You strive to be as environmentally kind as you can be, but perhaps you wonder how you can be kind with kid’s clothing. To help you figure it all out, we explain why being responsible with clothing, in general, is important. We also give you practical advice to be environmentally kind with your child’s clothing.
The Impact of the Fashion Industry on the Environment
From water use to greenhouse gas emissions, the fashion industry has a big impact on the environment. Water is used throughout the textile production process, making the fashion industry water-intensive. The fashion industry is the world’s third-largest water consumer, using an estimated 79 billion cubic meters of water a year. That amount equals two percent of all freshwater extracted globally and represents over one-tenth of all water used by industry in general. If current trends continue, the amount of water consumed by the fashion industry will double by 2030.
The fashion industry is responsible for 10 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, and if current trends continue, the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions will increase by over 50 percent by 2030. Consumption of apparel is projected to increase from 62 million metric tons in 2019 to 102 million tons within 10 years. The carbon emissions from the fashion industry are greater than the combined annual carbon emissions from all international flights and maritime shipping.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
When it comes to being environmentally kind with kid’s clothing, the adage of reduce, reuse, recycle is true. By keeping your child’s clothes from ending up in landfills, you reduce waste at home. An estimated 64 percent of the 32 billion garments globally produced every year end up in landfills. In 2018, landfills in the U.S. received 11.3 million tons of textiles, or 7.7 percent of all municipal solid waste ending up in landfills, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The recycling rate for all textiles in 2018 was only 14.7 percent.
Reuse Old Clothes
Kids grow so quickly and that growth means they go through clothes really quickly. One way to be environmentally kind with your children’s clothing is to reuse it. Here are some ideas:
- Use old clothes for cleaning and dusting rags when they wear out. Cotton t-shirts and fleece or flannel pajamas are great for this purpose.
- Turn old clothes into new clothes. For example, jeans that are worn out in the knees can be turned into shorts.
- Earn some money by selling outgrown clothes in good shape at a consignment shop, a resale shop, or a yard sale.
- Use worn-out clothes for extra parts. Remove zippers and buttons and reuse them for a sewing project.
- Make a quilt out of your child’s old clothes and preserve memories.
- Turn pants into a tote bag by cutting the legs off, and sewing the bottom closed. Then add a long strap to the top.
Recycle Clothes Whenever You Can
Recycling old clothes is an easy way to keep them from ending up in landfills. There are numerous ways to recycle clothing. One of those ways is to pass them on to other children in the form of good, old-fashioned hand-me-downs. If you only have one child, pass on clothes to a friend’s child. You could also check out Facebook groups as a source for finding people who could use your child’s outgrown clothes.
Donating and Upcycling Clothes
Donating and upcycling clothes are two ways you can keep your child’s clothes from ending up in a landfill where they will give off methane, a greenhouse gas with a warming potential 28 to 34 times that of carbon dioxide.
Where to Donate Kids Clothes
When your child outgrows their clothes that are still in good condition, donate them. Here is a list of places where you can donate your child’s clothing:
- The American Red Cross, which partners with GreenDrop, collects and re-sells used clothes to thrift stores to benefit the organization.
- Goodwill is a non-profit funded by thrift stores across the U.S. The revenue from the stores is used to help people find jobs through job training and placement services. The organization donates any unsold items in their stores to recycling organizations. You can drop your child’s clothes off at a local Goodwill store.
- The international charity organization, the Salvation Army, operates thrift stores, and all the proceeds from the stores help fund the organization’s adult rehabilitation centers. The organization has both drop-off centers and trucks that pick up items.
- Donation Town is a one-stop place on the internet to find places to donate clothes. Through the site’s donation pick-up service directory, you can connect with local charities that have a free donation pick-up service.
- You can also donate your child’s clothing to places of worship that operate clothing drives to help people in need. Or you can donate clothing to a community outreach holding a clothing drive, such as preschools or local organizations.
Upcycling Clothing Ideas
Upcycling is reusing something to create something even nicer out of it. With upcycling, you can take your child’s clothing and preserve memories. For example, you could take a onesie your child wore as a baby and make it into a teddy bear. Or you could make a pair of kid’s harem pants from a tank top, a girl’s swing top from a t-shirt, and kid’s leggings from a top. There are numerous possibilities if you are crafty and can sew.
Avoiding Fast Fashion
Fast fashion is clothes that are cheaply and not responsibly made. While it is tempting to buy discount clothes from fast-fashion retailers for your child, the cost to the planet is high. Thanks to fast fashion, the number of new clothing doubled from 2000 to 2020. The average person buys 60 percent more clothing than in 2000, but they also discard much more clothing.
One way to avoid fast fashion is to buy second-hand clothes for your child at thrift stores and consignment shops. Another way is to participate in swap shops. Swap Society is an online swap shop that allows you to swap clothes you can no longer use for ones you can use. Still another way to avoid fast fashion is to buy environmentally responsible clothes from kid's clothing lines such as Hanna Andersson, Pact, and Jackalo.
Choosing Better Fabrics
Not all fabrics are the same. Some are more responsible than others. Fabrics such as nylon and polyester are made from petrochemicals. Manufacturing nylon creates nitrous oxide, which is a greenhouse gas with a warming potential of 310 times that of carbon dioxide. Polyester manufacturing uses vast amounts of water. Manufacturing both nylon and polyester requires much energy. Natural fabrics such as organic Bamboo, organic hemp, and organic linen are good choices. Recycled fabrics are also good choices.
Helping the Planet by Being Environmentally Kind with Kids Clothing
By making more environmentally kind choices when buying clothing, you can help the planet. When you refuse to throw away your child’s outgrown clothes in the garbage, you reduce waste, and keep more clothes out of landfills.