Bringing Up Baby Organically
There's a new movement under way to go green – starting from the first days of life.
Daniel Brennan, MD
It's called "baby organics," and it's a growing movement among parents of newborns who want to go green -- and we're not just talking vegetables!
The idea is to not only fill your baby's tummy with organic foods, but also to make everything from baby clothes and diapers to bedding, nursery furniture, carpeting, and more organic.
And many parents are embracing the movement with gusto.
In a survey recently conducted by BabyCenter.com, a majority of the women they talked to say having a baby was a powerful catalyst for embracing the eco-friendly life. In its online store, BabyCenter noted a 211% increase in the sales of eco-friendly products, including chemical-free diapers.
At the same time, companies that manufacture natural cleaning products -- like Holy Cow -- report their business is exploding with new moms looking to keep the nursery spotless and chemical-free.
But perhaps the biggest eco splash is being made in the baby food aisle. The Organic Trade Association reports a growth of more than 22% in the organic food market overall, with sales reaching nearly 17 billion in 2006. Whole Foods Market has reportedly tripled space allotted to organic baby foods, and in 2006, Gerber replaced its Tender Harvest brand with a line called Gerber Organics -- ostensibly in response to consumer demand.
Meanwhile, smaller baby food companies, like Plum Organics, Happy Baby, and Home Made Baby (which provides organic Kosher baby food), have developed into mini-empires, all thanks to the new trend of baby organics.
But does any of it really matter -- and is there any science to show that a "green baby" is any healthier than the kid wearing drugstore diapers or eating regular old peas and carrots from a jar?
What Does Going Green Really Mean?
In the food industry, the definition of what is considered organic is clear. Since 2002, any food that carries a "certified organic" label must be at least 95% organic, that is produced and processed without conventional pesticides or other harmful chemicals, additives, or hormones. Conversely, labels touting words like "natural," "free range," or "hormone-free" do not necessarily mean a food is produced organically.
But when it comes to other, even more pricey organic products like diapers, baby clothes, bedding, and furniture, the waters get a little murky. There are no established "organic" standards and no one to answer to when false claims are made.
Some manufacturers interchange the terms "organic" and "natural" -- sometimes leading parents to assume something is safer than it is. For example, bedding that is made from all cotton -- a natural fabric -- can be labeled as "natural" -- but it can still be grown using pesticides and processed using a variety of chemicals.
But even when a product is believably certifiable, the question remains, does it make a difference? The answer, it seems, depends a lot on whom you ask.