Between scares about the mercury in vaccines, the lead in China-made toys and the chemicals that plastic baby bottles emit, it’s hard not to be a straight-up paranoid parent these days. We’re also supposed to worry about how global climate change will affect the world our kids will one day inherit. But how green is green enough for our children? And how much of the other kind of green do we really need to spend as we search for organic baby food and organic cloth diapers?
As a mother of fairly modest means with an 11-month-old to clothe and feed, this is a question I’ve been asking a lot lately, especially after visiting the Little Seed, a self-described “one-stop eco-friendly baby shop,” recently opened by Swoon candle queen Paige Goldberg Tolmach, stylist Elizabeth Birkett and actress Soleil Moon Frye (yes, Punky Brewster).
The spacious and inviting store, in the heart of Larchmont Village (where designer sunglasses are outnumbered only by paper coffee cups, thanks to the Starbucks and a Coffee Bean on the block), was open just two weeks before it had to reorder stuff. In addition to the charmingly displayed, merch-packed perimeter, there’s a comfy hangout area with cushions and couches at its center, a play area for kids next to that, a changing/nursing station filled with 7th Generation organic diaper products in the back (much appreciated, since we brought our li’l pooper), and, Frye tells us as we look around, a room for soon-to-come art classes with nontoxic paints and crayons. (Painting with Punky . . . cool.)
Tolmach says she came up with the idea to do an organic-minded baby shop after her now 13-month-old son started to suffer from eczema. “The doctors said nothing could be done,” she recalls. “Then I swapped everything — bedding, clothing, toys — for natural alternatives.” Her son’s problems soon diminished.
Putting so much time and research into finding these products made Tolmach want to provide a place for mothers like herself to turn to. “I felt so alone,” she says. She spoke to then-new pal Frye about it, and, as it turned out, actress and college cohort Birkett (a mom of two) had been playing with the same idea ever since she had kids. The Little Seed was planted and soon ready to sprout.
Organic cotton clothing usually brings to mind the Cowsills tune “Beautiful Beige” (used rather bitingly in those IKEA commercials), but as we wander about the bright and airy store, we’re shocked to see so much color. Lines like Kate Quinn, Fauna and Egg are far from boring or hippy-dippy (vegetable dyes are used to get the vibrant hues). And one of our favorite funky tot lines, Dwell Baby, while not officially organic, is carried in the shop because it uses natural dyes and cottons. (There are regulations items must meet to be deemed 100 percent “organic.”)
Other stylish, eco-minded products here include mattresses and changing pads (okay, these come only in the beige), bed linens, blankets, toys and sustainable wood furniture. There are also organic baby wipes (Elsie’s Original, handmade by a local mom with natural ingredients like lavender oil and chamomile), Charlie’s Soap (a special detergent that removes chemicals from clothing) and Weleda cleansing products.
It’s all great stuff, but none of it is cheap. An organic onesie, for example, while not outrageously expensive, is still more than twice as much as a normal cotton one. Sure, the store’s celeb clientele (Melissa Joan Hart and her son paid a visit while we were there) and Larchmont locals can afford it, but what about the rest of us? Can regular folk go the full-on, Earth-friendly nursery route too? You can come close, especially if you cut back volumewise. Instead of dozens of plastic toys, you can invest in a couple of natural ones. Birkett says her son used to love Thomas the Train, but was equally happy with one of the shop’s old-fashioned wooden locomotives. “Sometimes simple is better,” she says.
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Before we leave, we buy a few items, including the wipes ($10) and the soap ($12). Our changing table at home is already stocked with Weleda (bought at Whole Foods), and our tyke’s dresser is sprinkled with some organic cotton items as well. But our kid also has a small box of toys from Target, not to mention tees from American Apparel and Baby Gap. Should we feel bad about this? Of course not.
All three moms say, more than anything, they want to provide alternatives and a haven for parents seeking them. Soon, this will include an e-commerce Web site, where moms can do everything from registering for their baby showers and ordering gift baskets to blogging about their own experiences.
“It’s about striking a balance,” says a glowing Frye, four months pregnant with her second child. “It’s about the little steps we can all take to be more eco-conscious. You do the best you can. And you can never start too early.”?
The Little Seed, ?219 Larchmont Blvd., L.A.; open daily, 9:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. (323) 462-4441 or www.thelittleseed.com.