Image credit: Pebble
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There’s no need to sugarcoat it. Babies need a lot of stuff. And if you’re the kind of woman who seeks out more sustainable fashion options, picking out the perfect baby gift for a friend or baby shower is more complicated than just looking at the wish list.
You want to show your love for your friend and excitement for her little one, but you also want to keep their little one safe and healthy, and contribute to a better future for them!
There is no need to compromise. There are eco-friendly baby gifts in almost every category, from baby clothes, to strollers, to toys.
So, here’s what to look for when buying eco-friendly baby shower gifts:
Safety is everything when buying products for babies. It might seem like a no-brainer to purchase items that contain waterproof, stain-resistant or flame-retardant components. But these added layers can come with some issues.
According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, flame retardants “are associated with adverse health effects in animals and humans,” including negative effects on fetal and child development. The Institute’s fact sheet also notes that children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of these chemicals due to childrens’ proximity to the floor and their constant hand-to-mouth behavior, increasing the concentration of flame retardants found in their bodies.
Similarly, the waterproof and stain-resistant coating might make your life a little easier. But to achieve this level of protection, it requires a class of synthetic chemicals known as PFAS or PFC. We recently reported on these chemicals and shared that they have been linked to several issues, including a variety of cancers, reproductive disease, miscarriage, and infertility, while also presenting dire implications for our planet and animals. For future moms, specifically, a 2020 research shows that “PFAS have been associated with increased incidence of gestational diabetes, childhood obesity, preeclampsia, and fetal growth restriction.”
To keep Mom and her baby safe, avoid performance finishes and look for non-toxic labels such as OEKO-TEX, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), or bluesign.
Biodegradable and Fossil-Fuel-Free Materials
As we’ve reported before, hardly any clothes produced today are made entirely from natural materials that don’t pollute our soil, waterways, and oceans, either through microplastics, toxic dyes, or finishes that fashion sheds during each wear and wash.
In short, a material is considered biodegradable when it decomposes completely and blends back in with the earth without leaving any harmful chemicals. That includes cotton, silk, bamboo, wool, linen, alpaca, Tencel, hemp, cashmere, and rayon viscose. For these materials to be biodegradable, they must be untreated, certified organic, and not blended with other materials.
The benefit to the baby is that these natural materials also feel better on your baby’s skin, and contribute to a healthier environment both in the crib and on the earth. So it’s a win-win. Just be aware that according to federal safety standards, if children’s sleepwear is not made of polyester, it must be a snug fit so it doesn’t put your child at risk of catching fire. That’s why you won’t be able to find a little girl’s nightgown made of cotton.
We’ve all been there. We’ve gone through layers of packaging — most nonbiodegradable or unrecyclable — to open a very small product. Well, the same experience often happens when opening baby toys, strollers, or bath gift sets, which often come in plastic or styrofoam. According to Plastics Oceans International, 10 million tons of plastic are dumped in our oceans annually, resulting in one million marine animals killed by plastic pollution every year.
Next time you are shopping, search for products with minimal packaging. Or better yet, find a product wrapped in packaging that contains recyclable or biodegradable materials, like recycled cardboard, or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper. The bonus is that you don’t have to worry about the (remote, but still scary) possibility of asphyxiation with a plastic bag.
It’s safe to assume that you’ve walked down a toy aisle before and quickly noticed a wide selection of battery-powered toys and gadgets. According to a 2019 Consumer Reports article, “Most batteries—regardless of type—contain toxic chemicals.” How you dispose of old batteries is very important. They can end up in a landfill, potentially leaking into the environment, contaminating groundwater, or making their way into the food chain. Certain batteries should not go in household garbage or recycling bins.
But new parents don’t have time to seek out a responsible take-back program. So do them a favor and get battery-free toys. Or if you want to get them a gadget that requires electricity, choose something rechargeable.
Fair Working Conditions
A new mom would be horrified to consider that child labor was involved in the manufacture of gifts for her baby! Therefore, favor brands that are transparent about where their product is made and those that pay fair wages and ensure a safe workplace. A good tip is to check if the brand is Fair Trade certified.
Knowing all that, here’s a list of eco-friendly baby essentials with sustainable items that will be sure to please new parents, whether or not they plan on feeding their new baby exclusively organic food.
