If you've sat through a baby shower recently, the thought of making yours green may sound appealing—impossible, but appealing. Traditionally, the baby shower is a well-meant potlatch of gift giving, with bassinets, changing tables, strollers and diaper bins piling up before an anxious mother-to-be who suddenly realizes she has to find space for all of this...stuff. But you've taken the time to learn about protecting your health and that of your baby from environmental toxins—and about  treading lightly on the planet—and you're not about to throw it out the window. Share your joy and your values by hosting an eco-friendly party. It will mean less stress for you, less wrapping and waste to recycle and fewer gifts to return when you've filled every closet.

Encourage conscientious giving

It's neither practical nor possible to take the materialism out of baby showers. And honestly, there's nothing wrong with it as long as it is conscientious materialism. Young parents need help outfitting their homes for new children. So in the spirit of community and recycling, encourage guests who are already parents to pass along any clothes that their kids have outgrown and toys that are no longer in use instead of buying new gifts.

Suggest to those who aren't parents (and those who have children of their own to pass toys down to) that they bring gift certificates from local green-living stores or online stores such as OrganicWearUSA or SageBaby. For big items, such as strollers, bassinets and the like, use a gift registry to ensure that you won't end up with duplicates. Or delicately suggest to your friends and family that they pool their resources to purchase one each of what is needed.

Be sure to discuss with your spouse what you want and what you have room for. Look around the house to see if you really need a changing table or already have surfaces that will serve the purpose safely. Determine how much space you have for a crib and then find models that meet your size requirements.

Email the invitations and rethink the location

Emailing invitations saves paper and money, and using an online service such as evite.com makes it easier it to keep track of how many guests will be attending. If a printed invitation is an absolute must for your event, use post-consumer recycled paper and provide a phone number or email address for RSVPs instead of reply cards.

Be clear in the invitation that you are planning to bring your child into the world in a way that promotes the health of the planet as well as that of your child. Include links to information on better baby bottles and organic cotton diapers for those who aren't familiar with them. Encourage guests to carpool, list public transportation options in your email invitation, and request that gifts come in as little packaging as possible.

One advantage of avoiding packaging is that you may find it easier to hold your shower outdoors in park with limited facilities, since trash won't be as much a concern. Whether or not you choose the outdoors, pick a spot easily reached by public transportation.

Champagne toast? Why not local and organic?

Shop for local, organic and seasonal foods if you are hosting the shower, or look for a restaurant or caterer that uses local and organic foods. Grab NRDC's local food widget to learn what's in season near you and find tasty recipes. For listings of organic restaurants, see Chefs Collaborative and check out "Food Essentials: Shop Wisely, Cook Simply, Eat Well" for more ideas.

For a toast with organic or biodynamic champagne, order a magnum to reduce packaging. There are also nice options these days in boxed wines, which are much lighter to ship than glass and stay fresh longer once opened.

Choose reusable tableware and decorations

For a gathering at home, use your own dishes. If that isn't an option, consider renting dishes. If you must go with the take-and-toss variety, look for post-consumer, recycled-content paper napkins and biodegradable plates, cups and utensils made from agriculture waste such as bagasse plates, available at Green Earth Office Supply. Avoid polystyrene plates and cups, and be sure that any table covering or tent material you use is not made from vinyl or PVC. Organic cotton napkins and tablecloths are available from Rawganique and Native Organic Cotton.

Try using "living decor" such as potted plants instead of balloons or pesticide-laced flower bouquets. If you can't keep them at home, give them to your guests as party favors.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mliu92/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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