Go Organic! 5 ways to raise a “green” baby
5 ways to raise a “green” baby
By Robyn A. Friedman
Marla Reis is a psychologist and entrepreneur. She’s also a busy mother of three who recently opened an organic kosher restaurant. But Reis doesn’t just live the green lifestyle at work; she uses organic products in her home as well.
“I went through an evolution that began with the birth of my first child,” said Reis, whose children are 12, 10 and eight. “Around that same time, I started getting into organics.”
Today, Marla Reis shops at Whole Food Markets and buys only organic foods for her kids. She purchased a reverse osmosis system for her home to purify their water. She buys organic linens and clothes. And she uses recycled products. “It’s part of my lifestyle,” she said.
Reis isn’t the only one making her family healthier while helping the planet. Sales of organic products are growing by about 17 percent per year, driven mainly by consumers seeking a healthier lifestyle. Organic products are popping up everywhere these days. Supermarkets have expanded their organic offerings, and even local supermarkets are getting in on the act and adding to its list of organic food products.
What makes a product organic?
Organic products (whether food or fibers) are grown without the use of toxic pesticides, fertilizers, bioengineering or sewage sludge and are manufactured without artificial flavors or radiation. No antibiotics are given to animals used for organic meat, poultry, eggs or dairy products.
Organic farmers emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to protect the environment for future generations. Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a government-approved inspector must check out the farm to make sure all U.S. Department of Agriculture standards are being met.
The federal government has enacted standards for organic products. Manufacturers can label their products “organic” only if a minimum percentage of organic ingredients is contained in a particular product.
There are several reasons to consider going organic. First, organic food reduces your exposure to chemicals that might be harmful. Second, studies show that some organic fruits, vegetables and grains have higher levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals than similar non-organic products. Third, you’ll be helping the planet, since organic farmers focus on conservation of the land and preservation of natural resources.
Considering an organic change for your family?
Here are some things you can do.
Eat Organically. More and more parents today are choosing organic products for their family right from the start. In fact, a recent survey found that 58 percent of moms use or are open to using organic products for their baby.
For parents choosing not to breast-feed, Similac recently introduced Similac Organic infant formula, which is certified by the USDA to be organic and is made with organic milk.
“As a new mom and doctor, I understand the desire to give your family wholesome and healthy foods,” said Julie Segal, M.D., pediatrician. “If you choose organic options, look for high-quality products from brands you trust.”
Today, organic foods can be found everywhere. They’re available at many supermarkets and even at local farmers’ markets. Of course, prices are often higher, but that’s due to the rigorous organic standards to which farmers and producers must adhere. The supply of organic food products is often more limited than their non-organic counterparts, so pricing is higher for that reason as well.
Dress organically. According to the USDA, one-third of a pound of pesticides is used by farmers for each pound of cotton produced in the United States. Traditional cotton farmers use chemical fertilizers as well, several of which are carcinogenic. So is it any surprise that many moms are dressing their children in organic clothing?
There are several organic fibers to choose from. Wool, silk, hemp and linen can all be found in organic clothes, but the most common fiber used is cotton. Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Farmers replenish the soil, reduce the use of toxic chemicals and preserve the land. The United States and Turkey are leading producers of organic cotton, followed by India, Peru, Uganda, Tanzania, Egypt, Senegal, Israel, Greece, Benin and Brazil.
“Consumers today can get everything they’re looking for in terms of style quality, fit, color, price and accessibility and they get a way to be healthy and environmentally conscious and socially responsible too,” said Marci Zaroff, founder of Under the Canopy, a designer and manufacturer of organic clothing.
Many parents don’t realize that the cotton against their child’s skin may contain pesticides, Zaroff said. And even an innocent act such as sucking on clothing can expose babies to harmful chemicals. “The last thing you want to think of is your kid absorbing a mouthful of carcinogens,” she said.
Zaroff’s clothing is sold at Whole Foods Market and specialty stores and via the company’s Web site. Most of the line is sized from newborn to size six, although for Earth Day this year, she created clothes to size 12.
Zaroff admitted that organic cotton sells at a premium–and that makes clothes more expensive. Her company tries to contain costs by managing the entire supply chain, from farm to finished product.
Decorate Organically. Okay, so you’re feeding your baby organic food and dressing her in organically-produced cotton clothes. Do you really want her to sleep in a room where she might be inhaling chemicals?
Home improvement expert Pat Simpson, the host of three shows on HGTV, said both carpeting and furniture can release chemicals that might be hazardous to a baby or young child. “New carpet, padding, paint and furniture may not be an issue to mature adults, but why take a risk with young children and babies?” he said. “Carpet fibers can circulate, and the baby can inhale those as well.”
That’s why Simpson recommends hard surfacing in babies’ rooms. “Wood floors are great because you don’t have the fibers, and it’s easy to keep the bacteria and critters out of wood, rather than carpet, where they can hide themselves.”
Simpson also advises parents to wait until paint is fully cured–at least three weeks–before putting a baby in a room that was painted. And he recommends the use of cedar closets, which protect woolen clothes without the use of chemicals such as mothballs.
Diaper Organically. Cloth or disposable? We all know that disposable diapers are easier, quicker and more convenient. But for those concerned about health and the environment, cloth diapers might be the way to go.
Did you know that over 18 billion disposable diapers are thrown in landfills every year? Or that they take as many as 500 years to decompose? It takes about 82,000 tons of plastic and 1.3 million tons of wood pulp, or a quarter-million trees, to manufacture the disposable diapers that cover the bottoms of 90 percent of the babies born in the United States.
Cloth diapers are cheaper, and many claim they’re better for their babies’ tushes. “The cloth breathes,” said Reis, who used cloth diapers on all three of her children. “I didn’t have diaper rash issues at all, and I felt good because I wasn’t putting disposable diapers into a landfill.”
Of course, using cloth diapers takes time, washing, drying and folding eats into a new mom’s little free time. And some claim that the energy costs associated with the washing and drying more than offset the benefits to the environment.
Groom Organically. Many manufacturers are now producing organic products for grooming and cleaning babies. For example, Earth Mama Angel Baby makes an herbal bath, bottom balm, oil, diaper rash soap, lotion and wash that are all organic and natural. The products are free from artificial preservatives, fragrances and dyes and 100 percent toxin-free and cruelty-free.
So You’re Ready to Go Green?
For those considering going green, here are a few tips to remember:
• Educate yourself about organic labels to learn which products fit your needs the best.
• Realize that going green may not be cheaper. Organic food and clothes are generally more expensive.
• Take baby steps. “Make very small changes in your life initially, and go from there,” said Marla Reis. “Even if you just incorporate a few things, you’re still making a difference.”
Understanding the Labels
100 percent organic. Products that contain only organically produced ingredients.
Organic. Products containing at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients.
Made with Organic. Products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients.