This guide to sustainable kids’ clothing dives into the environmental and ethical problems faced by the children’s fashion industry, and explores the innovative and compassionate solutions that some brands offer.
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By Dawn Cowles
Table of Contents
A Complete List of Sustainable Kids’ Clothing Brands
- Brands for Children of All Ages
- Brands just for Babies & Toddlers
- Brands for Older Children
The Ethics and Sustainability of Kids’ Clothing
- 5 Reasons Why You Should Shop Sustainably for your Kids
- What Makes Kids’ Clothing Sustainable?
- Certifications for Children’s Clothing
A Complete List of Sustainable Kids’ Clothing Brands
Sustainability is all about doing things today to make the world a better place for our kids to grow up in. Shopping for more brands that focus on producing more ethical and eco-conscious clothes for kids is a critical step. To that end, kids’ clothing brands are springing up all over that specialize in sustainability.
By choosing companies–like the brands we’ve assembled below–that care about the environment, fair wages, sustainable materials, and the fate of future generations, you can use your power as a consumer to make sure that the future is a bright one.
Brands for Children of All Ages
Kids are the future, and if we are to make any positive gains in our struggle for social and environmental restoration then part of our effort must also focus on the generation that will inherit it. Besides, why have children at all if we aren’t going to take steps to care for their future wellbeing?
It was thoughts of this nature that led Petya Hristova to found “The QT“, a brand dedicated to avoiding gender stereotyping children, to encouraging them to discover a love for nature, to enriching their lives with joy and creativity, and all the while safeguard the natural environment that is all too often a victim to the fashion industry.
As she says, “We’re on a mission to spread cuteness sustainably, while nurturing love for our planet and promoting gender equality. We’re on a mission to create a cuter and more joyful present and a better and more equal future for our kids (one elevated basic at a time :)”
Range: T-shirts for the entire family, from new-borns on up
The Good Tee take the simple t-shirt and use it to celebrate good humans making good things by partnering with suppliers who share a common vision of sustainability, accountability, and transparency. Their mandate is to be open and honest. They evaluate each phase of the product’s life cycle to find the most sustainable options. The use of organic cotton is so important to them because founder Adila Cokar, while travelling in India, was shocked at the poor working conditions of cotton farmers. She decided to put her experience in the industry to good use by putting the people she works with first.
Range: Organic baby clothes, Organic kids clothes
This is a brand that prides itself in producing seasonless, gender-neutral, non-toxic clothing using eco-friendly materials. From the very beginning, Primary has met the OEKO-Tex Standard 100 Certification, which indicates they are free from more than 300 chemicals and there are no known irritants.
Primary actively looks for ways to make their clothing ranges more eco-friendly. Examples include their use of recycled materials in their swimsuits and denim items and the increased use of organic cotton.
Range: Organic onesies, Organic baby clothes, Organic kids clothes (pants, tops, and masks)
BeyaMade is a sustainable kids’ clothing brand that makes pieces that grow with your kids. Their garments have extra snaps, buttons, or elastic so they can grow and expand with your kids.
The clothing is handmade using sustainable materials and many are gender-neutral.
Range: Organic Onesies, Organic baby clothes, Organic kids clothes (tops, bottoms, pyjamas, swimwear, dresses)
Shop 1212 uses GOTS certified organic cotton across its product range. The cotton used is strong, tough, and not afraid to get dirty. It is breathable and doesn’t retain odours like oil-based fabrics which means you’ll save money, water, and energy.
For every 1212 purchase made, the brand donates an item from the collection to Baby2Baby. This is a non-profit organisation that provides nappies, clothing and all basic necessities to low-income children.
Range: Organic cotton baby clothes, Bamboo baby clothes, Organic Onesies, and Organic kids clothes for warm weather or cool weather
If you’re looking for ethical and non-toxic basic wear for your infants and toddlers, Lark Adventurewear is a brand that might tick your boxes. They use Oeko-Tex 100 certified cotton and bamboo, and their clothing range is manufactured in the US.
Range: Bamboo baby clothes, Organic kids clothes (tops, bottoms, pyjamas, swimwear, dresses, overalls)
Since 2015, Minimori has been using the softest organic fabrics to make the highest-quality products. All pieces are thoughtfully crafted using sustainably sourced fabrics, and manufactured in trusted factories.
Fabrics in their ethical and sustainable kid’s clothing range use a unique blend of 30% organic cotton and 70% bamboo from viscose. The bamboo is a highly sustainable resource, grown in China. The organic cotton, which comes from Turkey, is GMO-free and supports sustainable development programs for workers.
In its swimwear range, Minimori uses recycled nylon which is breathable, lightweight, and moisture-wicking. The REPREVE Nylon used comes from pre-consumer textile waste that would otherwise go to landfills. Compared to regular nylon production, REPREVE uses 80% less water to make and the process emits 90% less CO2 into the air.
What’s also praiseworthy is that customers in the UK can donate their pre-loved or unused MORI clothing back to the company and they will pass it directly to Little Village to use in their bundles. Little Village is a parent-run charity based in London, who curate bundles of clothing and equipment donated by local families to those in need of a helping hand.
