Written by Tara McKenna, Founder of The Zero Waste Collective.
Please note that some items in this blog post have been gifted by participating brands, and those are marked with an asterisk*
As someone who cares about the environment, I knew that when my husband and I finally got the opportunity to grow our family – I say it that way because it took a while to get pregnant – it was important to create an eco-friendly and nontoxic nursery.
It makes sense, right? I mean, I blog about low-waste living here on The Zero Waste Collective, and wrote the book Don’t Be Trashy: A Practical Guide to Living with Less Waste and More Joy, so of course when the time came (which it has) I would want a sustainable nursery for our baby!
I’m not the only one, so, to help with the process of designing your eco-friendly nursery as a new parent, I’ve put together this blog post to simplify your experience!
In this post we’ll cover secondhand items, family heirlooms, using what you have, creating a nontoxic space, finding new and sustainable products, artwork, and maternity clothes.
The most eco-friendly items will typically be the ones that already exist. The resources have already been extracted and the product has already been made. Plus, these items have already been packaged and shipped, so by the time you get them, they’re normally package free!
Here are a few ways to score secondhand baby items:
Online marketplaces (like Craigslist, Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace, Buy Nothing Groups, etc.)
Family and friends (hand-me-downs)
Secondhand shops (consignment or charity)
For our crib and glider, I was quite keen to get Greenguard Certified products (more on that below) and loved the look of the furniture from Pottery Barn. With a few quick searches on Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji, I managed to find a preloved crib and glider, originally from Pottery Barn, and both Greenguard Certified! Score!
Not only was it awesome to find these items secondhand, which is eco-friendly, they were far less expensive secondhand than buying them brand new. Not only that, but they are also in fantastic condition and look great in our nursery!
Other items we’ve been very grateful to receive – in the form of hand-me-downs and items we’re borrowing – from family and friends include clothes, baby bath, bassinet, highchair, books, and more!
So, when you make and review your nursery wish list, see what you can find preloved online, in stores, and/or from family and friends.
The nice thing for us right now is that a lot of our friends are also having babies, and I imagine we’ll be sharing a lot of these baby things in the coming years!
Additionally, we’ve included a couple of family heirlooms in our nursery. The cedar chest was handmade by my great-grandfather, so it’s a perfect piece to balance out old and new in this space. We also have a wood stool hand painted by my husband's late grandmother that says "time out" on it with a cute teddy bear. I guess if our little nugget is naughty, that's where she can sit for a time out!
Secondhand is better for the planet, and for your wallet!
Use Items You Already Have
Similar to the idea of getting baby things secondhand is using what you already have! Again, look at your nursery wish list and see if you can relocate anything you own to the nursery. For us, that included a floor lamp and a dresser.
Can you find anything in your home that will fit in your nursery? If so, do it! It’ll save money, reduce your hassle of finding that item elsewhere, and it’s eco-friendly.
Having learned a lot over the last few years about how our indoor air can have a higher concentration of pollution than outdoor air, it became a priority for me to create a healthy and nontoxic environment in our nursery. I discuss the issue of nontoxic living in greater depth in my book, Don’t Be Trashy, too!
To avoid the off-gassing of toxins in the nursery, we decided to go with nontoxic paint, natural materials (like wood finished without toxic chemicals and wool), and Greenguard Certified furniture where possible.
For our nursery – and the rest of our house actually – we used Benjamin Moore Natura paint because it has zero VOCs and zero emissions and is asthma and allergy friendly. Based on a quick search, Natura paint has been discontinued, and their new eco-friendly paint is called Eco-Spec.
We also chose Greenguard Certified products – like our thrifted crib and glider – which means that the products are certified nontoxic as they are screened for more than 10,000 chemicals and VOCs that are commonly known to pollute indoor air.
Want to learn more about toxins in consumer products? Check out the documentary Stink! You may become inspired to create a nontoxic nursery too!
New Eco-Friendly Items
Once you’ve gotten all that you want secondhand, you may still want to source some eco-friendly products brand new. It’s really all a matter of personal preference, budget, and availability.
Here is a list of items that we chose for our nursery that are new, and that aligned with our preference to support sustainable products and businesses.
To soften any sounds and make the nursery cozier, we decided to add a rug to the space. While 100% polyester rugs can be super practical, we decided to go with a more natural fibre with the Loloi Myra rug in white from Rug & Weave*, a family-owned business with a wide selection of stunning rugs, home goods and décor. This rug is 70% wool, beautiful, and is the perfect finishing touch in our nursery!
Organic Crib Mattress and Sheets
A lot of crib mattresses come with plastic liners to make them easy to care for and clean. That’s great of course with the potential for diaper explosions and leaks that could otherwise be a challenge to clean. That said, we were again looking for an option that was more natural, and Obasan* was the clear choice here for our crib mattress, sheets, and mattress protector (the perfect way to deal with any potential leaks and moisture!).
Obasan uses organic (GOTS certified), sustainable, and high-quality materials and has a transparent process based in Ottawa, Canada, where their products are hand crafted.
Organic Lounger and Nursing Pillow
Keeping with that ‘all-natural’ theme, Snuggle Me products were perfect and ideal for our infant lounger and nursing pillow, available at Indigo*. Their products are organic, sustainable, and ethically made in the USA with GOTS certified organic, nontoxic, breathable, and hypoallergenic fibres.
While we already had a few storage containers in the house that we could reuse in our nursery, we needed a few more. These extra cute Pehr Pom Pom storage containers are ethically made from 100% heavyweight cotton canvas, and available at Indigo*. Pehr is a female-founded conscious brand, with a focus on thoughtful design as well as sustainable and ethical business practices and products.
As someone who strives for a low-waste lifestyle, choosing reusable diapers made total sense. We are now fully kitted it out with reusable cloth diapers, diaper covers, baby wipes and other accessories from Mother-ease*.
Mother-ease is a family run business, manufacturing their products in Ontario, Canada, using 100% green energy, and they sell the most innovative line of cloth diapers in the world! Can’t wait to put these to the test!
While I have yet to try these (our bun is still in the oven as I write this), we have friends that swear by Mother-ease cloth diapers, making this brand a no-brainer – sustainable and ethical – choice for us.
Before we dive into a discussion about breast feeding, I just want to say, fed is best. Whether it's breast feeding or formula, a fed baby is the most important. No mama guilt here if you don’t breastfeed.
My goal is to breastfeed, so having a breast pump on had was an important part of planning our nursery. It’s great for many reasons, including the fact that it’s low waste!
This pump kit is the Freestyle Flex Double Electric Breast Pump by Medela, and is available at SnuggleBugz*. Be sure to check out their Learning Centre to find out which breast pump is best for you, and listen to their podcast episode “Is Breastfeeding Supposed to Suck?”
Breast Milk Storage
As for breast milk storage, I wanted to keep it plastic free, so I decided to go with silicone breast milk bags from Zip Top*. Made in the USA and female-founded, there is no BPA, lead, PVC or phthalates in these Food Grade Silicone containers.
They stand up, stays open and zips shut with easy pour corners and a surface you can write on. Freezer and dishwasher safe, they are easy to clean and sterilize. They are a great way to avoid single-use plastics!
A super simple low waste swap we made in our household years ago was going from bottled shampoo, conditioner, and body wash to bar soap for these single-use plastics. Unwrapped Life* has been our go-to brand ever since, so it was an easy choice for baby's bath time with their gentle and moisturizing shampoo bar, calming sea salt soap, and organic bamboo wash cloths.
Want to try out Unwrapped Life? Get 15% off with the discount code ZWC15 – this is an affiliate code, and I will earn a commission from sales, so thank you so much for your support!
As for artwork in the nursery, we hung up a gorgeous weave we purchased at a market in Chile back in 2019.
We also purchased a print (Fox: Moonlight Series) from a local indigenous artist, Morningstar Designs; Alanah Astehtsi Otsistohkwa (Morningstar) Jewell is a mixed French-First Nations artist, and is Bear Clan from Oneida Nation of the Thames. She is an illustrator, painter and muralist, and organizes local Indigenous Art Markets. Follow Morningstar Designs on Instagram and buy artwork here!
In terms of maternity clothes, I’ve received quite a few hand-me-downs from friends, which was greatly appreciated. However, to round out my wardrobe I added a few new (or new to me) pieces, including a few items from the sustainable and ethical fashion brand, Boob Design*.
Okay, so this was a long-winded post for sure! It takes a lot of time to plan for and prepare a nursery, especially when it comes to being conscious about making it eco-friendlier and nontoxic. Thanks for hanging in there!
It’ll be up to you to decide what makes your baby’s nursery eco-friendly, whether that’s going secondhand for everything, or buying everything new from sustainable and ethical brands, or like me, doing a mix of the above.
Regardless of your path, enjoy the process! Happy planning!