Nuna is one of the companies that shook up the car seat industry, showing that it’s possible to make products with more sustainable materials and free of flame retardants. These car seats still comply with federal flammability regulations but do so without resorting to toxic chemicals. Flame retardants aren’t the only issue in car seats though. Many continue to be made with forever chemicals, i.e., per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Not so with the Nuna Pipa Lite, which LeafScore founder, John, has used for his baby.
Here’s why we like Nuna and highly recommend the Nuna Pipa Lite as a more sustainable car seat of choice.
Note, however, that while this is one of the best car seats around, I’ve only given Nuna a four-leaf rating. Why? Due to Nuna’s continued lack of transparency over manufacturing processes and some materials. If the company responds and I like what I hear, this could easily be a 5-leaf car seat.
Highlights: This ultra-light car seat is Greenguard Gold certified, free of PFAS and chemical flame retardants, available in luxe fabrics including some GOTS cotton, and easy to clip in and out. A fantastic choice for the tiniest babies!
The Nuna Pipa Lite at a glance:
- For infants weighing 1.8 to 10 kg (4 to 32 lbs.)
- For infants measuring less than 81 cm (32 inches) tall
- Certifications: Greenguard Gold, REACH, some GOTS and Oeko-Tex components in some builds, FAA certified for airline travel when used with the base.
- Easy to use and functional, with several thoughtful features
- Easy to use in many strollers
- Flame retardant free
- Greenguard gold certified and non-toxic
- Some memory foam
- Many babies will outgrow the Pipa Lite by 12-15 months
Nuna has been making flame-retardant-free car seats since 2019 and its Nuna Pipa Lite is a top choice for a more sustainable infant car seat. This super light seat weighs just 5.3 lbs. (without canopy or infant insert) and is easy to clip in, clip out and take it all about.
All Nuna car seats are certified Greenguard Gold, meaning they are free of the most egregious chemicals of concern. This includes chemical flame retardants, PFAS, and many synthetic waterproofing chemicals. The car seats are also built to comply with more stringent European REACH standards for hazardous chemicals.
All of the Nuna Pipa Lite car seats are, however, made with Aeroflex™, Tailor Tech™ or other patented memory foam stuffing and various natural and synthetic fabrics for the covers (see below).
Both the standard Pipa Lite and the Pipa Lite LX connect to the car seat base and all Nuna and select premium strollers. Pipa adaptors are available to attach the Nuna Pipa Lite to some non-Nuna-brand strollers.
Despite its lightweight design, the Pipa Lite has a heavy-duty shell that stands up in safety tests and will help protect your baby in case of an accident. The base and seat must be installed rear-facing using UAS (Universal Anchorage System) or seat belt (see the manual PDF for installation instructions).
The Nuna Pipa Lite comes with a removable, full-coverage UPF 50+ canopy to help protect delicate baby skin from harmful sunrays. It’s not clear if this sun protection is from the weave of the fabric or some kind of chemical coverage as Nuna is not transparent about its materials (more on this below).
Why we like Nuna
Nuna was the first major car seat company to go completely free of chemical flame retardants. This happened when Nuna created a booster seat free of the stuff in 2020. Prior to that, the Pipa car seats ditched flame retardants in January 2019 and the Rava and Exec ditched them the next month.
Because it took a little longer for the Aace booster seats to be made free of flame retardants, there is still some inventory (namely the Aspen and Charcoal colors) that contain chemical flame retardants. Nuna doesn’t make these colorways anymore but some stores may have older models they continue to sell.
Nuna also eschews PFAS and other chemical waterproofing materials and its seats adhere to REACH standards which are far more robust than Greenguard Gold.
If you have an older Nuna car seat you’re thinking of reusing, you can contact Nuna to check if it contains flame retardants. If you need to get rid of an old car seat, check out Target. The store offers car seat trade-in programs (in some states – check here) and gives customers a 20% off coupon for new baby and kid products in-store. Target then recycles the old seats (more than 17 million pounds of plastic so far!) to make new products such as plastic buckets and carpet padding.
