How to Choose Safe and Eco-Friendly Clothing for Kids
May 7, 2013
When it comes to shopping for kids’ clothes, there’s much to consider beyond how they look—from fabric to dyes. To get the skinny on everything from organic cotton to washing hand-me-downs, we reached out to green fashion guru and mom Jasmin Malik Chua, Managing Editor of Ecouterre.com.
In a wide-ranging conversation, Jasmin offered the following advice on how to make your kid’s closets healthier and more eco-friendly:
Most people think that organic cotton is an agricultural choice. Choose it and you’re safeguarding the earth by keeping the synthetic chemicals needed to grow conventional cotton out of our ecosystem. “The fact that 1/3 a pound of pesticides is used to make one T-shirt is crazy,” says Chua. But by choosing it, you’re also safeguarding the health of the farmers who grow it. And your kids’ health, too. “On a personal scale you don’t want pesticides in contact with your body,” she explains. “But it’s not just pesticides; it’s the chemicals they use to treat the fabrics like flame retardants on polyester or formaldehyde used to keep clothes wrinkle free.” People sensitive to either can break out in a rash.
Chua’s 4-year-old wears a mix of hand-me-downs. “I think for the first 3 years we didn’t buy anything! That was great and it saved us a pile of money,” she says. She considers hand-me-downs the most eco-friendly option. “Their impact has already come and gone. Kids wear clothes for 2 minutes then they outgrow them. Reusing what is already available is the greenest option.” If you don’t have access to hand-me-downs, try consignment stores for gently used or practically new items.
WASH THEN WEAR
Hand-me-downs aren’t always perfect. They often reek of perfume-y detergent or dryer sheet residue, which can contain hormone disrupting chemicals. To get these scents out, Chua washes clothing multiple times. “You can soak them in baking soda or try putting a cup of vinegar or lemon juice in your washing machine.” And if you happen to get a load of stained items—or your kid stains them—look into textile recycling instead of sending them to a landfill.
“When I do buy new I try to buy organic cotton or quality clothes that last a while and aren’t disposable fashion,” says Chua. It can be hard to get grandparents who can’t resist buying new and decidedly unsustainable outfits to do the same. So Chua provides family members with an inclination to spoil her daughter with a list of brands creating durable fashion and heirloom pieces. On her list? Hannah Anderson (“so sturdy they last forever and have a lot of organic cotton choices”); Tea Collection (“not sustainable or organic but they last like 5 million washes and still look great”); and Tane Organics (“mostly for little babies—adorable knits that look incredibly classic and heirloom”), among others.
MAKE CLOTHES LAST
If you’re planning on having more than one kid, Chua suggests buying neutral colors. “I’m not into the whole pink girly girl thing,” she confesses. “I buy items that can be used for boys or girls. We have a boy cousin and we have pictures of the kids at the same age wearing the same thing.” Passing clothes on when your kid outgrows them is always a good thing. Chua’s daughter’s too-small stuff goes to a neighbor. “You feel good that someone else is wearing them,” she says.
All points very well taken.
Read more about choosing safer, eco-friendly clothes and fabrics:
- Choose Organic Cotton For Cleaner, Eco-friendly Clothing
- Your Guide to Affordable, Safe Bedding & Mattresses
- Clean Clothing With Alternatives to Conventional Dry Cleaning
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