There is so much to take into account when trying to limit the amount of chemicals and artificial materials your children are exposed to. The bedroom is the obvious place to start as children spend an awful lot of time there, split between sleep and play. You probably don’t need to be told the importance of a good night’s sleep for your child. A green bedroom can help your child to sleep peacefully, which in turn will provide you with that ever elusive uninterrupted night’s sleep.
The main components of a child’s bedroom are the furniture, mattress, bedding, decorations and toys. Below, we have compiled a list of the top 5 reasons and methods to go green with each of these aspects. You don’t always have control of what your child is exposed to, especially if they are of nursery/school age, so it’s important to make sure they have a comfortable, healthy environment to return home to.
1 – An Organic Mattress
Mattresses can be organic? They can indeed, and without the need to compromise on comfort or quality. Quite the opposite actually; organic mattresses are made with incredible attention to detail and focus on full body support, sensitive skin and temperature/moisture regulation.
The most common material used in organic mattresses is natural latex. Latex is the natural alternative to synthetic memory foam, which is made from a synthetic petroleum foam. The supportive nature of natural latex is exactly what a growing child needs; it can help with both posture, and growing pains.
Although not yet officially certified as organic itself (no organic certification exists for latex), its natural make-up is considered to be to soil association standards. Other materials used along natural latex are organic cotton, organic wool and organic coconut fibre (coir).
A common worry, when it comes to mattress ingredients, is chemical fire-retardant sprays. Avoid mattresses which have been sprayed with any kind of chemical fire treatment as it is completely avoidable. An organic wool layer around the edge of a mattress will enable it to pass all the official UK fire regulation tests.
Physically at least, furniture will probably make up the majority of your child’s bedroom. Sustainable wooden furniture should be an integral part of your child’s green bedroom. Look for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) mark when purchasing furniture online or in a shop. The FSC mark lets you know that what you are buying has been made using sustainable wood.
Some furniture varnishes can carry strong chemicals so, if possible, find bedroom furniture with a thin layer of natural oil. Un-oiled furniture is usually easier to find, which makes it easy to just apply natural oil yourself. The benefit of buying FSC certified solid wood furniture, such as oak, is that any marks can simply be sanded away and re-oiled.
Solid, sustainable furniture can often be expensive; but don’t let that deter you. Choose furniture designs which will last for years, and aren’t specifically designed for young children. You can then design the room around the furniture to give the space the right theme for your child.
3. Organic Bedding, Duvets and Sleeping Bags
An organic mattress is the most important part of an environmentally friendly and green bedroom, but the bed sheets are what make direct contact with your child’s skin. Very young children have sensitive skin, which why is why organic duvets, blankets and sheets are available for cots. However, sensitive skin isn’t just a problem for young children; organic sheets can benefit children from toddler, to teenager, right through to adulthood.
Organic cotton is the most important component in organic bed linen. Non-organic cotton accounts for roughly a quarter of the global chemical pesticide use every year, which is an incentive to keep the material away from your child. Organic cotton grows alongside many other plants in a harmonious Eco-system; non-organic cotton can consume up to twice as much water, which can starve surrounding crops and communities of water and local wildlife of food.
Children can suffer restless nights due to overheating in bed. This is often caused by a reaction to a duvet, or lack of breathability. An organic wool duvet regulates both temperature and moisture all year round, providing your child with a comfortable sleeping environment.
4. Ethical Eco-Friendly Toys
Much like solid wood furniture, you can buy solid wood toys for children, which have been FSC certified as sustainably sourced. From an adult point of view, wooden toys are just nice aren’t they? You won’t find a solid wood action figure! Most Eco-friendly toys tend to have an educational benefit, which can be anything from organizing simple shape and colours, to counting numbers on an abacus.
Small wooden items such as toys are often a fantastic way of providing business to small rural communities in Africa, South America and Asia. There are multiple eco-friendly toy manufacturers with 100% ethically produced toys.
A simple wooden instrument such as a xylophone is a great why to get your child’s creative juice flowing (a soft felt beater will reduce the noise, don’t worry!). It’s great to introduce the idea of creativity at an early age, whether it be through music or anything else.
Colourful toys are always a good thing. They are engaging to older children as well as proven to help the development of small children. Make sure the paint on the wooden toys is Eco-friendly and free of petrochemical ingredients.
5. Eco-Friendly Paint and Wallpaper
Much like the materials used to make mattresses, we are often unaware of the quantity of potentially hazardous materials used to make everyday household paint and many allergies including asthma can be aggravated by the chemicals and VOC’s found in it. Painting your child’s room with natural, Eco-friendly paint can remove the need to worry about things like asthma, which should be easily manageable.
Many natural alternatives are viewed as making a sacrifice in quality for the sake of ecology. Natural house paint is available in all the same colours, matts, sheens and glosses as ordinary paint; without any of the funny business.
Roger Van de Mattan at 4 Living is passionate about the benefits organic mattresses can bring as part of a green lifestyle.