Having a baby is one of the most wonderful times of many people’s lives. It is a journey that takes you through every emotion, changes you forever, and involves teaching and growing another human being. As part of that, there are many obvious things to consider, but one that canm be forgotten, is how to be as eco friendly as possible when caring for a baby. You do need balance. As a parent of 3 boys, I know how hard things can be, and I experienced post natal depression with my first 2 babies. Life is complex and sometimes you need to do whattever makes life easier. Luckily there are plenty of things you can do, to ensure life with your baby is as healthy and eco as possible. There are now many options for things like decorating the nursery, dressing and caring for your baby, that will help you tread more lightly on the earth when the pitter patter of little feet comes along.
When it comes to having a more eco friendly baby here are 5 tips
- When decorating your nursery, look for zero VOC paints, to make sure there are no chemicals off-gassing in the room. Paint well before your baby is due. Consider paints such as Livos, Bauwerk and Monsta. Resene and Murabond and Porters are also great.
- Some flatpack furniture can be full of glues and chemicals – make sure you know what you are buying. Add secondhand furniture in your nursery, often better made and long lasting, as well as being better for the planet and your pocket. Head to your local vintage stores, op shops and weekend garage sales. Or look online at gumtree and ebay. For example you might want to look for a beautiful secondhand rocking chair to sit with your little one during feeding times.
- Look for eco friendly and fair trade bedding and other textiles for your baby – seek natural materials such as organic cotton, hemp, linen and wool. This is also relevant for toys – look for timber, cotton and wool. Many makers are creating beautiful options for toys, such as the fantastic Baby Peppers we are featuring below. Also consider secondhand – we found plenty of great books, games and toys in op shops over the years. Toy libraries are great for reusing and recycling toys and also being able to keep an ever changing range of toys for your children.
- Use cloth nappies – there are so many amazing options out there now and you can also find more eco friendly disposables where needed.
- When it comes to cleaning you do not need the germ blitzing chemical laden sprays and so on that target parents with their advertising. Look for eco and earth friendly options or make your own with baking soda and lemon. You are going to be doing a lot of cleaning and your little one will be spending a lot of time on the floor and chewing on things, so make sure they are not covered in chemicals.
Gaayathri Periasami from Baby Peppers is dedicated to helping people have a more eco friendly nursery for their baby. Based in Bendigo, Victoria, from start to finish (including packaging), their products are kind to Mother Earth. This means total commitment and dedication to sustainability and delivering products with renewable materials and recycled content to minimise environmental impact.
Their hand quilted cot quilts are dyed and block printed with azo-free dyes. The workshop they use for their block printed products have partnered with Clariant, to create the beautiful dyes. Clariant is a global industry leader in providing organic and eco-friendly pigments for dyes and is at the forefront of creating innovative and sustainable solutions for clients across numerous industries.
“Clariant also has a kickass R & D team that constantly researches about energy efficient and renewable raw materials amongst other solutions to give back to Mother Earth,” says Gaayathri. “Our machine quilted Kalamkari fabrics are dyed with organic vegetable dyes. The Kalamkari fabrics are sourced from a fair-trade artisan group in Andra Pradesh and involves seventeen painstaking steps from treating the cotton naturally, to carving the wooden blocks, to mixing the natural dyes, to drying and washing before the final fabric is ready for use. Approximately ten skilled artisans are involved in creating just one yard of fabric,” she explains.
As well as this, their wooden toys are made with woodturning, a 200 year old art form using sustainable hale wood and are coloured with safe, organic vegetable dyes, and their baskets are hand-woven with recycled polyethylene – which is a big win because 60 million metric tons of it is produced annually for use in packaging and containers, including plastic bags and bottles.
Baby Peppers, like most novelty stores, was born out of a personal need. “The need to satisfy nostalgia – a longing to revive centuries old artforms and the need to amplify slow fashion,” says Gaayathri. As strong believers in sustainable global trade and the socially conscious movement, they have chosen to partner with fair trade artisan groups in Chennai, Andra Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Jaipur -to produce something bespoke for little ones. “These artisans work with some of the oldest art forms in the world and we like to keep it that way,” she continues. “Utilising slow fashion like woodturning and hand blocking promotes sustainability because it helps preserve exceptional skills and family traditions that are apathetically replaced by fast fashion, robots and electronics. Our intention is to create quality goods that will last a long time (a lifetime even!) and reduce consumption and waste – all while practicing ethical and eco-friendly methods.”