Pact creates baby clothes using certified organic cotton fibers, and its production uses 91% less water than non-organic cotton. The brand also manufactures in a Fair Trade Factory, ensuring safe conditions, environmental protection while providing additional money to empower and uplift its communities.
Finn + Emma sells sustainable baby apparel, gear, and toys that mix classic, whimsical and sophisticated styles. Its products are made with 100% organic cotton, eco-friendly dyes, and all-natural wood. Its garments and accessories are produced in fair trade factories that focus on social and economic independence for local people.
Family-owned and family-run, Badger creates organic body care products using as many Fair Trade ingredients as possible and prioritizing USDA-certified organic ingredients. The brand travels worldwide to meet the people who grow, harvest, and process its organic ingredients.
Caboo makes baby wipes out of OEKO-TEX certified bamboo and a bit of Vitamin E. Its products are free of parabens, chlorine, BPA, and trees.
Eco Pea Co sells natural diapers and wipes that are crafted using biodegradable bamboo sheets and water-based ink. They’re hypoallergenic, dermatologist-tested, and made without harsh chemicals, fragrances, and chlorine. Its products are not tested on animals and are shipped in biodegradable packaging.
Founded in 2019, Pipette creates 100% clean, gentle and non-toxic baby body care products completely derived from renewable sources. Its products don’t contain sulfates, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, parabens, natural irritants, or petroleum jelly. All of its products are created with the support of biologists, pediatricians, and dermatologists, and most are EWG verified.
Based in Bangladesh, Pebble sells handmade and hand-knitted toys that support women with sustainable income opportunities in rural areas of the country. Its toys are made with 100% organic cotton and have a contemporary look and soft feel.
Zeki Learning is a non-profit educational toy brand that produces ethically-made learning resources. Its toys are made with locally sourced materials and upcycling fabric scraps handmade by women artisans from the West Bank. Zeki creates its toys with Montessori principles in mind, encouraging fine motor skills, sensory skills, language learning, and emotional intelligence. The brand is also Fair Trade certified, ensuring its employees receive fair working wages and conditions.
Coyuchi sells soft baby boots and blankets made out of GOTS-certified cotton. Much of its cotton is Fair Trade certified, meaning its partners provide traceable and transparent supply chains ensuring sustainable livelihoods to the workers. Its products are also made in a factory that recycles 98% of its wastewater. Coyuchi has partnered with Chetna Coalition, a supply chain network that supports sustainable farming communities in India.
Founded in 2003, Naturepedic sells certified organic mattresses that are breathable, waterproof, and made with non-toxic ingredients. The brand has removed chemicals such as flame retardants, adhesives, vinyl, polyurethane foam, and perfluorinated compounds from all its mattresses. Naturepedic’s products can be found in hospitals across the U.S.
Launched in 2003, EKOBO is a French eco-lifestyle brand that creates reusable, non-toxic dishware for kids using sustainable materials such as bamboo, cork, rePET fabric, food-grade silicone, and GOTS certified organic cotton.
Freerider designs breathable baby slings made out of Tencel, a biodegradable fabric produced from wood pulp. The brand works with fabric manufacturers and factories that ensure good working conditions, employee safety, and sustainable practices.
Bumbleride designs baby strollers and car seats using recycled plastic bottles, 25% recycled sea neats, and OEKO-TEX certified fabric. Its products don’t include harmful chemicals, PVC, BPA, phthalates, or PFC. The brand uses cork for its stroller’s handlebar, as it’s naturally waterproof, non-toxic, and provides a non-slip, ergonomic grip. Bumbleride’s 2020 Collection features recovered nylon from upcycled fishing nets, making up 25% of the plastic components in its stroller frame. These nylon fishing nets are recovered from the local oceans near the brand’s factory in Taiwan and are cleaned, converted into reusable pellets, and molded into plastic parts. The nylon fishing nets have been tested for durability and proven to be as effective as regular plastic.
Our Green House is a socially conscious company that sources eco-friendly baby gifts that support the well-being of both artisan and families. It allows its customers to create their own gift baskets or buy individual pieces from the retailer’s selection of baby essentials such as apparel, blankets, and toys.