While planning the nursery for their first baby, it was important to Danielle Finck, founder of socially conscious firm, Elle Communications, that everything in the room was toxin-free, yet still completely stylish.
Our personal environment is a reflection of our taste and values. For a baby, it’s also their first safe space. It’s up to parents to set the stage so that a child’s little mind and body can fully flourish.
This new mama went all in on building a ‘conscious’ nursery, using well-curated products that are easy on the planet. Use the thoughtfulness that she and her human rights activist husband have put into creating a cozy, clean home to inspire your own children’s rooms. Here are a few simple tips for building an eco-friendly nursery below…
Something BorrowedThe minute you become pregnant, the world quickly begins letting you know about all of the things you’ll need in the months and years ahead. But the reality is that many of these purchases will have a short-lived lifespan in your home. Maternity clothes will last you six months max, your baby will outgrow clothes even faster and, in the best case scenario, you might be able to use many baby must-haves for a year or two.
So, if you’re lucky like we are to have a lot of other parents in your friend group, embrace offers to let you borrow items collecting dust in attics and garages — though it is important to note that it’s not recommended to borrow certain products like car seats. There is nothing more eco-friendly than just simply not consuming more new items.
Do-It-YourselfThere are many things you can make for your nursery that can be made more environmentally friendly, and can even save you money along the way. For example, a friend gifted us a reed diffuser for our baby nursery and we loved the idea of the room having its own unique scent. However, I researched the brand and learned the company wasn’t using the healthiest of oils in their products. So, I decided that it probably wasn’t best for our little one’s sensitive new lungs.
When I went online to find a more eco-friendly alternative, I stumbled on a DIY tutorial for making my own. With the simple purchase of some sustainably-sourced reed sticks and a bottle of organic sweet almond oil, I was able to turn vases left over from our wedding into reed diffusers for the nursery. I mixed some of my favorite essential oils that I already had in the house.
Similarly, I had fallen in love with a mobile on Etsy, but when I went to make the purchase I learned that the seller had shut down her business. So, one of many projects I undertook over my maternity leave before baby arrived was recreating it myself out of sheets of brass I purchased online, saving myself more than 50% of the original price in the process.
Go VintageWe’re lucky to live in Los Angeles where vintage is bountiful, and you only have to know where to find it without crazy markups. I use the local search function on Chairish and Etsy, which lets you search for vintage furniture pieces in your city. I purchased the credenza we’re using as the baby changing table and dresser years ago on Etsy. Adam repainted it a few months back and we added some new hardware from CB2. We found the 1960s vintage rocker the same way on Chairish through a local seller in LA called The Hunt.Know Who Made ItIf you can’t borrow it, make it or buy it second-hand, it may make sense to buy it new. It takes a bit of effort to learn about the practices of the companies you’re buying from, especially in regard to how they treat the people who make their products and the planet in the process of making them. (Hint: If they don’t address this anywhere on their website, it’s probably not good news, but always worth dropping them a quick note to ask.) We built the nursery around home items from one of our favorite brands, Raven + Lily, who sells both new and vintage items that are made by and support marginalized women in nine different countries around the world, including right here in Los Angeles.
Be Educated About What’s Inside
Everyone seems to know that babies have sensitive skin. All of their clothes need to be washed in baby-safe detergents before anything is worn, so shouldn’t that rule of sensitivity be applied to the ingredients in and on the products we use with them? I used The Gentle Nursery as my primary resource for sussing out what was safe for baby. I purchased products for myself from companies like Cora — companies whose standard I already trusted. In one instance, I couldn’t find information on whether the car seat we had already purchased contained flame retardants. To my disappointment it did, but I was able to find a company on Etsy (Flaxy Home) who makes a flax-stuffed linen liner for car seats, protecting baby from any harsh ingredients in the product itself.
Suzy Lee is our favorite calligraphy artist and we also used her for our wedding. So we called on her to create a specially commissioned piece for baby’s room. We read about babies recognizing a song if played daily while in the womb, so we picked Ends of the Earth by Lord Huron (a preview of their newest album was also baby’s first concert thanks to Auntie Brittney!). Suzy created a piece of artwork from a line in the song to hang in the nursery that reads: Out there’s a land that time don’t command. We hope it will fuel our baby’s sense of curiosity for the world and appreciation for the way that time stops when you’re immersed in nature.
