If you have wood floors in good repair, they can be refinished with a low-VOC product such as Polyureseal BP made by AFM Safecoat. For new flooring, Christina Erickson of Green By Design, a design firm in Santa Monica, California, suggests true linoleum, made of all-natural materials: sawdust, linseed oils, pigments and a jute backing. It's soft underfoot, and easy to clean. A linoleum floor for a child's room, Erickson says, "can be made colorful and fun with a contrasting border, a collage or any sort of pattern."
Consider cork, too. It's a natural insulator of both heat and sound that's also soft enough to absorb the impact from your child's inevitable tumbles. "Cork flooring has some really attractive environmental qualities," says Alex Wilson, editor of Environmental Building News, but he warns against tiles composed from just a thin cork veneer stuck to a vinyl backing. Furthermore, he cautions that some cork flooring may include binders containing formaldehyde. But Jeremy Kanyo of the Environmental Home Center, a distributor of green building materials in Seattle, Washington, assures that most cork products "meet or exceed Europe's stringent guidelines for the amount of allowable toxic emissions."
Taking the time to create a "green" nursery does add another layer of effort to your prenatal preparations, but then knowing that your baby is getting the healthiest start will give you one less thing to worry about.