Chicago's first eco-friendly child care center

August 7, 2009 (CHICAGO)

It's all happening at a child care center in Chicago's West Loop, where they take the phrase "living green" very seriously. They are making environmentalists out of youngsters who can't even say the word. In this place, they're teaching those lessons -- almost from birth.

It's called the Little Green Treehouse and the people who run it say it's the first eco-friendly child care center in Chicago. Everything here is earth-friendly.

"All the toys are eco-friendly, which is extremely important especially for our infants because they are always putting things into their mouths," said business director Elizabeth Geldhof. "At most centers they are melamine or plastic dishes. We use stainless steel so we can sanitize it everyday."

All the teaching materials are made of recycled items. They use biodegradable cloth diapers. Kids are taught to recycle as well. That's important to Scott and Irene Oh, parents of 16-month old Kaitlyn.

"Well, it instills good values and habits in the children to care for our environment," said Irene Oh. "But on the flip side, for the children's health, it just gives you more of a peace of mind that they're using non-toxic, totally bio-degradable products."

Even the snacks are brought in from an organic food company which specializes in satisfying young taste-buds. And all the teachers here have special training in environmental issues as well as early childhood education.

"They are such little adventurers and sponges that they are going to learn concepts about recycling and they're going to take it with them," explains teacher Abbey Hall.

Let's not forget the building itself. It's completely done with sustainable materials.

"Who knew there was recycled paint?" said Geldof. "We found recycled floors that look like wood but it's a recycled plastic that would normally go into the landfill."

That was enough for Barbara King and little Brianna.

"It's a nice peaceful setting where I think she's going to learn important things," said Barbara King. "They have a garden upstairs where the children actually plant and water the garden, which is a nice thing for kids to learn."

The idea, they say is to get back to a simpler and healthy time starting with this new generation.

Geldof explained, "I think teaching our children the basics, even from basic toys to basic whole foods to not using too much because we had too much for a long time. It gets them thinking in a different way."

The Little Green Treehouse just opened the first week in July so they still have some openings. But spaces are filling up quickly.

118 South Ashland Avenue

Chicago, IL 60607

Phone: 312.492.9876

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