Growing green kids
Eco-friendly parenting catching on both in Chico and on the Ridge
“Green parenting” in Chico seems to be getting more popular every day. From the recent, rather well-attended resale event of gently used children’s clothing at the Women’s Club by local consignment outfit Sweet Repeats, to local mothers making reusable eco-friendly kid wares such as cloth lunch baggies, to the abundance of “green” stores peddling organic-cotton diapers and Bisphenol-A (BPA)-free sippy cups, Chico has just about everything an environmentally conscious parent could want.
But what about Paradise?
This is precisely what Amanda Savangsy—local mother of two and owner of green kids’ mecca Eco in Chico Baby’s Boutique—asked herself recently. And Savangsy found the access to green resources and products for parents of young children up on the Ridge lacking. So, in May, she opened a second store, called—no surprise here—Eco in Paradise Baby’s Boutique.
“I think Paradise is starting to go green, [to] understand what it means…[but] it’s new up there,” Savangsy said recently, standing behind the register in her Chico shop while a CD of lullaby renditions of Bob Marley songs played in the background.
The new store in Paradise, while offering the same eco-friendly products and services as the Chico store, also features a “mommy hangout room” in the back, said Savangsy, where she plans to hold classes on cloth diapering, preparing organic baby food from scratch, and using the many wraps, slings and carriers popular for “babywearing.”
Paradise resident Sarah Kester, who has a 1-year-old daughter, can’t wait for the official grand opening of Eco in Paradise, which will occur in the very near future, once the new sign is up, said Savangsy.
“New moms want to hang out … where people can feel comfortable, ask questions, and feel heard, so I think it’s really great that it’s up here,” Kester said by phone.
Kester said she spent the early months of her daughter’s life working with Savangsy to determine which cloth diaper suited her baby best, trying out five different types before settling on two—one for daytime and one for nighttime.
Why cloth? “Disposable diapers simply don’t decompose. The less of a footprint you have, the better,” Kester said.
In fact, Eco in Chico’s No. 1 seller—“by far”, said Savangsy—is cloth diapers. And Savangsy knows diapers well. She’s a mother of two, ages 1 and 3, so, like all moms, she’s done her time at the changing table. But she may be considered Chico’s foremost authority on cloth diapering, as a result of extensive research she’s conducted for her store.
The days of a square pad of cotton material held together with safety pins and topped with rubber pants are long gone. Today’s cloth diaper is highly absorbent, easy to use, and simple to clean, and usually outperforms its disposable counterpart in breathability, style and comfort. Diaper manufacturers are utilizing relatively new natural materials such as bamboo velour for the soft, absorbent, antimicrobial insides that touch the baby’s skin, as well as newly invented, more breathable synthetic materials for the diapers’ moisture barriers. And a variety of styles, shapes, and sizes makes them highly customizable.
Sales of cloth diapers in North America rose by 30 percent between 2000 and 2008, estimated the Real Diaper Industry Association, the trade association arm of the Real Diaper Association (RDA) (www.realdiaperassociation.org ).
Savangsy has noticed a drastic increase in the last four months in the number of her customers switching to cloth, as parents learn about alternatives. Recent events such as April’s Great Cloth Diaper Change—a first-time, worldwide event which was held locally at the Apple Blossom Baby store on Longfellow Avenue, that established the Guinness World Record for the number of cloth diapers changed at once—have helped raise awareness of cloth. (That number, by the way, was 6,363.)
Many new parents, said Savangsy, are wary of the chemicals present in their babies’ disposable diapers, particularly the bleach byproduct dioxin, a highly toxic carcinogen and endocrine disruptor, and Tributyl-tin (TBT), a toxic pollutant “known to cause hormonal problems in humans and animals,” according to the RDA.
Additionally, there is the long-term environmental impact of tossing so many disposable diapers into the garbage. The RDA estimates that the average child goes through 6,000 diapers in the first two years of life, which, if parents choose disposables, will take hundreds of years to break down in the landfill.
And there’s the money-saving angle, of course: Those 6,000 diapers total up to approximately $1,600, versus $300 to $1,000 (for the highest-end) for cloth, says the RDA.
Those who wish to ditch the extra laundry can go with Cotton Club Diaper Service (www.cottonclubdiapers.com), servicing both Chico and Paradise, which picks up the dirties and drops off the cleans.
Other green alternatives for children are also growing in popularity. A California bill to ban the estrogen-mimicking chemical BPA in baby products just passed the State Assembly in May, in response to widespread concern over its use in myriad children’s products such as bottles and teething rings.
Green parents have also been vocal about abandoning single-use plastics such as baby-wipes containers (and baby wipes themselves in some cases, which can contain polyester, polyethylene and/or polypropylene) and lunch baggies, which don’t biodegrade, and are polluting waterways and killing sea life.
Chico mother of three Elizabeth Jennings reduced her family’s plastic consumption by sewing reusable lunch baggies and wraps, with funky patterns and Velcro closures.
“I was going through a lot of [plastic bags] with [my] kids, and I would wash them and reuse them, but they get gross,” said Jennings. “Then they started to talk on the news all about BPA and all the stuff that’s in plastic.” Her second child was entering preschool, and the plastic garbage started piling up. That’s when Jennings started making reusable baggies for her own children. She now sells her popular lunch baggies at Eco in Chico, and online at her Etsy store (www.etsy.com/shop/elizabethjennings).
If Savangsy has her way, the plastic-based, toxin-filled childhoods of today will become a thing of the past. Instead of wondering which children’s products contain deadly toxins, perhaps a new parent’s biggest dilemma will be which fabric to choose for a new set of cloth diapers.