Forget pink or blue. When it comes to outfitting your new baby’s nursery, the choice is whether or not to go green – green as in “Earth friendly.” 

If you’re set on painting the nursery, do it as far in advance of the baby’s birth as possible. Go with water-based, latex paint, which has 50 percent less VOCs than paint that’s alkyd or oil-based. Improvements in recent years have significantly bumped up the quality of latex paints, so you won’t find that switching from oil means you’ll have to re-paint your child’s room every couple of years.

Standard latex paints emit some VOCs; many greener brands don’t. Glidden’s Spread 2000 and AFM Safecoat, among others, are VOC-free. These paints still emit an odor until they dry, so don’t forget to factor in a couple of weeks to allow for a complete airing out of the nursery.

Paints that are greener yet are both VOC-free and made from all natural materials, such as earth pigments, lime, and a milk derivative called casein. These “milk” paints, like those offered by Livos, come in powdered form and must be mixed with water.

Paint manufactured before the late 1970s contains lead, which has been shown to retard the development of children, so you should test the paint in the nursery if you live in an older home. (Do-it-yourself home test kits are available at most home centers). If lead is detected, don’t rush to get it off. Sanding and scraping will only blanket the nursery in lead dust.

If the lead paint is neither cracking nor peeling, you can either paint over it or let it be – lead is only poisonous if it’s ingested or inhaled. For small sections that need scraping, cover any floorspace with a drop cloth, wet the targeted surfaces, and scrape carefully. Clean up afterward with a solution of trisodium phosphate (TSP). For bigger jobs, call in a professional.