I thought it would take my 2kg baby months to grow into her newborn clothes. How little did I know? It became a constant challenge to keep up with her growth and ensure she'd worn all of her clothes at least once before they were discarded. Evidently, babies and children grow quickly. As a result, cheap, mass produced clothing is not only appealing, but often a necessity for parents.
Is there a better way of buying clothes for kids?
The fashion industry is one of the highest polluting sectors. It accounts for around 20% of water pollution and 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. A cotton t-shirt alone takes up to 2,700 litres of water to produce. This is enough water for one person to drink for 900 days. According to WRAP a predicted £140 million worth of clothing enters landfill every year.
And so with our children growing at a rate of knots (and the temptation of a £3 t-shirt), how can we practically slow our shopping down and buy more sustainably? From conscious purchasing to switching to more sustainable fabrics, in this article we share 5 tips on how you (and your children) can buy better.
1. Rethink fashion for children:
In our fast paced world many of us, understandably, look for ease and convenience. Rethinking fashion for kids can still be easy; it just requires more conscious purchasing. Such as considering how and where we buy our clothes, who has made them and where the fabric has come from.
Rather than falling for seasonal gimmicks or the latest trends, timeless, gender-neutral designs that have been made to last are a great alternative choice for children. Once outgrown, they can be passed onto siblings and friends, regardless of the season or gender, helping to extend their life-cycle.
Involve children in rethinking the clothes they wear. For instance:
- Discuss the story behind the clothes you buy: What are they made from, how have they been made, and who has made them?
- Encourage them to think about who they might pass their clothes onto once they’ve grown out of them.
- And get them to question whether they need new clothes, and/or how to look after their existing items (while still having fun)!
Vivienne Westwood sums up ‘Rethinking Fashion’ perfectly:
“Buy less, Choose well, Make it last.”
2. Switch to sustainable fabrics
There are two different types of fabric: 1) natural, made from plants and animals and 2) synthetic. Synthetic fibres such as polyester, nylon and acrylic are a form of plastic, made from non-renewable fossil fuels (usually petroleum) and account for over 60% of all clothes made today. These fibres aren’t sustainable and are the largest source of microplastics in our Oceans, largely put there via our washing machines.
While natural fibres are a good alternative, they have their own set of challenges. The growing of conventional cotton, for instance, requires a huge amount of water. Plus, the use of fertilisers and pesticides are harmful to the farmers and surrounding wildlife.
A more sustainable option includes Organic Cotton, which avoids toxic chemicals and requires up to 91% less water than conventional cotton. At Ducky Zebra we only use GOTS certified (Global Organic Textile Standard) Organic Cotton, as this includes rigorous eco and social checks throughout the process, from the growing of the seeds through to the dying and manufacturing of the garments. You can discover more about what it means to be GOTS certified in our blog.
If you’re buying synthetic fibres look for recycled polyester, as a more sustainable alternative.
How do you know what your clothes are made from? Check the label (or website details) before buying. And if in doubt, ask the brand.
3. Increase the longevity of kids’ clothes
According to research by WRAP, extending the average life of clothes by just nine months would save £5 billion in resources used to supply, launder and dispose of clothing. This is huge! But how can we increase the longevity of kids’ clothes when they grow so quickly? Here are a few suggestions:
- Select styles that last for longer: Ever spotted clothes with roll-down cuffs? They allow the clothes to grow with the child, increasing their life-span. We include this feature on our Ducky Zebra clothes and have been able to consolidate our sizing as a result, meaning the clothes last for longer and parents and carers don't need to buy as much. Double win!
- Look after your clothes: It may seem obvious, but follow the washing instructions on the label. Where possible wash on a cool heat (30 degrees) to stop the fibres from being damaged and turn brightly coloured clothes inside out to reduce the risk of fading.
- Try to avoid tumble drying: we know it’s super convenient, but tumble drying on a high temperature can damage and shrink your clothes. If you can dry things naturally they will last for longer.
- Repair: It may seem daunting, but patching up a hole or replacing a missing button can give clothes a new lease of life. Comhla provides some great tips and advice for easy fixing, alongside a directory of menders too.
4. Reduce and Reuse kids' clothes
The easiest way to make a big difference is to buy less. Before making a purchase ask yourself whether you (and your child) really need the new item. And where possible, reuse existing items - whether they’re hand-me-downs, from charity shops or through a rental platform.
According to our market research, nearly 50% of people use hand-me-downs for their children, which is great news. We’re already pro’s at reusing clothes for our kids.
At Ducky Zebra we've proudly partnered with two amazing organisations, allowing you to rent a selection of our baby clothes (0-12 months) through Borro and our kids' clothes (1-6 years) through thelittleloop. Both organisations insure against stains and general wear and tear, allowing you to rent our clothes completely stress-free. This helps you to both reduce buying new, while reusing existing items that are already in circulation.
5. Make informed choices
By learning more about where and how our clothes are made, allows us (and our children) to make more informed decisions. We’ve popped a few useful resources and links below:
- Download > 10 Cotton Facts for Little People With Inquisitive Minds
- Read > Why Fabrics Matter
- Read > Is Organic Cotton Kinder For The Environment Than Non-Organic
- Watch > Fashion Reimagined
- Watch > BBC: The Price of Fast Fashion
- Resources > WRAP
- Resources for Kids > Fashion Revolution and Traid both offer kid-friendly resources
And finally, question brands by asking them #WhoMadeMyClothes. This helps encourage fashion brands to be more transparent and open about where their products are made, and by whom. It also allows you to make a more informed purchase.
We’d love to hear what you think. What other tips do you have for making kids’ fashion more sustainable?