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Design Notebook: Off to a healthy start at EcoBambino

Ariana Spaulding, owner of EcoBambino.
Ariana Spaulding, owner of EcoBambino.

Ariana Spaulding was a new mother in 2006, just as lead paint and toy recalls hit the headlines.

“I began to re-evaluate the kind of products I bought for my son,” she said.

She wasn’t able to find a selection of natural and organic children’s products locally, and was hesitant to shop online.

“I’m a very visual person and like to touch and feel stuff. Plus I was raised here and really value buying things locally,” said Ariana.

Ariana and her sister-in-law Amanda Spaulding decided to start their own business dedicated to natural and eco-friendly products for babies and children. Their San Luis Obispo shop, EcoBambino, opened last September.

The store is bright, cheerful and well-designed, thanks in part to help from Ariana’s father, graphic designer Pierre Rademaker. Product categories include toys, furniture, baby gear, cloth diapering, feeding products, skin care, bedding and clothing.

The merchandise is playful and sweet, yet rarely in the over-the-top juvenile prints and DayGlo colors common in children’s merchandise. Natural materials and sophisticated designs help these eco-chic items integrate nicely into the home.

Some health-conscious new moms come to the shop looking for ways to limit their child’s exposure to toxins in the home. One of Ariana’s top suggestions is to pay attention to the contents of your crib mattress.

Most standard crib mattresses, she said, are filled with polyurethane foam treated with flame retardants.

“With the amount of time babies spend sleeping with their mouths close to the mattress, it’s not good at all,” she said. “Studies reflect that these chemicals are neurotoxins.”

Eco Bambino sells a line of organic cotton mattresses that contain natural flame retardants. It keeps crib mattresses in stock, but can also special order larger mattresses, up to a king size.

The shop offers two lines of cribs, all made with paints that have low or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and minimal off-gassing. Its American-made Muu crib line offers sleek, modern designs. More traditional-styled cribs from Pacific Rim Woodworking are made from sustainably-harvested solid maple and crafted in Oregon.

Ariana and Amanda take time to research each item they sell. They have a safety checklist which includes making sure the product is free of bisphenol-A (BPA), lead, phthalates, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Many of their products are American-made, but they don’t exclude items made overseas.

“If it’s made in China, for instance, we just look a little deeper into the companies,” said Ariana. “There are some great companies in China.”

Ariana and Amanda also give priority to products made by socially and environmentally responsible companies. They investigate whether manufacturing processes are eco-friendly, how workers are treated, and whether the company contributes to charities.

EcoBambino offers free classes on the last Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. in conjunction with the Birth and Baby Resource Network. Topics range from creating a healthy home, to choosing a midwife or doctor. For a schedule of classes, visit www.bbrn.org.

EcoBambino is located at 863 Monterey St. in San Luis Obispo, 540-7222, www.shopecobambino.com.

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