For adults, it's a lot easier to shop sustainably as we can make clothing last years, even decades, but for children who are forever growing it's not as easy. We spoke to eco-conscious mum of three @gabriella_agnes_ to learn her top tips for shopping sustainably for your growing family.
Gabriella says ...
Covid-19 has meant that many of us have had to make intentional and/or unintentional changes to our lifestyles. There has been a growing insight into the world around us, the planet and the impact that we humans have on our changing climate.
This, in turn has led to an increased curiosity and a want to do more. Living sustainably is a simple way that we can make a difference, including how/why/where we shop for our children's clothes
Make do & mend!
Looking after clothing is more than keeping them clean, and repairing the odd hole in the knee. The more often we wash a garment, the quicker the item will alter. Some materials actually benefit from very rarely being washed. For example, wool is naturally antibacterial. If woollens get dirty, then often spot cleaning is the best option for its longevity. Denim also benefits from being spot cleaned, as opposed to full washes - the fibres in denim break down quickly when washed.
It’s no secret that children get their clothing dirty though. Washing most clothing is absolutely necessary. We should encourage our children to explore outside and get muddy, so finding a gentle but effective washing routine is key. In our home, we use an Ecoegg, occasionally paired with a splash of vinegar (which works as a natural softener). We only ever wash clothing on 30 degree washes, and never use a tumble dryer. Heat and constant bashing of garments aids fibre breakdown, not to mention the high energy usage that tumble dryers incur, so avoid if possible. My favourite scent is laundry that has been dried in the fresh air!
Lastly, mend and up-cycle! I was lucky enough to grow up with a mother who showed me first hand how to up-cycle (before it was trendy to do so!). She would add bands of funky fabric on to the bottom of my trousers to increase their length. Goodness knows how she found the time, but what a lesson!
Did you know that some fabrics are actually biodegradable? Simply put, the more natural the fabric, the quicker it’ll decompose (when in the right environment). As soon as chemicals are added to a fabric, either during its natural growth process or in the manufacturing of it, years are added to the break down process. Therefore, if possible, choose organic cotton as opposed to regular cotton (even if it is 100% cotton) and other natural fabrics such as bamboo, hemp, wool etc. as opposed to man-made fabrics, such as polyester. Many companies recently are also selling clothing made from recycled products. My children own jackets made from recycled bottles!
There are so many means to buying pre-loved clothing - through eBay, Facebook marketplace, charity shops, and re-sale pages on Instagram etc. The options are truly endless. Not only is doing this better for your bank account, but that purchase isn’t making an impact on our planet. The textile industry produces more pollution than aviation and shipping combined. So, if we all started to buy pre-loved (just start with one or two pieces), what an impact that would make.
Second, third, fourth… hand!
It’s estimated that in the UK, 300,000 tons of clothing ends up in landfill each year, equating to roughly £12 billion! That is only in the UK, can you imagine what that figure would be for the entire world? Not only is putting this much mass into landfill bad for the earth, but what a waste! The ‘throwaway culture’ is largely due to fast fashion and the fact that we are surrounded by temptations to buy into the latest trend.
When clothing is looked after, it can last decades. My children wear pieces that I wore as a child. So when it no longer fits, hand it down, keep clothing for younger siblings, give to friends when they have children, re-sell or donate to charity.
They don't need much
Much the same as adults, kids don’t need an overflowing, overwhelming wardrobe. Having a smaller amount of good quality/timeless clothing means that each piece they own will get more use, therefore reducing its carbon footprint on the earth with each wear.
If we buy our children less, we can ultimately buy better. We cannot get away from the fact that well made, sustainable clothing (when buying new) is more expensive. However, it’ll last longer, wash better, and will bring you more joy, knowing how special that piece is. An intentional purchase that is both needed and wanted will outweigh lots of small purchases that are swayed by trends.
I hope this has inspired you to shop and make decisions in a way that's kinder to our planet. Try starting little by little, and it may just end up becoming second nature!
All images by @gabriella_agnes_
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