Where the Nuna Pipa Lite shines
The Pipa Lite is a really great choice if you’re expecting a smaller baby, especially one under 7 lbs., which is around the weight most car seats are designed to start at. This is because Nuna includes a low-birth-weight pillow on the back of the body support that can be used until the baby is big enough to fit snugly without it (around 11 lbs.). Having had to prop up a tiny newborn in a too-large car seat myself, this kind of feature offers excellent peace of mind.
Though Nuna itself offers little information about fabrics and materials, online product listings suggest that standard builds of the Nuna Pipa are covered with polyester, while the Pipa Lite is covered with GOTS-certified organic cotton with a GOTS jersey cotton infant insert.
If you’re willing to pay a little more, you can get the Pipa Lite LX, which is covered with a merino wool and Tencel lyocell fiber blend and has a GOTS-certified organic cotton infant insert. This model weighs a tad more at 5.7 lbs and is suitable for infants from 4 to 32 lbs and up to 32 inches tall (or babies around 18-months-old). Interestingly, the specs for the Nuna Pipa Lite in Canada, where I live, state that the car seat is recommended for infants 4-22 lbs. only. I’ve asked Nuna for clarification on this too.
All models of the Pipa Lite appear to have GOTS-certified organic cotton harness covers and crotch covers.
The downsides of the Nuna Pipa Lite
The Nuna Pipa Lite is, like most car seats, made with memory foam cushioning. So, as with any memory foam product, the foam will off-gas initially and will degrade over time, creating dust laced with chemicals. It’s best, then, to regularly vacuum the car seat, which is easier to do with the Pipa Lite than with car seats that don’t clip in and out.
The Nuna Pipa Lite can be used rear-facing for infants from 4 lbs. to 22 lbs., meaning you’ll have to size up once your baby is about 12-months-old. This is one of the few downsides to the Nuna Pipa Lite. Car seats that work for the smallest infants and well into toddlerhood are far better for minimizing resource use (and saving money for cash-strapped parents!). The UPPA Baby, another top choice for sustainable car seat, accommodates babies up to 35 lbs.
If you’re wary of short-term products, Nuna also makes an adjustable car seat – the Nuna RAVA convertible seat – that works for infants and kids up to 50 lbs. This has a polyester/bamboo blend fabric cover. Nuna also offers the EXEC All-In-One convertible car seat with a polyester cover and merino wool infant insert.
What could be better about Nuna
Nuna isn’t very transparent about its materials or manufacturing. I’ve reached out to Nuna for comment and am waiting to hear back.
Specifically, while it seems Nuna manufactures its products in China, there’s no indication that its factories adhere to any standards such as BSCI or WRAP. Nuna makes vague assertions over sustainability on its website but offers nothing of substance. For instance, some copy says that Nuna abides by “the international ISO 14000 family of standards that cover a company’s environmental responsibilities, including the use of alternate fuel sources, such as solar-powered energy, and the treatment of wastewater, as well as the use of recycling programs for plastic waste and packaging.”
It’s unclear from this wording if Nuna itself uses solar power in its factories, warehouses, or offices; if Nuna has specific sustainability initiatives around recycling and packaging; or if Nuna has anything above basic standards for wastewater treatment. We’d really love to know what exactly Nuna is doing to safeguard the planet for future generations.
Final thoughts on the Nuna Pipa Lite
All in all, the Nuna Pipa Lite is one of the best choices for a car seat. It is free of chemical flame retardants and PFAS, meets strict REACH standards and is Greenguard Gold certified, and is lightweight, hardworking, and easy to use. It’s an especially good fit if you’re expecting a smaller baby.
There’s definitely room for improvement with Nuna, though, and if you’re expecting an average-size baby your most sustainable car seat option is one that you can use for the first few years of your kid’s life.