Affording Organic Cotton Kids’ Clothes

Organic cotton kids’ pajamas and organic toddler underwear from Hanna Andersson – once you’ve tried them, it’s hard to go back to the thin, scratchy stuff from those stores that also sell meat & notebooks. Hanna is currently offering 20% off your first purchase with this link, but sometimes the prices are still quite a shock. Here’s why I pay them nonetheless.

I want there to be more organic, durable kids’ clothes in the world.

Cotton is a horrible crop in terms of environmental and health impact. Mother Jones reports that cotton fields are the site of 25% of the world’s insecticide use, and those chemicals harm the workers who pick the cotton and poison our water supplies as well. Cotton is one of our thirstiest crops, and it would behoove us to conserve our demand for cotton as we face epic droughts in the American West and elsewhere.

Fortunately, there are lots of alternatives. On Earth Day this year, Zulily had a great collection of sustainable clothing on sale, and I found out about clothing made from recycled plastic bottles and other sustainable materials. I scored one $20 pair of toddler pants made from adult T-shirts at a street fair last year, but finding these vendors is hit or miss. This year I didn’t see them, but I guess I should look around on Etsy or learn to sew some myself!

I am also starting to compile a list of brands that sell more affordable organic clothes. H&M’s “conscious” line is a very affordable organic line that I stumbled upon while last-minute shopping for baby items in NYC couple years ago. The bodysuits (“onesies”) I bought were very comfy, cute & in a great 2-4 month size that I loved because it was in between the American sizes of 3 mo. and 6 mo.

Burt’s Bees Baby

Burt’s Bees Baby is a somewhat affordable 100% organic line with lovely baby shower gifts and clothes for kids up to size 6. I appreciate that they have gender neutral colors and that some items are available on Amazon, too. I have yet to try these myself, but I’ll be trying them soon, so stay tuned.

It is totally possible to limit yourself to used or organic clothes for babies & kids.

Those who live near family and friends may have huge bags of hand-me-downs in your closet, which is great! That is the original type of “Buy Nothing” arrangement, but for those who have moved away from their home town or village, the same kind of sharing economy can be created through the Buy Nothing Project on Facebook or consignment/thrift shops like Goodwill. The greenest clothes are the ones that didn’t come straight to your kid from a cotton plant. But what about those items you suddenly need but just can’t seem to find used? Are organic clothes really too expensive?

Hanna Andersson Short John Pajamas in Organic Cotton

Hanna Andersson Short John Pajamas in Organic Cotton

Let’s think about costs again. If we fill our world with irrigation ditches and pesticides, we’ll have to pay for other things, like asthma medication, water filters, trucked-in water, dust masks and bomb shelters, too. It’s more expensive in the long run to buy the cheap stuff. Plus, I see my purchases as an investment for my whole community. I know I’ll pass the items on as soon as they’re outgrown, so my community can get closer to that ideal of buying nothing new. Though it’s hard to let your kiddo play with paint and markers wearing $40 pants, I think the very durable Hanna’s organic cotton PJs & “unders” are worth it. Now that I have more options for cheaper organic clothes, too, it’s getting easier and easier to be a kids’ clothes purist!

Here’s the clothing plan in a nutshell:

  1. Shop at thrift stores. Not just for the clothes you need now, but for next size up, too. You may think you should leave these for poorer folks, but wait ‘til you hear the next part of my plan. goodwill
  2. Think of how much you’d spend on a whole wardrobe, and then spend that amount on fewer pieces that are organic, well-made, durable things. I have 3-6 organic Hanna Unders per size that my kid wears as much as possible, and we have hand-me-down undies (not as gross as it sounds?) to keep around as back-ups for accidents. He wears them very infrequently.
  3. Purge your closet and keep kids’ clothes in circulation (lending out temporarily if you plan to have more kids) – prices and environmental impacts are all about supply and demand.
  4. Protect the high-quality clothing from stains and tears. Separate play & art clothes from stuff your kid wears when he needs to look presentable.
  5. To address concerns about access for low-income families, give away your nice stuff. It’s better than making them buy it at a thrift or consignment shop.

This plan keeps you from demanding cheap, new clothes that are made very unsustainably. If you have other ideas for building local economies where everyone can clothe their kids and reduce their pesticide & water use footprints, please comment below.

5 comments

  1. D

    I hadn’t understood what exactly is organic about organic cotton clothes, so thanks for clarifying all the people and things that the pesticides harm. It’s nice to know some options out there.

  2. I’m glad it was informative! I think I heard about Burt’s Bees clothes from you, so let me know if you come across any other good brands!

  3. B

    Great article, Julia! You touch on things from a different angle than my piece in ParentMap. I’m going to promote your post as a great add-on, so the info keeps growing for readers (and your blog keeps growing with page hits!). Thanks for sharing this with me!

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