Big Sur is a really special place for us — it’s where we were married in 2017. When we were back for a visit this summer, we stopped into the new Big Sur Apothecary next door to the infamous Big Sur Bakery and picked up a line drawing by a local Big Sur artist of Bixby Bridge, which is where we took our wedding photos.
Favorite Conscious Nursery Brands
Raven + Lily: This is one of our absolute favorite ethical brands and we used a lot of their products in our wedding last year as well. They have a vintage modern collection of housewares available in their stores or by request, and smaller items like candles and baskets available on their site. They employ women at fair trade wages to make all of their products, and then reinvest the profits in elevating the communities of women they support across nine different countries. A great resource for rugs, poufs, baskets and candles.
Boutonne Diaper Bag: Boutonne is a San Diego based leather and apparel company made with ethically and sustainably-sourced materials. Each item is handmade with the utmost care, and Erin Pechtel, the founder behind the brand, is a pure gold soul who finds ways to use the profits to help with issues and causes she cares about, especially in elevating and uplifting women. (Ours was made custom for us, and is available upon request.)
Bitte Shop: We love this shop so much! A large majority of the clothes and toys we registered for were from this site. We love that everything they sell is organic, sustainable and thoughtfully sourced and made. We can shop here knowing that everything they carry is in line with our ethics.
The Hunt Vintage: We’re obsessed with the re-upholstered 1960s rocking chair we purchased from this company. We’re lucky to live in LA and get to visit them in person, but they also sell online.
West Elm Sustainably-Sourced and FSC-Certified: I was so pleased to learn that in 2014 West Elm became the first-ever home retailer to join the Fair Trade USA Network. While shopping for a circular mirror for baby’s room, we found a beautiful one made from sustainably-sourced and FSC-certified wood and was crafted in a Fair Trade Certified factory.
Linen Flax car seat cover: While we were disappointed to learn that the car seat company we had purchased from includes flame retardants in their products, we loved finding this small business brand to help protect baby’s sensitive skin. And, fortunately, the stroller doesn’t contain the same chemicals!
Favorite Baby Products
I’ve been committed to conscious products for myself for years and knew I would pursue the same for baby. After a lot of research, some of our favorites so far include:
Honest: While not all of their products will make it into our home, we have heard great things about their diapers and wipes.
Cora: Their motherhood essentials includes organic nipple balm, belly butter, bamboo feminine wipes and pads free of chlorine, fragrances, artificial dyes, deodorants, toxic adhesives, acetone, rayon, polyester, phthalates and other scary ingredients. All products are made responsibly here in the U.S.
Sitz bath: Four different friends sent me this product in the mail. I’m nervous for how much I’ll apparently need it.
Filling our nursery with books was one of my absolute most favorite parts of this pregnancy. We have been reading to baby at night and some of our favorites have been:
The ABCs of Activism
Oh, The Places You’ll Go
A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo
The Wonderful Things You Will Be
On a Magical Do-Nothing Day
It Starts with a Seed
AB to Jay-Z
In My Heart
Most-Used Nursery Products
Mattress/changing pad: While baby is starting off in a Snoo (lovingly borrowed to us from my best friend), we know that long-term he or she will spend more time in the bed and on changing pad than anywhere else. It was important to us to find great products that are safe for baby, and made with respect for the people who made them and the planet. The two we landed on after considerable research was this mattress and this changing pad.
Handmade items: We love the personalization that comes with a handmade item, the heirloom it often creates and the fact that it can be made with natural ingredients and we know exactly who made it. Some of our favorite handmade items in our nursery include a sheep wool-lined indigo blanket made by our dear friend Britt and her mom. It now resides inside the crib (for decoration for now, as baby won’t sleep in there with a blanket, but we can’t wait to cuddle them in it during the day!). Also, both of our moms handmade baby white blankets for the nursery. These are our two favorite heirlooms and we can’t wait to treasure them for the rest of baby’s life.
Essential oil reed diffusers: After discovering that most reed diffusers use fragrance oils that might not be best for baby’s lungs, I found a DIY tutorial for making my own. The nursery now has a rich, calming lavender smell, scented with organic essential oils.
Mobile: I found this mobile through Etsy that I was in love with, but unfortunately she shut down her shop for a bit (it looks like it’s re-opened now!). So, over the first week of my maternity leave, I used sheets of brass, metal bars, jewelry chain and my best attempt to honor her original designs — and I made my own DIY version at home. It admittedly took quite a long time and is probably worth purchasing from the original artist designer!