If you really think about it, there is no faster fashion in the world, than that of babies. Really. This thought had never crossed my mind until I had kids. But then, wow, it hit me like a ton of bricks, or more appropriately, like a ton of barely worn onesies. Literally, babies can go through an entire wardrobe of clothing in a matter of months, or even weeks.
When my first child was about 6 months old, I distinctly remember feeling overwhelmed by guilt as I packed away an entire tub of almost unworn clothing. I’m pretty sure that a few garments still had tags on them. This can’t be right I thought to myself. It was so wasteful. It was so excessive. It seemed almost unavoidable though. This has to change I thought, but how?
Well, being ever so slightly “type A”, I decided that I needed to:
1) Identify what was driving this excessive purchasing
2) Identify steps towards sustainability that were actually feasible
After some thought, and a bit of trial and error, I was amazed at how easy it really was to create a HUGE, positive shift in the way that I viewed and participated in the baby clothes world.
I’ve boiled my thoughts down to 6 Easy Steps:
Step 1: Take the Community Approach – The road to sustainability is one that should not be, and most likely cannot be traveled alone. Community will be key to our success. Thankfully, community comes in many forms these days. Yes, you could take a bin of barely worn baby threads and gift them to the new mama down the street. No babies on your street? Try posting pics of you items on local Facebook or Instagram pages. You can even try websites like www.threadup.com to reach communities all over the country. The options to share clothing are endless. Babies never wear out their clothing. This first step towards baby clothes sanity, allows you to extend the life of a garment and possibly build relationships in the process.
Step 2: Buy Only as Needed – Ok, this step takes a bit of self-restraint but you will save a ton (of both money and wasted textiles) in the end. If you’re like me, you frequently ask yourself things like, “Do my little ones have jackets for the coming rain?” “Do they have long pants for colder weather?” And so on. I’ve always been told that being prepared is preparing to succeed. However, when it comes to baby clothing, advanced purchasing can be quite problematic. Just like the weather, growth spurts are far too hard to predict months in advance. When you think to yourself in August, “It’s supposed to cool off in October and that my little one should fit into 6-month size clothing by that time”, it doesn’t mean that either of those things will be true. You may end up with the warmest fall on record and a baby who grows like a weed and passes right through the 6-month clothing stage. Resist the urge to pre-buy. Wait until you are certain of both the weather and baby’s size.
Step 3: Clean, Quality Garments – Cotton is the world’s dirtiest crop. Period (we’ll discuss this in depth in our next posting – stay tuned). Conventionally grown cotton accounts for roughly 4% of the world’s crops, but uses 25% of the world’s pesticides. Due in part to their size, and skin-time in contact with textiles, babies are far more vulnerable to the toxic effects of pesticides than adults. We must be as careful about what we put ON our babies, as we are about what we put IN our babies. Even with thorough washing, some chemicals cannot be removed from garments and will then be taken in and processed by our skin (the bodies largest organ). Organic clothing = healthy clothing!
Step 4: Gender Neutral is a MUST– I’ll skip the part about hyper-gendered clothing being oddly sexualized, demeaning, and creepy (i.e. clothing that say things like, “Future Diva” or “Little Bruiser”– gag), and stick to the part about how hyper-gendered clothing is KILLING sustainability! 40-50 years ago, babies were just babies; not little men, or little women, just little humans. By branding clothing as being for a boy or girl ONLY, clothing companies have doubled the odds of you having to purchase entire wardrobes from one kid to the next. Sticking to neutrals allows you to focus on the beauty of your babe and additionally opens up options for future clothes sharing.
Step 5: Size Smarts–Want to cut your purchasing in half? Follow this one step. Currently, if you walk into a baby store, you will find the clothing separated as such: Newborn, 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months, and so on. Historically, this was not the case for sizing. Until recently babies were clothed in just 3 sizes, yep, that’s it, Small, Medium, and Large. It used to be ok to have your baby in a onesie that was just the tiniest bit snug, or just a touch too loose at the legs – apparently that is not the social norm now. By dividing sizes up into such small increments, clothing purchases for the first year of life double – seriously, double! Good news though, there are wonderful companies that companies making the switch back to the 3 size model. Often you can find these companies online or in small boutiques. We say save the perfectly tailored outfits for the Oscar’s red carpet, or at least adulthood.
Step 6: Upcycle– So it’s no secret, that I am not the crafting queen. But when it comes to upcycling clothing there are a few projects that even I have mastered. With just a tiny bit of work you can double the life of your favorite garments. The easiest project by far is the conversion of winter clothes into summer ones. A basic hem is about the extent of my sewing talent and that’s all that it takes to turn a pair of pants into shorts or a long-sleeved shirt into a T-shirt. If you’re skill level exceeds mine, you can really have a blast with this step, making a memory quilt out of your favorite t-shirts, or even making your own headbands. The possibilities are truly endless, and again, the more you use an item, the less need there is to purchase new items!
Even by implementing just one of these steps you will be positively influencing sustainability and changing the paradigm for over-purchasing. Everyone can help. These six easy steps can apply to working moms, stay at home dads, grandmas; you name it. Together we can. Together we will. Here’s to living small, and making big changes.
The cost of cotton: Dirty Cotton https://peopleandplanet.org/redressfashion/briefing/dirty
Ethical Infant – www.etsy/shop/EthicalInfant
Thread Up – www.threadup.com
Sewing for the Family -You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuSXlf9JaQU
Creating a Baby Memory Quilt – You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xc6LorEGhqs
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Katy Lytal is a mompreneur, and co-founder of Ethical Infant Organic, Fair Trade, Vegan fashion for babies and children. When she’s not playing make-believe with her little love’s, you can find her drinking coffee or making up her own healthy recipes. Living a small life and hoping to make big changes, yeah, that pretty much sums it up. You can follow Ethical Infant on Instagram.5