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Pre-baby, give Earth a break

Even after a birth, parents can go easy on environment

Pink and blue are the colors typically associated with new babies, but especially in Portland, green is all the rage.

For evidence, look no further than Green Sprouts Organic Baby and Family Fest, which debuts Saturday at the World Forestry Center. More than 45 vendors will show off their wares during a day filled with workshops, entertainment and informational exchanges on subjects ranging from water births to infant massage.

The event is a benefit for Tiny Footprints, an award-winning project of the Oregon Environmental Council.

In April, the council won a Children's Health Excellence Award from the Environmental Protection Agency in recognition of Tiny Footprints and the Eco-Healthy Childcare program introduced last fall.

It gives caregivers the tips and tools they need to become certified as providing an environmentally safe environment for children and provides parents with a database of caregivers. More than 31 Portland child-care centers have become certified so far.

Tiny Footprints is a program for new parents that offers a host of resources for creating an environmentally healthy home.

Sarah Doll, program director for the Oregon Environmental Council, says: 'The idea behind Tiny Footprints was to ultimately protect kids from environmental hazards. Everyone talks about your footprint on the Earth, your impact. Tiny Footprints is actually a play on that. How do you make sure you have a tiny footprint? How do you make a small impact on the Earth? Tiny Footprints is about making a smaller impact.'

One of its most popular components is the Tiny Footprints Baby Shower Kit that can be ordered online at www.tinyfootprints.org for $10 or downloaded free.

The following are tips to throwing an eco-healthy baby shower gathered from the Tiny Footprints program, as well as other resources. Even if you're not in a baby-centric time of life, most of the tips can be adapted to any sort of gathering. A clean environment is important at any age.

Send electronic or recycled invites

Almost everyone has e-mail now, whether at home or the office. Evite offers paperless, easy to issue, electronic invitations with many designs from which to choose.

If paper invitations are more your style, pick up recycled-content paper from shops around town including Art Media, Paper Zone and Oblation Papers and Press or have them professionally produced by a company, such as Twisted Limb Paperworks (www.twistedlimbpaper.com), that uses only 100 percent recycled paper.

Choose convenient site

The typical baby shower location is someone's house, which likely means that there will be some heavy-duty cleaning beforehand. Pick up nontoxic cleaning products from the store, or opt to use homemade, environmentally sound cleaning products.

Recipes for making your own cleansers, as well as a list of nontoxic product brands, can be found under the Eco-Healthy Homes tab on the Tiny Footprints Web site.

Another option is to have the party in a park where guests can be surrounded by the beauty of the great outdoors. Many of the metro-area parks offer long picnic tables under the trees, as well as covered shelters in case of rain. Three Portland-area parks are even pesticide-free: Lair Hill, Sewallcrest and Arbor Lodge. Reservations can be made through Portland Parks and Recreation's Web site, www.portlandparks.org.

Serve organic or local goods

The Redirect Guide online (www.redirectguide.com/PDX/) lists natural and organic grocers, and Chinook Books' Dine Local: Eat Local guide (www.chinookbook.net/chapters/pdxdiningguide.pdf) lists Portland-area farmers markets.

If the event will take place at a restaurant, choose one that utilizes sustainable practices.

To avoid waste, pack up the leftovers and send them home with guests or donate food to a local charity, such as the Oregon Food Bank (www.oregonfoodbank.org).

Use green decorations

If decorating a home, go with native plants and fresh, colorful flowers from the farmers market or a local florist instead of crepe paper and balloons. If the party's in in a park, let nature serve as decoration enough.

Use washable plates, glasses, silverware and cloth napkins for the occasion. If you don't have enough to go around, ask friends and family members to bring theirs for a colorful table.

Plan memorable activities

Ditch those old-fashioned baby shower games and instead, create something artistic and memorable together as a group.

Suggestions and instructions for activities such as henna belly painting, creating a homemade mobile and personalizing onesies with nontoxic fabric paint can be found on the Tiny Footprints site.

Give thoughtful gifts

The following are useful, clutter-free and sustainable gifts worth giving. For gifts that require wrapping, consider using paper grocery bags, recycled cloth ribbons and baby blankets.

Books: Favorite childhood books instead of toys create a library that can be enjoyed for years to come.

Food: Have a sign-up sheet available for showergoers to volunteer to be 'dinner angels,' who will deliver one or more home-cooked meals to the new parents in the weeks following the arrival of the little one. Arrange a schedule that works for the guests post-shower.

Time: Offer parents the gift of precious couple time by offering baby-sitting services for a night, or a regularly scheduled night once a month.

Clothing: Select locally made clothing, such as Baby Star (www.babystar.com), and shop at locally owned children's clothing merchants, like Polliwog (2900 S.E. Belmont St., 503-236-3903) and Black Wagon (www.blackwagon.com). Babyworks (www.babyworks.com) is a locally owned, mainly catalog company that offers a wide range of Earth-friendly baby accouterment; it has a limited-hours retail space at 2537 N.W. Upshur St., Suite A, 503-645-4349.

Diapers: No matter where expectant parents stand on the issue of cloth versus disposable, they're going to need something. A free month of cloth diaper service from Tidee Didee Diaper Service (www.tideedidee.com) makes a good gift, as does a package of chlorine-free disposables that don't contribute dioxin to the environment, such as Seventh Generation Disposable Diapers.


Green Sprouts Organic Baby and Family Fest

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23

Where: World Forestry Center, 4033 S.W. Canyon Road, 503-228-1367

Cost: $3 adults, free for kids

More: www.greensproutsfest.com


Vital stats

• Percentage of baby products tested in 2005 by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group found to contain toxic phthalates: 83

• Estimated global phthalate production in 2005: 5.5 million tons

Sources: U.S. Public Interest Research Group, Worldwatch Institute