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Eco-friendly kids clothing every Mom (and Dad) should be buying

As parents, we’re always trying to give our kids the best, whether that’s wholesome food, quality education, or durable clothes. Recently, my wife and I began thinking about the future and the world we’re leaving behind for our kids. It’s estimated that 14 million tons of plastic make their way into the ocean every year, and a large portion of that waste comes from non-sustainable clothing and synthetic fabrics. So, I started researching eco-friendly kids clothing and sustainable kids’ clothes that wouldn’t “break the bank.”

Let’s be honest though, eco-friendly and cheap don’t go hand in hand. There’s a reason Garanimals from Walmart can sell a 3t t-shirt for around 4 bucks. Part of the reason is volume, and the other is non-sustainable practices. For more on the economic and environmental impact, Walmart has, read The Walmart Effect.

Eco-friendly kids clothing

Sustainable Kids Clothing vs Eco-friendly Kids

What’s the difference between sustainable and eco-friendly? Eco-friendly and sustainability are often used interchangeably, but they are different.

  • Sustainable kids’ clothes mean producers can create the clothing without significantly depleting the natural resource needed for production. The idea is to maintain an ecological balance that doesn’t impact future generations. We have a finite amount of coal, for example, so mining it is not sustainable. Bamboo, however, is generally considered a sustainable product because of the rate at which it grows. Man of the brands on this list use sustainable bamboo cloth.
  • Eco-friendly kids’ clothes mean producers try to minimize or eliminate the environmental impact their production has, when compared to other means. Eco-friendly kids’ clothes may not come from sustainable practices but may still use natural dyes and fibers like organic cotton or dye from turmeric and Neem.

Sustainability and Eco-conscious on a Budget

As parents of 4, our clothing budget is higher than we’d like. Spending $50 on a polo for our daughter’s school uniform isn’t something we have much choice in, aside from not sending her to that school. So, when it comes to dressing her outside of school, we don’t want to drop that kind of cash. My wife grew up shopping at consignment and second-hand shop, but I have a weird aversion to used clothes – especially for babies and infants. So, we normally shop at places like Sierra Trading Post, where Eco-friendly and sustainable kids’ clothes can be found at steep discounts. Sometimes, availability is limited so we began looking online to find the Eco-friendly kids clothing brands.

What Eco-friendly and sustainable fabrics are best?

Organic cotton is grown without using genetically modified seeds, pesticides, or additional chemicals.

Hemp is a Cannabis Sativa plant that contains less than 0.3% THC content. It is considered one of the fastest growing plants on earth, making it a sustainable option for clothing. It is also more durable than Cotton.

Recycled cotton is created from old cotton. Most recycled cotton comes from excess/waste from other cotton production where it is recycled into cotton yarn and used for production of new textile.

Wool is a textile fiber that comes from sheep (traditionally), but can also come from other animals like goats and muskoxen.

Tencel is a form of rayon, which is derived from cellulose fibers to create textiles for clothing. It’s considered sustainable because it is harvested from wood, is fully-compostable, and biodegradable.

Recycles Polyester, or rPET, is polyester created from plastic waste, textile waste, and other plastic products. It’s used more in sportswear and outdoor clothing.

Econyl is a sustainable synthetic fiber made from ocean and landfill waste ranging from old carpet to industrial plastic.

Bamboo textile is made from bamboo fibers. There is some controversy over the Eco-friendliness of Bamboo due to the excessive water needed to separate the fibers, but ultimately it is considered an Eco-friendly option due to the quick rate of growth.

Cork is a sustainable material made from the bark of the cork tree. However, it more closely resembles leather and is used mostly in handbags, shoes and upholstery.

Our Top Picks for Sustainable Kid’s Clothing brands:

1) Reima

Sustainability for over 75 years

Have you ever bought a product that you love but when you go to buy it again the company is nowhere to be found? There’s no need to worry about that with Reima, they’ve been pioneering for sustainability for 75 years and counting. They’re proud members of the UN Global Compact, which commits Reima to pursue labor rights, fight global corruption, and crusade for environmental protection. By 2023 they aim to have 100% of their cotton certified organic and 100% of their winter clothes wadding produced using recycled materials.

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2) Industry of all Nations

Traceable back to the source of their raw materials

Industry of all Nations began as a research and design company founded on the principle of bringing back indigenous and responsible manufacturing techniques. The sustainable techniques are native to the producing countries. For examples, Guatemala up-cycles material into jackets and Bolivia creates sweaters from Alpaca. They pay the workers a living wage and their goal is to prevent the degeneration of our environment.

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3) Starfish Kids

Hand-me-down Quality

There’s nothing we value more than quality, when it comes to the things we buy. We’d rather buy something once for more money than have to replace something over and over. That’s exactly why Starfish Kids is so high on our list. They “build” for durability and create their sustainable clothing in small batches to prevent waste. Any unsold clothing is donated to Cradles to Crayons, a 501(c)3 organization that aims to provide kids with the essentials they need.

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4) Borobabi

America’s First Circular Retailer

As I mentioned earlier, I have an aversion to second-hand clothes. My wife does not. Borobabi is a truly unique way to shop Eco-friendly kids clothing for parents without my aversion. Parents can choose bundles of new (yes, please), or used items. When they arrive you have 5-days to decide whether to buy, rent, or return the items. If you’re like me, you can feel good about being able to send your selections back, and if you’re like my wife you can feel great about recycling clothes and still sending them back. Borobabi is a wonderful company that starts with Eco-friendly and sustainable products but takes it one step further.

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5) Hanna Anderson

The Original Sustainable Kids Clothing Company

Since 1983 sustainability has been woven into the fabric of Hanna Anderson. Hanna Anderson was built on hand-me-down principles using organic, harm-free and recycled materials using fair-trade practices. Not only are their practices Eco-friendly but they even encourage employees to practice what they preach by giving their employees a membership with Ridwell. Hanna Anderson is designed for newborn to early teen and has partnered with Disney and Marvel to keep your kids on trend. They even have matching pajamas for the whole family.

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6) Sustain by Kat

100% Natural Organic Fibers

Whether it’s the fabric or the dyes, Sustain by Kat is completely natural. They use organic fibers for their threads and fabric, and natural plant-based dyes for all their colors. Their fabrics are either organic cotton or linen and dyes included pomegranate peels, rhubarb, logwood, indigo leaf, and other plants. Since they do not use petroleum based synthetic fibers they are reducing toxic run-off and their manufacturing process results in a negative carbon footprint. Not many companies can make that claim, but Sustain by Kat can!

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Does Eco-friendly kids clothing matter?

It matters to a lot of parents. Fast fashion brands like SHEIN have dominated the headlines with their ultra-low priced, often low-quality clothing. Brands like Nike have come under fire for working conditions and what many consider “sweatshop” practices that even employ children. All the brand son our list of Eco-friendly kids clothing brands are working hard to reverse the effects of corporations focused solely on volume and profits. If you’re one of the parents who believes sustainability matters, we applaud you. My oldest son is a scout and they believe you should leave no trace when camping. We’re all camping on this Earth, and it should be our goal to leave the world a better place when we leave than when we arrived.