Q: I am trying to obtain data on the carbon footprint of individual baby gear, such as car seats, strollers, etc. Any idea where I can find that info? I own a business that rents baby gear, mostly for travelers, that I believe is both convenient and ecologically wise. The idea of traveling or purchasing gear when renting is a viable option is hard to conceive. Renting is reusing, recycling and reducing at the same time.
A: From Boppies to pack ’n’ plays, companies offer a mind-boggling array of gear aimed at keeping babies happy, clean and quiet. But all that gear turns into a great big hassle when it’s time to get up and go somewhere. Airline carriers charge a premium for excess baggage, so leaving that stuff behind saves green, relieves back muscles and helps the planet.
As for data on individual baby gear, Healthystuff.org researches toxic chemicals in everyday products and provides detailed lists. As the doting aunt of a 6-month-old, I found the site extremely worthy of a bookmark, along with the Daily Green, which features a section for “organic parenting,” and the Zrecs Guide to safer children’s products. GoodGuide also rates items and on a scale of 0 (bad) to 10 (good) based on health, social and environmental impact. You’ll find information about activity gyms, walkers and play mats.
It should come as no surprise that Californians have the loudest battle cry for safer, more environmentally friendly products for children. The Golden State prohibited the use of phthalates in children’s products long before it became a national concern. A very vocal citizen-based advocacy group called Environment California has aggressively supported legislation for safer baby products.
Take a look at the organization’s report on toxic chemicals in baby furniture [PDF]. Environment California advises parents to avoid items made with medium density fiberboard or composite wood as they typically emit high levels of formaldehyde. You also may want to download the group’s “Shopper’s Guide for Parents.” It offers quick tips that will be handy when you are updating the company’s inventory.
In a previous column on baby gear, I mentioned the importance of tracking product recalls through the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site. That’s one more way to make sure your company stays ahead of the game. You’ll also want to run your car seats through the paces, since they get quite a workout. SafeCar.org lists locations that provide safety inspections for car seats.
While renting baby gear makes sense on many levels, getting free gear is also a green approach. Freecycle.com has become a favorite of mine as I help my sister find cute, gently used baby clothes and accessories. With both options, cleanliness remains the primary concern. As a baby’s immune system develops, it is vital to ensure that products are clean and cootie-free, so start by stocking up on green cleaning supplies.