eco living - nursery

Glossy magazines are filled with features on gorgeous nursery makeovers. The makeovers look great but are often done just before the new baby is due.

The expectant parents paint the room, arrange new furniture and a bassinette, perhaps lay new carpet or the polish the floorboards. The babies clothes are washed and put away. With the best intentions, the room is ready for the new baby but the environment is not as baby friendly as you would like to think.

Eco friendly tips to providing a safe environment for your baby:

Painting the nursery:

Shall we go for blue, pink or neutral? It's important to spend as much time deciding the type of paint you'll use, as you do agonising over the colour.

Conventional paints contain petrochemical derivatives which give off potentially dangerous fumes. These need to be a consideration for both mother-to-be, dad and unborn baby. Wherever possible use eco paints or low odour paints.

Instead of polishing floorboards, investigate the use of eco-oils.

Plant based paints:

Natural paints are a non toxic alternative to conventional paint. They are plant based and made from renewable raw materials and can be recycled after use or disposed of with low impact on the environment.

Plant based paints are microporous which means they are waterproof but shouldn't flake or blister.

They often have a higher coverage rate than conventional paints, so are not necessarily more expensive.
  • Milk paint (also known as Casein) is made from distemper bound with a milk by-product and pigment. This makes the paint washable and longer-lasting than distemper. It is often sold in powder form which you mix with water and can use on any porous indoor or outdoor surface.
  • Distemper is made from chalk with linseed oil as a binder. It is easily marked and therefore not ideal for children's bedrooms.

Other eco paints:

  • Limewash is suitable for porous surfaces.
  • Mineral paint is more durable than limewash and made from waterglass (potassium silicate) combined with inorganic colour pigments.
  • Environmental choice label paints are water based and contain minimal amounts of solvent (propylene-glycol) which is regarded as being one of the least toxic paint solvents available.
  • Oils, waxes and shellac are all natural clear finishes.


Regardless of the paint used, it’s wise to have all of your windows and doors open while you’re painting to allow good ventilation. It’s also a good idea to avoid sleeping in newly painted rooms until all traces of the smell have gone and for mothers-to-be or couples trying to conceive to avoid paint fumes altogether.

Instead of using chemical strippers to remove old paint, it might be worth trying this new system which uses infrared heat to break the bond between the wood and the paint.


Finding a suitable contractor can be difficult, particularly out of the main centres. The Building Biology and Ecology Institute of NZ have developed the Eco Products and Services List that gives many contact details around the country.

New carpet and bedding:

According to this article, these items are often likely to release toxic chemicals for up to one year after they are manufactured. (

For this reason, it's best to avoid synthetic mattresses and laying new carpet just before baby is born.

For natural bedding, visit our web store.

Smoke alarms & sprinklers:

It is very important to install smoke alarms in your home. The NZ Fire Service also recommends sprinklers in new homes or retro-fitting (if your ceiling space allows).

There are two types of smoke alarms, ionisation (which detects burnt particles in the air) and photoelectric (which “sees” smoke). Which type is best? (

Ionisation smoke alarms used the be the most affordable option and are found in most homes. They do contain radioactive material. They are reported to be quite safe but of course must be disposed of with care (returned to the supplier or the State Health Dept according to the back). One wonders how many get disposed of properly?

Photoelectric brands are also now commonly available in DIY stores. There is also a new photoelectric brand available online (imported from Sweden) which is easily fitted (hung from your light fittings). This is not only safe but looks stylish and can also be taken to the bach or when moving house etc (

A recent article in NZ Consumer recommends that you install both types in your home.

Electromagnetic fields:

What are electromagnetic fields?

Read more about these and reducing the amount of exposure in your nursery from night lights and baby monitors on our electromagnetic field page.


2. Building Biology and Ecology Institute of NZ, Eco Products and Services List.
3. Cooter, Simon & Jane. 2003. Eco Kiwi. Random House. New Zealand.
4. Tanqeray, Rebecca. 2000. Eco Chic organic living. New Holland Publishers. Australia.
5. Phillips, Dan. 2000. Good Housekeping, The EcoFriendly Home. HarperCollins. London.
6. Stewart, Robin. Chemical Free Home. 1998. Black Inc. Melbourne, Australia.

Further Reading:

The Green Guide

Eco Nursery

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