Choosing a child care provider you trust is a huge—and hugely important—decision. Contributing factors like location and price may jump to the forefront of the decision making process, but it’s also likely you’ll want to look closely into how each center addresses human and environmental health. Good news! Just a few key questions will help you screen for green (or, if you’re already committed to a provider, help them on a healthy journey).
Toxins and air pollutants pop up in the strangest places. Some notorious culprits include bottoms of shoes, art supply corners and playgrounds. There’s an easy solution for feet: ask about textured runner mats at door entrances or a shoes-off policy. You can do the same for art supplies, gaining information on the facility’s chemical policy in turn.
Playgrounds can require a bit more research. Because many wooden structures that were built before 2003 are treated with chromated copper arsenate, a preservative, "When/where was the wood purchased and when was it updated?" are valuable questions. The soil around the structures could be contaminated from run-off.
Cleaning and pest policies should also be toxin-free. Discuss cleaning products and infection protocols, as well as the possible use of pesticides to eliminate bugs in and around the facility. What are you comfortable with your child breathing in? Your decision can hinge on this, so it’s helpful to ask direct questions about product names and written protocols.
While safety is everybody’s first priority, you can also address and encourage practices that deem a childcare center environmentally aware and friendly. For instance, look for a recycling bin and ask about how recycling will be discussed with the children.
Appliances contribute a significant percentage of total energy use. Ask if appliances are Energy Star certified, or if they have any particular environmental benefits.
Many environmental inquiries will also relate to health inquiries, so you can double down! Determine where snacks are stored (in glass or plastic?), what toys are used (wood or plastic?), and where those little hands will be doing their scrubbing (what kind of soap was that again?). It’s ok—productive, even—to be direct with these questions if you feel firmly about your needs and the needs of your child and the planet.
However you build your list of questions, remember that not all centers may meet all criteria. If the childcare center your child currently attends is one such facility, or if you love a certain provider but don’t love their environmental policy, it’s ok to make suggestions. A small nudge toward this toolkit from Informed Green Solutions will help! It provides clear, up-to-date information and suggestions for moving forward with green cleaning best practices.