Gaayathri got started in business when she went on maternity leave with her first son. “When I was shopping for my son, especially in relation to essential bedding items, I was very uninspired and disappointed by the low quality fabrics in general stores. I found good ones online but they were really expensive,” she says.
Being of Indian heritage, she thought about some of the things that she had grown up with as a child. She remembers that everything about Indian textiles and artistry has always been about slow fashion and slow living – such as hand looming, block printing, hand weaving and wood crafting, “I really wanted to amplify that and bring that back to life,” explains Gaayathri. So there were lots of sleepless nights researching and finding the best artisan workshops to partner with that followed. She says she feels so incredibly lucky to find some amazing collectives to partner with and create some of the most stunning collections. Despite the the sleepless nights and trying to make sure that the artisans they partner with hold the virtues of honesty and integrity, the idea that their products are styling people’s nurseries with ethical textiles and fabrics, was something she instantly fell in love with because it was providing a solution and fixing a gap in the market.
Gaayathri believes the commitment towards sustainability needs to be a norm in every business. “Sustainability is about the preservation of systems and processes indefinitely to protect the planet so that it can be there generation after generation and is a core priority in our business,” she says. Working with artisans who engage in only traditional and indigenous craft is a testatment to her commitment towards sustainability. The products are crafted in small batches in an effort to reduce wastage and fancy electronic gadgets and equipment have not replaced the need for human, manual work. Everything that is crafted with hands. In her own home, where possible, she tries to buy things that are ethically and sustainably handcrafted when it comes to homewares. And in terms of essentials, because the family lives in the country, she has rainwater tanks instead of being hooked up to town water. This naturally makes you much more mindful and aware of your water usage in an effort to preserve the water in the tanks as much as possible.
Do you have any tips for other people wanting to create a sustainable home?
There are plenty of ways to create a sustainable and mindful home and I guess it pretty much depends on the kind of lifestyle you have created for yourself. For instance, many homes run on solar power so this naturally reduces energy costs. Others do their part by going plastic free or getting more sustainable bedding materials such as bamboo blankets or quilts etc. Sustainability also refers to your buying or consumption patterns with basic items such as groceries. How much can we do by buying less items? Bulk cooking and freezing instead of cooking meals every day.
Biggest Challenge in setting up and running your business?
I think the hardest challenge was to reach my ideal tribe and gain that much needed visibility. There’s so much of noise and clutter in the online space that sometimes you feel silenced in your journey, especially when you have a unique brand story and concept that people just don’t understand sometimes. And it’s through no fault of their own, it’s just that they have been very sheltered and removed from what’s really happening in the world. Topics like poverty and slavery – it’s hard to believe but after thousands of years, they are still very much relevant in today’s world unfortunately.
What do people say when they see your work?
They see my will and commitment to empower the marginalised and ostracised. They see the dedication of artisans who toil day and night to make sure their kids have a normal future. They see the women in the slums of chennai be able invest in basic needs for their kids like education, sanitisation and good food.
What do you do to relax and unwind at home?
I love to read books or watch tv shows or movies but I hardly get time to do these because of the kids! I try to do them at night after they have gone to bed! But I also love spending time with the kids, just watching them play and have a great time.
Would you like to share a favourite piece of work?
I am just in love with our Australiana bamboo baby blankets. The designs on the prints were illustrated by Rainbow Mannion, an aspiring designer and surface pattern illustrator based in Melbourne and she has brought my vision to life. Funnily, I hardly see any bedding or blankets with Australian themes and I thought that I really wanted my items to reflect Australian flora and fauna. The whole project was so nerve wrecking from getting the wooden blocks carved, to getting the colours matched and then just making sure the whole look comes together. We got there in the end and we have had so many compliments on them.
You can head here to see more of Baby Peppers wonderful work