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August 3, 2011

Windham day-care center is all about green

WINDHAM — Green Sprouts is a different kind of child care center.

Parents know it as soon as they see the signs telling them to take off their shoes and make sure their car engines aren't idling.

"We do want it to be like home," owner Deborah Markarian said.

But there's more to it. Green Sprouts also aims to be eco-healthy and eco-friendly, reducing a child's exposure to toxins or other environmental health hazards.

Green Sprouts, which opened in April, is one of more than 700 child-care centers throughout the country recognized as eco-healthy by Eco Healthy Child Care. It is the only New Hampshire child-care center currently recognized with the designation on the group's website.

The business had to comply with 24 of 30 standards on a checklist. Green Sprouts did better, meeting 26 of those standards.

"We're fragrance free, because children might have allergies," Markarian said. "We use real wood. We don't use mercury thermometers. We recycle."

There are paper towels in the bathroom, but children use cloth napkins at lunch.

"We do welcome cloth diapers," Markarian said.

Those are better for the environment than disposable diapers, she said. But Markarian also said they make sense for families, too, because they are more affordable.

There is no wall-to-wall carpeting and very limited use of area rugs. Art materials are non-toxic.

"We're very conscious of the materials we use," Markarian said.

Green Sprouts uses as much natural lighting as possible.

The outside play area is natural. There is grass, no pavement. There is a garden, which the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension helped Green Sprouts get started.

Lorrie O'Connor, UNH Cooperative Extension's school gardens coordinator for Rockingham County, said this may be the only child-care center in the county to have established one.

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