Expectant parents devote large amounts of time, energy, and money to decorating a nursery for their new baby. It's fun to look at paint samples and shop for furniture and accessories, but it can also be overwhelming. What colors will you use? Should you choose a theme? Which type of furniture is the most practical? Are you going for trendy or timeless?

When it comes to decorating a room for baby, the possibilities are endless. And these days, there's yet another possibility for expectant parents to consider — the green nursery.

What Makes a Nursery Green?

"Green" decorating focuses on the use of sustainable, non-toxic materials. For example, elements that can contribute to a "green" room include:

  • Energy-saving appliances
  • Eco-friendly floor and wall coverings
  • Recycled or locally crafted furniture
  • Organic textiles (think bedding, window treatments, rugs)
  • Clothing and toys made from enviromnentally-friendly materials

Want to design a green nursery for your new bundle of joy? Consider these key components.

1. Paint

Wall color is one of the first choices that many parents make about their baby's room, but if you want to go green, it isn't as simple as just picking a color — you have to avoid paints that contain high levels of VOCs, or volatile organic compounds. Low-VOC or, even better, zero-VOC paints are available through companies like Safe Paint.

2. Flooring

Ditch the carpeting for a healthier nursery. Most synthetic carpets are treated with chemicals, and since carpeting can't be removed for cleaning, it traps pollutants and allergens within the room. Wood floors are a better option — cover them with rugs made from natural fibers if you're worried about crawling knees.

3. Furniture

Reusing or repurposing furniture is a great way to go green, but make sure the item hasn't been recalled, particularly if you're planning to use a secondhand crib. If you're hoping to buy new, check out a company such as Pacific Rim Woodworking, a green-certified furniture company with "minimal environmental impact."

4. Bedding

Most mattresses and bedding materials are heavily treated with dangerous chemicals and pesticides. Opt for an organic mattress — consider wool if you can find it — and purchase sheets and blankets made from organic cotton or even bamboo.

No matter what, be sure to skip the bumper pads — in 2011 the AAP officially declared that crib bumpers are not safe and should never be used in cribs.

5. Clothing and Toys

Even clothes and toys can be eco-friendly. Again, you'll want to look out for PVC, which means avoiding the plastic toys that are often made from the toxic material. Buy wooden or handmade toys when possible, and look for clothing made from organic cotton.

When trying to decide if a green baby nursery is right for you, think about the many benefits it can yield. A green nursery may be more expensive and time-consuming to create, but it can also be a valuable investment in both your baby's health and the future of our planet.

Did you decorate a nursery for your baby? Is it important for a nursery to be green?