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Choose organic crib sheets

By Jennifer Spero |

While it may seem like you'll never get your newborn to sleep through the night, rest assured it will happen. And when it does, lay baby to sleep on organic sheets to keep chemicals off of that sensitive skin.

According to Harvey Karp, MD, author of The Happiest Toddler On The Block, the number-two cause of eczema rashes for babies (behind food allergies) is irritation caused by detergents and chemical treatments on crib sheets and other bedding.[1] Add to that the fact that conventional cotton or synthetic fiber crib sheets contribute to pollution, and eco-minded parents might want to take a closer look at baby's room.

Find it! Organic crib sheets

Certified Organic crib sheets are an alternative that may offer sweet dreams of safe and cozy sleep-filled nights (once baby sleeps through the night, that is). Look for bamboo and cotton options colored with natural, nontoxic dyes.

Choosing crib sheets made from organic fibers helps you go green because…

  • Crib sheets made from organic fibers are farmed using sustainable methods that do not pose environmental harm to ecosystems, wildlife, or humans.
  • Organic farming combats global warming through carbon sequestration.
  • Bamboo is an environmentally friendly fiber that grows abundantly — and quickly — with few pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers.

The eco-impacts of crib sheets are associated with the procurement of materials to make the sheets, the manufacturing of the sheets, and chemical treatments applied to the finished product.

Crib sheets can be made from natural fibers (like cotton and bamboo) and synthetic materials (like polyester, acrylic, and nylon). Synthetic fibers are made from petrochemicals, which are non-renewable resources[2] and contributeto the environmental issues associated with petroleum procurement and processing, including air pollution.[3]

The textile manufacturing process also has environmental costs. For example, bedding textiles are put through multiple processing steps, including spinning, dyeing, weaving, scouring, and sizing.[4] All involve flushing with water at one or more steps, which can result in wastewater.

Crib sheet options

Thankfully, untreated and organic fibers minimize some of these environmental costs because they are grown and processed with sustainable agricultural practices.[5] The natural bedding industry was initially embraced by individuals with chemical sensitivities but now enjoys growing support from those wishing to green their lifestyle. [6]


Conventional cotton farming uses only about 3 percent of the farmland around the world, but consumes 25 percent of all chemical pesticides and fertilizers.[7] Insects are quickly becoming resistant to recommended rates of pesticide application, and ever-increasing amounts are needed to be effective.[8] The various chemicals used to treat conventional cotton can harm beneficial insects, pollute groundwater, and adversely affect the health of humans and wildlife.[9] Additionally, up to 70 percent of seeds used in conventional cotton farming in the US are genetically modified.[10]

Billions of pounds of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are also applied to cotton crops, leading to runoff that creates zones in waterways that can’t sustain any life. Due to cotton's natural resistance to dyes, roughly half of the chemicals used as dyes or fixers end up as waste in rivers and soil. The farming of conventional cotton is also water-intensive. Approximately 400 gallons of water are required to produce a single cotton undershirt.[11]

Organic cotton is grown and processed without insecticides, herbicides, or fungicides[12] with control of crop pests, weeds, and diseases achieved mainly through physical, mechanical, and biological controls.[13] Organic cotton may be chemical-free, but its production still requires significant amounts of irrigated water (though on the plus side, water supplies aren't at risk of being contaminated).[14]

Organic farming may also be key in fighting global climate change. A study of conventional versus organic farming methods by the Rodale Institute discovered that organic farming combats global warming through carbon sequestration.[15] In agricultural applications, the more organic matter that is retained in the soil, the more carbon is sequestered. While conventional farming depletes organic matter through the use of chemical fertilizers, organic farming uses animal manure and cover crops, which actually build soil organic matter.

Organic farming further reduces atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) by using 37 percent fewer fossil fuels than conventional farming.[16] The Rodale Institute estimates that if all 160 million acres of corn and soybean farmland in the US were switched to organic farming methods, it would be equivalent to removing 58.7 million cars from the road, and would satisfy 73 percent of the proposed US Kyoto targets for CO2 reduction.[17]


Bamboo is a sustainable crop: bamboo grass is one of the fastest growing plants in the world, with some species growing 30 inches every day.[18] Bamboo traditionally does not require pesticide and fertilizers. Bamboo plants contain a natural antifungal, antibacterial agent (called Bamboo kun) that acts as a sort of internal pesticide, which negates the use of pesticides.[19] Bamboo kun is also present in the fabric and controls bacteria growth on the skin, as well as moisture levels. Bamboo fabric is a natural insulator and can be worn in both the summer to keep cool and the winter to keep warm.

Found most commonly in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America, bamboo cultivation provides some important environmental benefits. It has net-like root systems, unique leaves, and dense litter on the forest floor, which protects against soil erosion and reduces rain runoff.[20] A bamboo stand will release 35 percent more oxygen than an equivalent stand of trees and can sequester up to 12 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare.[19]

Related health issues

Babies are exposed to the chemical contents of mattresses and c]] and crib sheets when they sleep. [21] Chemical fabric treatments, pesticides, artificial colors, dyes, and hazardous flame retardants may have negative health effects. [22]


  • carbon sequestration: The process by which carbon is captured (in the form of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere and incorporated into soil, ocean, and plant matter.
  • genetically modified organism (GMO): GMOs result from merging the genetic makeup of two organisms to create a desired byproduct that could otherwise not be found in nature. Using genetically modified seed is a common practice in conventional farming. Studies have shown that GMOs pose significant environmental risks and cause some insects which feed on GM crops to become resistant to pesticides.
  • volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Organic solvents that easily evaporate into the air. VOCs are emitted by thousands of products including paints, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials, and furnishings and they may cause immediate and long-term health problems.

External links


  1. The Green Guide - Better Basics for Your Baby's Room
  2. Fibersource - Acrylic Fiber
  3. Energy Information Administration - Energy Kids Page: Petroleum (Oil) - A Fossil Fuel
  4. How Products are Made - Bed Sheet
  5. Ezine Articles - Make Yours An Organic And Eco Baby
  6. Co-op America Business Network - The Organic Bedding Industry Gains National Exposure On CBS's The Early Show: Trend Report
  7. Sustainable Cotton - Production and marketing trends in the US and globally
  8. Ecobedroom - Cotton: Conventional versus Organic
  9. Pesticide Action Network North America - Problems with conventional cotton production
  10. Organic Exchange - Organic Cotton
  11. US Geological Survey - Water Facts
  12. - Introduction to Organic Fibers
  13. National Organic Program - Organic Handling and Production Standards
  14. Green Living Tips - Organic cotton: Cotton and the environment
  15. Food and Society Policy Fellows - Organic Farming Fights Global Warming
  16. Straus Communications - Organic Farming Sequesters Atmospheric Carbon and Nutrients in Soils: The Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trialåš Findings
  17. The New Farm - Organic farming combats global warming … big time
  18. Christian Science Monitor - Easy on the Eyes and the Environment
  19. TreeHugger - Bamboo Sheets Keep Germs Out of Bed
  20. Environmental Bamboo Foundation - Why Bamboo? Here's Why
  21. People for Clean - US Consumer Products Safety commission open public comment period on new law, Closes March 14, 2005
  22. Lifekind - Mattress Materials: Why an Organic Mattress?
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