Your body is your child's first environment. Make it a safe one.
When you're pregnant, living a green lifestyle takes on a new importance. Instead of following the trend to ease your eco-guilt, it's about creating a safe and healthy world for your baby to grow and thrive in. But how do you do it? Here are a few hints.
•Replace From purchasing and eating local produce to ridding your home of toxins in all forms, take stock of the environment closest to you and your baby.
•Research What you use on and around your baby affects her health. From shampoo to clothing to crib sheets, read all ingredient labels and make sure the products are made from organic sources.
•Recycle Take a long-term approach to protecting your baby—and the environment. Reuse and repurpose as often as you can. Here is how five real-world moms, inspired by the birth of their children, started with one simple step and ended up going green for good.
1. Recycle, reuse and run a zero-waste home
Lisa Mitchell decided she wanted to do something to make a difference and make a living at the same time, and she wanted to set a good example for her daughters, Lucy and Caroline. So shortly after her divorce, Mitchell went into the recycling business.
She learned all she could about the business and, in 2001, founded Recyclaholics (recyclaholics.com), which sells 100 percent compostable products such as trash bags and food-service ware to schools, government agencies and restaurants. For example, her fully compostable cups are made from recycled sugarcane waste. "They start as waste, get recycled into cups, and then go back to the earth as compost; it's the perfect closed-loop product," Mitchell says.
In the interest of closing the loop, Recyclaholics recently spun off a second company, Recology Solutions (recologysolutions.com). Now Mitchell sells compostable products via one company and helps customers compost and recycle via the other. She's also launching a line of retail products online so that anyone can run a zero-waste home or business.
What you can do
Recycle Everything you can Go to earth 911.org or call 800-CLEANUP (800-253-2687) to find programs in your area.
Buy Green Look for biodegradable tableware, new materials that contain sugarcane and corn, and recycled paper towels.
Start Composting "You can easily compost most of your food waste," says Mitchell. Just remember to keep food and organic matter (such as grass clippings and plant materials) separate from other waste. When the rich soil is ready, you can plant vegetables in it; then, when they're ripe, use them to make baby food. Finally, close the loop: Toss the leftovers back into the composting bin. For complete composting instructions, go to fitpregnancy.com/inthisissue.
2. Buy local, feed your community well
Jennifer Cliff has always been passionate about food and wine, but learning to appreciate locally grown fare took on new meaning when she was expecting. That's when Edible Sacramento was born along with her daughter, Parker, now 3. Cliff publishes and her husband Darren Cliff edits Edible Sacramento (ediblesacramento.com), one of 40 or so community food magazines licensed by Edible Communities, Inc.
People need to know they can help struggling local farmers maintain their family legacy just by eating the foods they produce, Cliff explains. Community farmers can use the money you spend to grow and harvest nutritious, flavorful food. It's also easier on the environment than transporting foods over long distances. And, you can actually go to the farm where your food is grown and ask about any chemicals used on its crops.
Eating local is safer When we eat foods from other countries, we have no way of knowing whether they contain pesticides banned in the U.S. Although the FDA and USDA monitor fruit, grain, meat and dairy products for certain banned pesticides, they only sample a relatively small number of shipments. Even worse, some toxic pesticides used in other countries aren't on the list of federally tested chemicals, and therefore there is no way to detect them.
What you can do:
Shop local To find farmers markets in your area, go to the farmersmarketsusa.org.
3. Put yourself and your baby on a chemical-free diet
As a scientist, Andrea Jones knew the advantages of eating pesticide-free foods even before she got pregnant. During her pregnancy, she ate mostly organic foods, but she didn't give it serious thought until her son, Kyle, now 3, was a few months old. Jones started reading about the dangers of pesticides in food. "Because of their faster metabolism and smaller body size, babies can't process and eliminate pesticides as well as adults," she says.
As a result, Jones began buying only organic produce and felt that what she and her son were eating was safe. That is, until she came across an Environmental Working Group study that tested canned foods (including organic varieties) in the U.S. for bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is often used in can liners to prevent the metal from corroding and leaching into foods, but it's associated with breast and prostate cancer, infertility and permanent damage to developing male reproductive organs. The researchers found that the linings of more than half the cans tested contained BPA.
Jones was shocked to learn that the U.S. government sets no safety limits for the chemical's use in canned foods. [Editor's note: The Food and Drug Administration has not found reason to revise its guidelines concerning the use of BPA in food containers; for the latest statement on the agency's position, go to fitpregnancy.com/fdabpa.] She contacted nine companies and asked them if the cans of organic food her family ate contained BPA. Most of them did.
Some companies responded with explanations, falling back on the government guidelines and claiming there are no safe alternatives. Nevertheless, Jones told them she would stop buying their products. Today, she spreads the word to her family and friends, and she's learning how to make more meals from scratch.
What you can do
Make your own MEALS By cooking fresh and limiting canned and packaged foods, you'll curb your exposure to chemicals.
Use your purchasing power If you're not sure whether the canned foods you buy contain BPA, call the companies and ask. Then write to manufacturers and tell them you'll stop buying cans that contain it.
