In May, the Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN), a national nonprofit organization, awarded the Eco-Healthy Child Care® certification to the E.L. Cord Foundation Child Care Center at Truckee Meadows Community College.
TMCC’s Child Care Center is the only Eco-Healthy Child Care-certified facility currently listed in Northern Nevada, and just one of two in the state. The CCLC Venetian Child Development Center in Las Vegas is the other CEHN-endorsed facility.
“We’re excited to announce that the E.L. Cord Child Care Center achieved this certification, a two-year endorsement as of May 9,” said Keri Meranda, Master Teacher at the Center.
CEHN has set up a 30-step criteria checklist that is to be completed for a child care center to be certified as Eco-Healthy. Child care facilities only need to submit the checklist once, but some requirements can take many months to fulfill.
The Eco-Healthy Child Care Program endorses child care providers who successfully complete 24 or more of the 30 checklist items. CEHN has sent a poster-size sign for the E.L. Cord Foundation Child Care Center to display, acknowledging completion of the program.
“We have posted the sign, and our Center is also listed on the ‘Find a Provider’ menu tab on their website,” she said.
The process to complete certification took months to complete
Meranda started thinking about the Eco-Healthy Child Care Program in the summer of 2014. She talked about it with Diane Nicolet, Director of the E.L. Cord Foundation Child Care Center, and that fall they started researching the process set up by CEHN. The application fee is currently $50.
“I first attended a ‘train the trainer’ session in July of 2014,” Meranda said. “We then held a three-hour introduction to the program in Spring 2015 for all staff.”
She said that one of the Child Care Center’s main priorities is to be as thorough as possible in all projects. And part of the Center’s thoroughness is providing even more documentation than is required for the checklist.
“We provided artifacts proving items on the checklist were met,” Meranda said. “We had a non-employee independent verifier complete the checklist with us. The CEHN organization sometimes also does surprise visits or spot checks. This way, we are really well-prepared.”
Steps include attention to food items, aerosols and supplies
“We wash really well the seasonal fruits and vegetables to get off any remaining pesticide residue, and sometimes we buy organic frozen berries because they are reported to have less residue than some types of fresh berries,” she said.
One type of material the Center has replaced is aerosols.
“Simple aerosols like Pam non-stick cooking spray in the kitchen or fragrance air fresheners are being phased out in favor of non-aerosols,” she said. “We now only purchase supplies from child care catalogs that provide products labeled with ‘green plus’ and other certifications by CRI and ANSI.”
CRI is the Carpet and Rug Institute, an organization that educates consumers about environmental factors concerning carpet and rugs. ANSI is the American National Standards Institute, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve the safety and health of consumers and protect the environment.
“Air quality is very important from the floor to the hip area,” Meranda said. “Children live in that space, especially toddlers crawl on the floor. We only buy Carpet and Rugs Institute, CRI-approved circle and group-time rugs.”
Some soft plastic containers have been replaced with safer plastics. Containers made from plastic are typically labeled with numbers indicating what they are made of. Numbers indicating soft plastic vinyl and plastics with BPA (Bisphenol A) are avoided. Safer plastics are often marked "PVC-free" and "phthalate-free".
Art supplies purchased by the Child Care Center now must carry The Art and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) seal of approval. Acminet.org displays the sought-after certification labels.
“Since art paint gets onto children’s skin, we use paint with the ‘AP approved product’ seal showing the media to be non-toxic,” she said.
The Center thinks about air quality inside and out.
“We’ve put signs on our fence reminding people to not idle vehicles in the loading zone at the front of the yard where toddlers play,” Meranda said. “Parents have been great to remember not to idle on most days.”
Healthy practices multiply
One surprise for Meranda is that she has noticed the staff starting to pick up the eco-healthy processes in their daily lives. The children have also been picking up the greener practices.
“The kids know that we’re recycling and will remember to put their ‘Lunchables’ containers in recycling,” she said. “We’ve put eco-healthy tips in our monthly newsletter to parents and staff.”
The Center reuses paper and then recycles it along with many other materials:
- Lunchables cardboard
- Plastic milk cartons
- Batteries and ink cartridges
- Aluminum and tin cans
“It’s an enjoyable process to create a child care environment that is as green and healthy as possible,” she said. “What’s good for little ones is good for all of us.”
Contact the E.L. Cord Foundation Child Care Center for more information.