You may carry a reusable shopping tote, cycle to the school gates and swapped plastic straws for metal, but have you ever thought about the impact your children’s wardrobe is having on the environment? When it comes to fast fashion, children’s clothing is a huge part of the industry. From cartoon character pajamas to fancy dress costumes, highstreet chains are constantly pumping out trend led pieces. It can be a vicious cycle to try and keep up with. And unsurprisingly children’s wardrobes can quickly become overwhelming and overstuffed. A third of parents admit to throwing away outgrown baby clothes because they don’t know what else to do with them, meaning that every year 73 percent of clothing is either incinerated or put into landfill after just one or two uses.
It can sound completely overwhelming however, according to WRAP, in the UK if each of us changed the way we shopped, wore and disposed of clothing we could reduce our carbon and waste footprints by 10 to 20 per cent each. Imagine the impact that would have on our children’s futures. From repairing to renting, here are seven tips and tricks on how to build a more sustainable children’s wardrobe…
Read Labels Carefully
From messy play dates to muddy run-arounds in the park, children’s clothes take a battering on a daily (read hourly) basis! With this in mind, try to incorporate more durable fabrics into your children’s clothing collection. Researching materials and reading labels carefully is a great way to adopt a more conscious approach to shopping. Choose organic cotton where possible. It uses 91 percent less water than conventional cotton. Synthetic materials can be tempting when looking for items that will stand the test of time. However, try replacing virgin polyester and nylon with recycled options instead. Most recycled polyester is made from plastic bottles whilst recycled nylon tends to be made from fabric waste and even fishing nets. Linen is also a good option as it uses a lot less water than most materials. Once animal welfare standards are adhered to, wool can also be a more eco-friendly choice. It’s even naturally water repellent thanks to its high oil content. As for puddle proof footwear, look for natural rubber wellies rather than PVC. Try Muddy Puddles and Aigle for fun printed versions.
Play It Cool
Whilst it can be tempting to toss stained and dirty clothing into the washing machine on a hot wash, this can actually decrease a clothing’s lifespan. A higher temperature increases the risk of shrinkage, stretching and even colour loss. Instead choose a cooler cycle. Vanish Oxi Advance formulas can remove stubborn stains even on a cold wash (30°C). Its Crystal White Gel Formula is perfect for making new born baby grows and sleepsuits in lighter hues sparkle again. With its no mess format it’s perfect for sleep deprived parents. Just add a dose to every wash to help fight against greying and dulling over time. Colour preservation is also key to increasing the life of clothing. To keep clothes colours bright, try the Multi Power formula. Removing stains including chocolate and grass at 30°C this is a post children’s party superhero item. Tackling odours deep within the fibres it’s ideal for tulle fairy dresses looking a little bit worse for wear.
From ever changing favorite colors and TV characters to sudden growth spurts, shopping for kids with longevity in mind can be a minefield. However, there are a couple of things to look out for when choosing new pieces to add to their wardrobe. “Where kids are concerned a longer-lasting item often equates to one that still fits after a growth spurt,” says Wendy Graham, founder of the eco blog Moral Fibres. “Most kids tend to grow up and not out, so cuffs on arms and legs that can be turned up and then down are a good buy. As is looking out for hems that you can turn up or down. In waistbands look for drawstrings that can be pulled in and then out as required for maximum longevity.” Never throw unwanted or out-grown children’s clothing away. Instead, pass it onto other family members, friends or even playgroups. You can also donate it to charity or even make some extra cash by selling it online. For the ultimate sustainable childrenswear brand check out Petit Pli. Described as “clothes that grow,” each piece fits an incredible seven different sizes in just one piece. This means one garment can replace seven others, stretching and expanding as your child grows.
Show Some TLC
According to the British charity WRAP, extending the active life of all clothing by nine months would reduce the annual carbon, water and waste footprints of UK clothing by 20-30 per cent. You’ll find a plethora of YouTube tutorials that explain how to easily sew on loose buttons or fix broken zippers. You can also preempt damage by examining clothing and spotting any weak points. Check out Etsy for knee and elbow patches that can be sewed or even ironed on. From unicorns to dragons there’s something for every little one.
Extending the active life of all clothing by nine months would reduce the annual carbon, water and waste footprints of UK clothing by 20-30 per cent
Score Some Second Hand Bargains
Avoid high street chains and instead explore second hand stores for children’s clothing. Over 350,000 tonnes of clothing ends up in UK landfill every year so that perfect cardigan or raincoat you’re looking for probably already exists. If you don’t have the time to rummage in-store in person, there’s plenty of online options. On eBay, try searching for “bundles” by age and gender to discover bulk collections of clothing that cost per item works out extremely cheap. On Oxfam Online you’ll find everything from footwear to outerwear starting from 0 months. You can also find plenty of unwanted clothing gifts on sites including Facebook Marketplace or even your local neighbourhood group. Before using freshen up items with the Miracle Revival Serum from Vanish. Working on up to six cotton garments at a time this one-shot serum will remove stains, revive colours by removing bobbles on a 30C wash, making that bargain buy even more satisfying.
Amy Bannerman, a mother, stylist and co-founder of the portraiture company Studio Bambini where children are styled in vintage clothing, has an expert eye for second hand finds. She regularly shares her bargains on Instagram. “It doesn’t make sense to buy new for kids, they wear each thing for such a short time so second hand is pretty much new,” she says. “I love trawling Etsy for vintage Americana. Little Red Cactus Vintage is affordable and has a great edit. Les Petit Champignons is expertly curated with all the coolest kids brands including Bobo Choses, Mini Rodini and Osh Kosh. I go to my local charity shops multiple times a week and always look for fun prints, anything Mickey Mouse, denim or striped always comes home with us.”
Renting Equals A Clearer Conscience
With babies outgrowing seven clothing sizes in just two years, renting is also a great option to avoid getting caught up in the fast fashion cycle. According to Circos, an online shop with a rental subscription, parents use about 280 pieces of children’s clothing in the first two years after their child is born. Most of those clothes are only worn for a maximum of 2 or 3 months. Subscriptions to Circos start from £16.90 approx per month with brands including Patagonia and Adidas. They also offer a wide range of maternity wear for ever fluctuating mother’s to be. Bundlee is a British based site that also offers a flat monthly rental price. Alongside its own brand they have teamed up with premium partners including Mori and Mini Rodini, rental insurance is included meaning you don’t have to worry when weaning goes wrong. Meanwhile, The Little Loop sends out clothing bundles in sustainable packaging that you can keep for as long as needed. When done, simply send it back for someone else to enjoy. For designer fans, check out My Wardrobe HQ which has a dedicated kid’s section. From Gucci to Ralph Lauren, this is a clever option for more special occasions.
Follow Eco Parents
Add a couple of eco parenting Instagrammers to your “Follow” list. When Erin Rhoads AKA The Rogue Ginger posted about providing her child’s school with a reusable wet bag for muddy clothes, she encouraged a whole string of other parents to follow suit. Kate Arnell, author of Six Weeks To Zero Waste regularly shares organic toddler finds whilst Nicola Eldridge from The Reusable Mum offers plenty of advice on preloved school uniforms and encourages followers to take part in initiatives such as Plastic Free July.
Marie Claire are offering five lucky readers the chance to get their hands on one of five £100 vouchers to spend at Thought. To be in with a chance, please submit your details below…