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October 11, 2019 — 12:04 PM
As an adult, it’s never been easier to find wardrobe staples made from earth-friendly materials, sewn in healthy working conditions, and topped off with natural dyes and finishes. Finding a sustainable wardrobe for kids—on the other hand—remains more of a challenge.
As any parent knows, kids grow up all too fast and constantly need new sizes. At the same time, their little clothes can be just as pricey as full-sizes pieces. So are you supposed to shell out a ton of money for organic clothes they’re only going to wear a few times? Or buy cheaper and wait until they get older to invest in staples? And what do you do with old clothes if you’re trying to keep them out of the landfill? Here, three eco-living experts share their tips for buying, selling, and giving kids’ clothes more consciously:
If you’re looking to buy clothes…
Instead of constantly buying new clothes—which take a ton of resources to produce—do the planet a solid and look through what’s already out there first. “Not only does [shopping secondhand] save you money, but it keeps clothes out of landfills, prolongs the life span of existing textiles, and ensures you aren’t spending too much on clothes your little ones will outgrow all too quickly,” says Olivia Youngs, the mom of three behind the Simply Liv & Co. blog.
Danielle Alvarado of the WonderMamas blog says local secondhand shops and garage sales typically have the best deals, but online resale platforms like ThredUp or Kidizen tend to have a wider selection. She also swears by Facebook Marketplace for finding steals near her.
Look out for natural fibers and thoughtful brands.
When you’re shopping for kids, opting for clothes made from natural materials becomes especially important, since synthetic ones could cause irritation. Fabrics like linen, cotton, and hemp (yes, hemp!) tend to be less resource-intensive to produce, too. If Youngs is buying new, she’ll look at sites like Jackalo, which exclusively uses organic materials, and Bodhi Baby, a new subscription service that ships you a new batch of eco-friendly and fair trade clothes every three months, to be returned and reused when your kiddo outgrows them.
“I’m also inspired by brands like Beya Made that make clothing to ‘grow’ alongside your child so you can use the same garment for months and years,” adds AmyAnn Cadwell, the co-founder and CEO of The Good Trade, a sustainable living platform.
If you’re looking to get rid of clothes…
When you donate clothes to secondhand shops, there’s no guarantee they actually get sold. Anything the shop can’t sell might end up getting shipped overseas…and then end up in landfill. Participating in a clothing swap is a guilt-free way to get old clothes off your hands since you’re giving them to people who you know actually need and want them. Plus, you could walk away with some free new gems.
Set up a date for a few friends or neighbors who have kids of similar ages to get together and bring any clothes they’ve outgrown to be swapped with the group. “There is nothing better than hosting a swap party during a play date,” vows Alvarado. “It’s a win-win for everyone involved!”
Put your sewing skills to use.
“A sustainable and cost-effective approach is to learn simple hemming so you can purchase larger garments and resize as needed,” says Caldwell. With some basic sewing skills, you can also make your garments last longer by apply patches to stains and mending small tears.
If your kid outgrows something, find another use for it.
Before relegating outgrown clothes to the trash to join the 10-plus million pounds of textiles that Americans send to landfill every year, see if you can find another use for them around the house.
“I promise, you can never have enough rags to clean up after kids,” says Alvarado. In addition to using cutup clothes as bathroom and kitchen rags, she’ll place a few in a large jar of water and coconut oil and use them as wipes.
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