Learn more For information about reducing your and your baby's exposure to BPA, check out the Environmental Working Group's Survey of BPA in U.S. Canned Foods (www.ewg.org/reports/bisphenola).
4. Detoxify bathtime by learning which ingredients to avoid
Cozy Friedman opened her first of three children's hair salons, Cozy's Cuts For Kids (cozyscuts.com), in 1994 with the idea of taking something potentially unfriendly or scary for children and making it fun. She provides colorful car-shaped styling chairs, entertaining videos, toys, balloons and bubbles. She also developed her So Cozy line of hair care products with kid-friendly fruity fragrances.
It wasn't until her two boys, Shane and Riley (now 9 and 7), were old enough to need regular haircuts that she began wondering about the environmental movement and the advantages of using greener products for her children and herself. First, she noticed a lack of FDA control over terms like "natural." Then she noticed a lot of what seemed to be deceptive advertising.
"Any product can say 'natural' on the label. But as a consumer and a mother, I see methyl paraben [a preservative and fungicide that is an endocrine disruptor] on the list of ingredients and I know that's not natural," Friedman says. Also, phthalates (chemicals made from petroleum and commonly used in plastics and cosmetics) are a concern in baby shampoo, and they're not required to be listed on labels.
Clean up with green goods
To ensure the safety of her own line of products, Friedman revised her formulas to make them not only friendly to kids, but friendly to the environment. She replaced the parabens with a naturally occurring amino acid that inhibits the growth of bacteria, yeast and mold.
Friedman also added 11 herbal extracts (including comfrey, horsetail, aloe vera and tea tree oil), wrapped the products in 100 percent recyclable packaging and began using environmentally responsible manufacturing practices. They still have fruity fragrances, but the scents come from a gentler combination of ingredients that are less toxic than many chemicals that can be listed under the generic term "fragrance."
What you can do
Lean toward natural Go to cosmetics database.com for a searchable database of 25,000 products cross-referenced against 50 toxicity databases.
Read the ingredients list Before buying personal care products for you and your baby, read labels carefully. Avoid methyl paraben and phthalates. They may not be listed, so check on the Internet.
5. Go non-toxic
Replace household and nursery items with more natural alternatives.
When Paige Goldberg Tolmach's 8-week-old son Jackson came down with a oozy, painful rash, she took him to 14 different doctors. "I had a team of specialists standing over my beautiful baby saying, 'It's eczema. There's nothing you can do; just put him on steroids,'" Goldberg Tolmach says.
The doctors said the rash was hereditary and was triggered by changes in the weather, and they suggested that she quit breastfeeding. None of this made sense to Goldberg Tolmach, who didn't want to put Jackson on steroids unnecessarily. If it's hereditary, she thought, why didn't she or her husband have it? As for the weather, they live in Southern California, where the climate is relatively mild year-round. And she knew breastfeeding was good for Jackson.
After doing some research, Goldberg Tolmach discovered how many products in her house contained toxic chemicals. For example, Jackson's old crib mattress contained a common flame retardant that can harm the developing central nervous system and brain. And, the latex rubber nipples that came with his bottles contained nitrosamines, a family of chemical compounds shown in animal studies to be mutagens (chemicals that change DNA) and carcinogens.
Seek green baby gear
After some serious sleuthing, Goldberg Tolmach found and ordered an array of all natural, eco-friendly alternatives. She bought an organic wool crib mattress; organic baby clothing; and nipples made from non-toxic, medical-grade silicone. While there's no direct scientific proof that the chemical-laced products caused her son's eczema, when she stopped using them, it started to clear up and was completely gone within four weeks.
Goldberg Tolmach knew that whatever was good for Jackson, now 11/2, had to be good for other babies and the planet, so she and two friends (also moms), Beth Birkett and actress Soleil Moon Frye, opened The Little Seed (thelittleseed.com), a Los Angeles-area baby boutique that carries eco-friendly products.
What you can do:
Check the materials Find out what your baby's toys, gear and clothing are made of.
Suspect everything Research before you buy anything that goes in or is used in your home.
Create a natural nursery Stock your baby's room with organic cotton, flannel or bamboo sheets. Use low or no-VOC paint and avoid installing new carpet. For more ideas, see "Going Green,"
Green Resources For Parents On the Web
•Go to fitpregnancy.com/goinggreen to assess how green you are now (and get to the next level)
•Healthy Child, Healthy World, healthychild.org
•Organic Consumer Association, organicconsumers.org
•Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database, The Environmental Working Group cosmeticsdatabase.com
•The Complete Idiot's Guide to Green Living, by Trish Riley (Penguin Group, 2007)
•The Complete Organic Pregnancy: What You Need to Know—From the Nail Polish You Wear to the Bed You Sleep In to the Water You Drink By Deirdre Dolan and Alexandra Zissu (Collins, 2006)
•Healthy Child, Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home By Christopher Gavigan (Dutton Adult Books, 2008)
•In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, by Michael Pollan (Penguin Press HC, 2008)
•Living Like Ed: A Guide to the Eco-Friendly Life, by Ed Begley, Jr. (Clarkson Potter, 2008)
•Organic Baby: Simple Steps For Healthy Living, by Kimberly Rider (Chronicle Books, 2007)