Since learning about fast fashion, I’m determined to limit chemicals that exist in new clothing for my kids. The concept of stylish clothing or seasonal trends in children’s clothing exists in all larger brands resulting in cheaply and quickly produced fashion. Similar to fast food, fast fashion is produced without attention to detail or concern for ingredients or materials. It’s no wonder this Greenpeace report has raised awareness when twenty-seven products were sent to independent accredited laboratories and investigated for the presence of nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), phthalates, per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). It’s freaky. We’ve been avoiding toys for our children that contain lead and other carcinogens, but we still think we’ve scored a bargin when buying that $2 t-shirt!
Here are 5 ways you can start minimizing the problem of toxic clothing in your home and it begins with shopping with a new set of rules.
1. Shift your mindset. Just like the clean, organic food we consume, there is a higher cost with buying new, quality made clothing. It’s not something to complain about because like food, you appreciate the quality and craftsmanship involved with a purchase. Once you adjust your mindset, it’s amazing how quickly you don’t mind the higher price tags. You gain a sense of peace and pride when bringing carefully selected clothing into your household to enjoy.
2. Buy less. We’ve taken off the blinders with so many aspects of healthier living. We understand that 1 box of organic cereal costs the same as 3 boxes of GMO, sugar filled cereals. We’ve accepted this with our food so why do we buy 5 t-shirts when they go on sale for $2 at a big box store? It’s scary to think that you can buy new cheaply made clothing for less than 2nd hand! We know that there is a cost to this low price. The people that have made the garments have been paid very little and the materials used to make a $2 t-shirt are cheap. So cheap that just maybe, that t-shirt contains harmful ink, pesticide treated fabric, and hormone disruptors or lead plastic decals and design. That cheap t-shirt suddenly isn’t so appealing and shouldn’t be seen as something exciting.
3. Shop local. It’s the question I get asked the most. Where can you find locally made clothes? Well I’m happy to say it exists. More and more small and indie businesses are manufacturing locally made clothing and they are getting easier to find. If you are having trouble finding something, post a question on our Fan Page and we’ll find a designer for you. Rain gear, bathing suits and shoes are still pretty tough to find, but you can find certified Öko-Tex brands for rain protection.
4. Buy 2nd hand. I get it – I have four kids that go through stages of loving a t-shirt with Spiderman or a beloved character on the front. This doesn’t mean that you need to purchase new clothing. Chemicals in clothing are lessoned with wear and washing, not to mention used clothing feels better for the same reasons. It would be impossible to afford all locally made or organic clothing so get in the habit of frequenting thrift stores, buy/sell sites, and clothing swap meets. Shopping used also removes the temptation to buy latest trends in fashion which has a shelf life. Rather, 2nd hand shopping promotes classic purchases that have longevity.
5. Read clothing labels. Checking a clothing label will tell you two things quickly – if the company is proud of where it’s manufactured (Made In Canada or USA is something clothing lines like to promote) and what the article of clothing is made from. Just like the habit of reading food labels, clothing labels deserve the same few minutes. Learn what it means to wear synthetic fabrics. The most cheaply made clothing I’ve seen contains polyester and this means flame retardants exists next to your child’s skin. This can easily be avoided by sticking with 2nd hand cotton clothing or new organic clothing lines.
I don’t think either of my daughters have ever worn a new pair of jeans – 2nd hand feels better. Pictured below is my 7 year old clothing label reading ninja. The first thing she wants to know when buying clothing is does it contain polyester. She has skin sensitivities so we’ve done our best to keep her in more natural fabrics since she was a baby. She also has sensory needs with clothing and prefers how 2nd hand clothing or locally made brands feel on her skin.
I hope the awareness expands for sustainable fashion in North America. The divide in price between big box and locally manufactured clothing is huge and the reason is demand. We have not yet wrapped our minds around the environmental toll fast fashion or big box fashion brands place on our planet. Maybe as parents, if we imagine that toll with our health, the shift will come. By reducing and shopping with a new set of rules for fashion, the planet and human health will benefit, while a new sector of locally made fashion will finally be able to flourish.