Earth Day is here, and you proudly consider yourself to be eco-conscious. (You pay extra for organic cotton and you’re terrified of BPA, phthalates, and tuna.) But let’s be honest, here. How well would you do on a pop-quiz with questions like, “How does your baby actually benefit from organic cotton?” and, “What’s so bad about phthalates?”

To help us all have a better understanding of the most popular environmental buzzwords, we asked the brilliant editors at Ecofabulous to put together a nuts-to-bolts Green Glossary, with moms’ interests in mind. But before you go and educate yourself, take a second to sign up for Zem’s List, the weekly Ecofabulous newsletter featuring stylish, eco-inspired tips and picks. It’s, well, eco-fabulous!


The Eco-Mom’s Green Glossary

BIODEGRADABLE: A product that can be broken down to its natural elements, creating no waste. It’s the eco-conscious choice for disposable baby products like wipes and diapers.

BPA: A chemical building block found in hard plastic bottles (like, yes, baby bottles). The chemical, which can be released when heated, disrupts hormones in your body. Milk may do a body good, but BPA doesn’t!

CARBON FOOTPRINT: The impact of human activity on the environment, measured in terms of carbon dioxide produced. Even little ones can have surprisingly large carbon footprints, so be sure to teach your children about the effects of their actions.

COMPOSTABLE: A product that can be broken down at the same rate as paper and can support plant life. Compostable products (such as plates and cutlery for picnics and BBQs) are usually made of materials like corn and potato.

: Made by people who work in proper conditions and receive a fair living wage. Have a guilt-free conscience when telling your child who made their toy.

HEMP: A natural fiber from the Cannabis plant. Hemp has anti-bacterial properties, is very durable, and can be grown without chemicals and pesticides. These days, it’s used to create everything from moisturizing oils and balms to diapers.

MERCURY: A heavy metal found in paint, batteries, light bulbs, thermometers and fish. Avoid mercury poisoning by keeping these
products out of the reach of your children and out of their diets. For more information on mercury in fish, visit the EPA’s Fish Advisories website.

NITRATES: Commercial fertilizer chemicals found in soil. Nitrates can be found in certain vegetables like spinach and carrots and in processed foods like hot dogs and bacon. High levels of these chemicals in your baby’s diet can affect red blood cells’ ability to carry oxygen throughout the body, which can lead to Blue Baby Syndrome. Babies should be pink (even boys)!

ORGANIC COTTON: Cotton grown without pesticides. Baby soft skin should never have to touch insecticide-ridden fabric.

PARAFFIN: A by-product of petroleum that can be found in baby oil. Paraffin should be avoided because it “coats,” preventing the skin from
breathing and naturally cleansing itself of toxins, which is especially important for little ones.

PHTHALATES: Additives used to make plastic flexible, to make body products smooth, and to make scents last. (Usually found in skincare products, including many baby products that list “fragrance” as an ingredient.) Phthalates can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and affect your reproductive system.

PVC: A strong plastic that you probably know as “vinyl.” Commonly found in toys like rubber duckies, PVC is carcinogenic and poses serious threats to the people who work in vinyl chloride factories and to the environment during its entire lifecycle.

RECYCLED: New products made from old materials. Buying recycled (or recycling in your own, crafty ways) means reducing the number of items that get sent to the landfill and reducing the energy and resources used to create “new” products.

SUSTAINABLE: Using resources to meet present needs without compromising the needs of future generations. This is the most comprehensive environmental term, whose basic concept refers to taking care of the planet and its resources, so your children’s children can enjoy it too.

TOXINS: Poisonous substances harmful to the human body and the ecosystem. Toxins can be found in products ranging from jarred baby food and toys to lotions and creams. They can inhibit the development of your baby’s immune, nervous and hormonal systems.

VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds): Solvents that can easily evaporate into the air. Found in many household cleaning products and personal care products that list “fragrance” as an ingredient. VOCs can irritate your baby’s eyes, nose and throat. Tip: Make sure to choose Low-VOC or No-VOC when refreshing your paint.