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Cooing over green products

The Baltimore Sun

Rebecca Benner picked up her 16-month-old son Will and hoisted him onto her back.

Then using a piece of woven cloth about three yards long, and two feet wide, she bent over and twisted and tied the ends of a baby wrap first around herself, and then around her son.

Once she was confident that Will was tightly secured, she stood up. Will giggled and banged his head on her back.

"The reason I started to wear Will is that he cries less, and it's a great opportunity to bond with him," said Benner, 32. "And these carriers are so comfortable."

Raising awareness

Her demonstration was part of a party given by Benner to teach expectant and young mothers how to use natural baby products. The party is one aspect of the business Benner started in April that she calls Green Beans - after her favorite vegetable and her pet name for youngsters. Benner started the business to raise awareness about taking care of the environment, she said.

"Having a child makes you realize the importance of leaving this earth in good shape," she said. "The more I've learned, the more my parenting philosophies have changed."

Green Beans offers a range of organic clothing, baby carriers, cloth diapers, and organic care products for mother and baby. Although there is an increasing number of online organic baby companies, Benner wanted to offer something locally, she said.

Disposable diapers

"Sometimes if you see something, you get a better idea of whether or not you like it," Benner said.

Before she opened her home-based company, she said she researched various baby products for comfort and safety. She also educated herself about the benefits of using cloth diapers.

"I think it's important that parents know about the environmental impact of using disposable diapers," she said. "There are billions of disposable diapers being dumped in landfills and they are filled with human waste."

Less trash

Lee Deckman can attest to the differences between cloth diapers and disposable ones, she said. However, Deckman said she wasn't an easy sell.

"I thought it would be too hard before I tried it," said Deckman, the 38-year-old mother of Zeb, 6 months, Fiona, 2, Joshua, 13, and Caitlyn, 18. "But when I used disposable diapers I put out eight trash cans full of garbage a week. Now I just put out one."

Even the youngsters like the cloth diapers. Two-year-old Fiona Deckman has taken a definite shine to them, Deckman said.

"The cloth diapers are so soft," she said. "Fiona used to fight and cry when I changed her diaper and now she lays still for diapering because she enjoys it."

Beyond diapers, the whole green thing is growing on me, Benner said.

At the party, Benner discussed the benefits of cloth diapers and included a demonstration.

"Cloth diapers are more breathable," she told the mothers at the party. "The cost is about $300 to buy enough to last from birth to potty training. The cost of outfitting a child in disposable diapers is about $2,500."

Benner also teaches mothers how to properly use baby carriers.

The first, called a Mei Tai, is a carrier that originated in Asia, and includes a square piece of fabric with four ties that hang down from each corner. Babies from newborns to toddlers can be carried on the front or back. The second, called a ring sling, is a piece of adjustable material used to carry a small baby upright or in a reclining position. The third is a wraparound carrier, which is the most versatile, Benner said.

Benner, who demonstrated the use of each carrier, uses a Mei Tai, she said.

"Will was a big baby," she said. "When I used the Baby Bjorn carrier it hurt my back to carry him. The Mei Tai allowed me to keep him close to me, and use it comfortably for hours."

Melanie Pizzini was sold on the wraparound carrier, she said. As a 30-year-old mother of two children, Logan 4, and Gloria, 2, and a third child on the way, Pizzini is always looking for baby products that are comfortable and simple, she said.

Although she has never purchased organic items, she has started giving it serious thought, she said.

"I used disposable diapers on my son," said the Pasadena resident. "I didn't know the difference, and there were so many kinds out there. I learned the benefits of cloth diapers with my daughter."

When Julie Grove put her 27-pound daughter Ella on her back in the wrap carrier, Grove said it felt as though she wasn't holding anything. She liked the idea of wearing the wrap continuously, said Grove, who is six months pregnant with her second child.

More items

In addition to items that she sells from organic vendors, she is designing her own reusable cloth wipes and a diaper bag for cloth diapers, she said.

"I want to create some items that are strictly mine," she said. "The diaper bag will include features no one else offers. These products will be the first of many things that are my own designs."

In addition to diapers and organic clothing, Benner has also picked up on some other ways of being green.

"I buy clothes secondhand at consignment shops or Goodwill," she said. "When my kids are done with it, I will donate it so it can be reused."

Her plans include opening a shop in Havre de Grace, she said.

"My dream is to open a brick and mortar in Havre de Grace that offers ways to make parenting and caring for your baby environmentally friendly and natural," she said.

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