VAIL " Ryan and Trista's first born is just a week old, but Maxwell Alston Sutter already knows what it means to be "green."
Ryan and Trista Sutter teamed up with Lisa and Ron Beres, owners of Green Nest, to help create a healthy, earth-safe and baby-safe nursery. The Beres are consultants who help people eliminate toxins from the home, selling the products to do it on www.greennest.com.
Ryan and Trista, Vail Valley locals, are the reality TV couple who first found love on ABC's "The Bachelorette" in 2002 as the nation watched intensely, and who were then married on an ABC two-hour special in 2003. Chapter three of the Ryan and Trista story started with the pregnancy and birth of Maxwell.
It's no secret the couple is conscious about the environment. Ryan writes a weekly column for the Vail Daily about sustainability. He's certified by LEED to construct eco-friendly buildings and just finished shooting the "The EcoZone Project," where he serves as the builder member of a team who gives celebrity homes a green makeover.
And Trista supports him all the way.
"We try and live environmentally friendly lives as much as possible," Trista says. "We still use electricity, we still drive cars, we still buy cotton products that aren't organic, but any little thing that you can do, if all of us do our part, it makes such a huge difference, and that goes along with all the fun stuff for babies."
It was a producer from "The EcoZone Project" who introduced the couple to the Beres. Trista said she and Ryan knew about some green things for the nursery, like organic cotton sheets and mattresses, but Lisa got Trista thinking deeper about the toxins in her home and nursery.
Lisa, a former interior designer, started her crusade to clean up the home when she started feeling sick, run down and tired all the time. Doctors couldn't pinpoint her illness, but when she left for a vacation, she started feeling better, which led her to believe it was her home that was making her sick.
"In our society, people are used to feeling flu-like all the time, and that's not good," Lisa said. "They just pop a Tylenol to make it all better. But it could be formaldehyde exposure, for example, that's making them feel bad. And because it's gradual and you don't see effects until the long term, people are fooled into thinking it's not a problem."
Lisa has since become a certified Baubiologist. Baubiology is a study derived from Germany which encompasses how buildings impact life and the living environment. With her B.A. from Arizona State University under her belt, she then decided to incorporate her two passions in life" interior design and health.
Lisa says there are five elements that contribute to a toxic home: the air, water, cleaning products, formaldehyde and pesticides. Where you should start, Lisa says, depends on your budget and health concerns as a family.
"Try and narrow it down. Like if asthma or allergies is an issue, than focus on indoor air quality first," she says. "A person with no symptoms, but wants to do something to make a change, the easiest solution is to change their cleaning products to natural and biodegradable cleaners. Everyone can do that right away."
Lisa says it's especially important to have a nontoxic nursery because children's bodies breathe more air and eat more food pound for pound than an adult.
"So if there is pesticides in the food or in the air, kids are more affective by this, and their bodies are still developing," Lisa says. "Kids are six times as likely to develop childhood leukemia when pesticides are used, and not just inside the house, but outside."
For Trista, air quality was a concern.
"I have allergies, and Ryan had allergies when he was a child, so the likelihood that our baby may have allergies is pretty high," Trista says. "The air is pretty pure in the mountains, but every little bit helps."
So Lisa introduced them to the Baby's Breath, which comes in baby blue and pink, designed to clean the air in a 700-square-foot room for allergy and asthma sufferers.
According to the EPA research, on average, the air inside our homes typically contain levels of pollutants two to five times higher than the air outside, and in extreme cases, can be 100 times more contaminated. The EPA ranked indoor air pollution as one of the top five environmental risks to public health, due to the fact we spend 90 percent of our time indoors.
Trista also used low or no VOC paint in chocolate brown and white to paint the nursery. VOC's (volatile organic compounds), outgas. This means that the chemical compounds they contain break down with age and are slowly released into the air over time in the form of toxic fumes.
"My friend had to leave her house when they painted the nursery," Trista says. "Even with the low VOC paint, you didn't have to leave the room. You couldn't smell the fumes, which is fantastic."
To clean up the water, Lisa urged Trista to get a bath tub filter, a mechanism attached to the faucet which eliminates dirt, sediment, odors and chlorine that causes dry, itchy, flaky skin, brittle hair, eye, lung and sinus irritation.
Using natural and biodegradable cleaning products is two-fold, Lisa says. It helps the air quality in the home for the cleaner and it helps the planet. Cleaning products are not required by law to list all of the ingredients on the label. So the consumer may think the government is taking care of them, Lisa says, but they really have no idea what's in the products.
"Cleaners who are exposed to heavy chemicals end up having big health problems," Lisa says. "And What is being washed down the drains, are affecting the rivers and streams and the wildlife, like the fish and algae. Its full circle when it comes to cleaning products."
Formaldehyde is one of the most prevalent indoor pollutants in the home today, Lisa says. The EPA classifies it as a probable carcinogen.
"It's in particle board, any particle board furniture, veneers, cabinets, bedding sheets. And nowadays there is so much furniture made out of particle board," Lisa says.
So it's always better, Lisa says, to buy real-wood products, but an air purifier will clean the out-gasses.
Organic cotton bedding and mattresses are a must, Lisa says, because the cotton industry is infamous for using pesticides on its crops.
"Babies spend so much time in their bed and crib for the first several years, it's a huge concern," Lisa says.
Trista was well aware of organic cottons, despite the industry's marketing campaign claiming how pure cotton is. Upon comparing a regular pillow to an organic pillow, you can smell the difference she says.
"You could smell some kind of chemical on the nonorganic pillow. And it wasn't a pleasant smell that you want to be around when you're sleeping," Trista says. "What I have been able to learn in the past couple of years is regular cotton is not as natural as you think. Getting anything organic in the cotton industry is really important."
Lisa wants to stress, and Trista agrees, that in a modern world no one can be 100 percent perfect when it comes to the environment.
"It's really important to do the little things that you can," Trista says.
"Make a good choice when and where you can," Lisa says. "It's better to do something than nothing."
Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 748-2938, or firstname.lastname@example.org.