foam, vinyl covered mattress that came with it. A recent study in England found a correlation between Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and the use of second hand polyurethane foam mattresses, which may contain large amounts of bacteria. Instead, Allen is considering a special mattress made in St. Lambert by Monika Collini and sold at La Loba, a store in the St. Hubert Plaza selling eco-friendly baby products. Because the mattress is made locally, its carbon footprint is lighter. As well as being non-toxic, the sheep’s wool stuffing in the mattress is naturally fire-retardant and mold-resistant. It also repels water, so the mattress won’t absorb urine.

Safe baby toys
Allen hasn’t chosen many baby toys yet but she won’t be going overboard with flashy gadgets. We spend a Saturday afternoon window shopping for baby items and discover an array of stuffed toys and play things at La Grande Ourse that jibe with her sensibilities. Items in the store are made from cotton, wool, untreated wood and beeswax.

Allen cuddles a floppy knitted lamb and then tries out a natural wood rattle. It’s gentle clunking sound is much more pleasant than the ear-splitting noise made by the plastic toys my son (now a teenager) played with as a baby. These wooden toys pose no threat to a teething baby’s health, however intensively they are chewed; plastic versions may leach chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA) — a hormone disruptor our government officially deems “toxic.”

Allen has purchased a second hand rocking chair on Craigslist as well as an all-natural nursing pillow at La Loba. Made by a mother living in Montreal, the natural buckwheat-shell-filled cushion was inspired by those used in her native Korea. It provides firm support, is hypoallergenic and was sewn by women in a Montreal employment program, “Petites Mains,” which helps counter poverty and exclusion.

One piece of furniture Allen will purchase new is her baby’s changing table. She has chosen a convertible model made from formaldehyde-free wood by IKEA — a company that practices sustainable forest management. Her investment will serve for years. “Once we’re finished with diapers, we can use the changing table as a dresser,” she explains.

Not too surprisingly, Allen is stocking up the dresser with cloth diapers to avoid the waste that disposables create. She’s amazed by the variety available both online and in local stores such as Bummis and AzureWraps Boutique.

Talking and shopping with Allen reveals how her latest project makes sense on so many levels. She’s saving money, giving her child a healthy start, keeping her home uncluttered and respecting the planet. As if that’s not enough, she’s passing on the message that treating the environment well starts from birth.

Shop Local, Shop Green

Montreal is home to several stores that focus on environmentally-friendly maternity and baby care items such as cloth diapers, toys, BPA-free bottles and baby carriers. Most of these stores have websites where you can preview what is available, and in some cases, you can even purchase items online.

La Loba
6293 Plaza St. Hubert, (514) 509-2818
www.laloba.ca

La Grande Ourse
263 Duluth East, (514) 847-1207 (no website)

Bummis
4302 St. Laurent Blvd., Montreal (514) 289-9415
www.boutiquebummis.com

Le Baby Shop
275-3 St. Jean Blvd., Pointe Claire, (514) 671-0362
493 Harwood Blvd., #130, Vaudreuil-Dorion, (450) 319-6008
www.lebabyshop.com

Many online sites, including Montreal Families’ classified ads, Craigslist and Kijiji offer a chance for Montrealers to sell gently used items (of all kinds) and sometimes even give them away. www.montrealfamilies.ca, montreal.craigslist.ca and montreal.kijiji.ca

You'll find a selection of eco-friendly products at the following Montreal-based websites:

Delivery Essentials
(514) 369-3827, www.deliveryessentials.com

Zia and Tia
(514) 783-9995, www.ziaandtia.com

For more eco-friendly products:

www.montrealfamilies.ca/eco_friendly.htm

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