Range: Organic Onesies, Organic baby clothes, Other kids clothes made with organic fabrics
Colored Organics 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton in all of their children’s and babies’ clothing. Their factories pay employees a fair wage and provide a safe and healthy working environment.
Each month, a percentage of their profits are used to help a featured non-profit organization. In August 2020, for example, they partnered with Door of Hope. This organization helps equip families and children experiencing homelessness to rebuild their lives.
Tea has created a sustainable collection for babies and kids. They are fun, bright, and ecologically responsible. Their clothes are designed to last, have practical luxury, and inspired design. They use natural fibers to ensure a great feel that is easy to care for. They love to mix colors, prints, patterns, and textures that can travel from season to season. Whether you are looking for play clothes, or something to make your child happy and comfortable dressing up, Tea has just the outfit you’re looking for.
Products: Girls in sizes 5-16, toddler 2-4; boys in sizes 5-16, toddler 2-4; baby sizing is 0-4T for both, and newborn to 6-9 months. They have play, every day, outerwear, swimwear, pajamas, and special occasion clothing.
Mission: To inspire global connection and curiosity for little citizens of the world. They believe that no matter where you live or what language you speak, there is so much we all have in common. “We travel the world bringing the beauty of different cultures and modern design to children’s clothing.”
Transparency: They use factories in Peru, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and China that meet their high standards of social responsibility and fair trade. They are all certified by third-party social compliance auditors; they also personally make trips to each factory to ensure they have good working conditions and are free of child labor.
Fabrications: Most of their clothing is 100% cotton, although their swimwear is polyester/spandex.
Giving Back: They donate 10% of their profits to projects and organizations that create a better world for kids everywhere. To date, they have donated $500,000 to The Global Fund for Children which advocates for kids worldwide by developing grassroot organizations that will advance their dignity. They have also made donations to Metadrasi in Greece, Door of Faith Orphanage in Baja, Mexico, The Homeless Prenatal Program in San Francisco, CA, The Little Sisters Fund in Nepal, The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services in North America, Citizens FC Tournament in Italy, Sakala in Haiti, Asociacion Civil Los Pioneros in Peru, and Gram Bharati Samiti in India. They truly take a global view to helping children.
Recycling Program: They are an official member of Kidizen REWEAR™ Collective which supports the creation and reuse of quality goods – encouraging consumers to purchase high-quality products that last well beyond the use of just one family.
Brands just for Babies & Toddlers
Range: Bamboo baby clothes
Little Sleepies is a kid’s sleepwear company that makes all its products from sustainable, eco-friendly bamboo viscose. A portion of every sale goes to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation to help find a cure for childhood cancer.
Sustainable Clothing That Grows With Your Child
Range: Certified organic cotton baby clothes, delivered to your door
Buying clothes that last can be a challenge when it comes to buying for our kids. They grow up so quickly and before you know it, they’ve grown out of that cute one-piece you purchased just a few weeks ago. If you’re not planning to add to your family and use the clothing again, it’s not sustainable, and that doesn’t take into account the harm you’re doing to the planet.
Based in San Francisco, UpChoose is doing things a little differently, and I’m pretty blown away with the concept. Their mission is to provide a sustainable clothing range made of organic cotton and remove the need to own the clothes your child wears. Quite a revolutionary concept for sure. Their range of apparel suits babies aged 0-3.
UpChoose garments are 100% certified organic. They are ethically sourced and no harmful chemicals are used in the growing of the fibers.
How does it work? You pay a monthly fee and select a set of clothes for your baby. When they’ve grown out of them you ship the clothes back for free. A completely new set is delivered to your door, and it’ll fit perfectly.
Alternatively, you can buy the clothes and when your little darling has grown out of them you can sell them on the UpChoose online platform.
UpChoose is only available in the US at the moment, but they are hoping to expand their operation. To tide you over until UpChoose is available in Europe, you might want to check out Circos, another eco-friendly company that offers a very similar service.
Made With Purpose and Love
Range: Organic onesies, Organic clothing for newborns (t-shirts, hats, shawls, blankets)
Any of my readers who are based in the UK might be interested in a social enterprise that sells ethically-sourced baby clothes and gifts. From Babies With Love is a brand that teams up with charities such as SOS Children’s Villages and Street Child. All profits made from the sale of their clothing are donated to orphaned and abandoned children worldwide.
To date, more than 7,000 underprivileged children have been helped.
The baby clothing range is made from certified organic cotton in factories in Turkey and China. These factories are SMETA audited and ethically run.
Range: Organic baby clothes (bodysuits, bibs, hats)
- Organic cotton: GMO-free, GOTS certified organic.
- Recycled plastic: All recycled plastic pieces are made by transforming post-consumer plastic such as soda bottles, into eco-friendly polyester.
- Recycled paper: All recycled paper items are made with 100% post-consumer fiber that is FSC certified and made with 100% renewable green electricity.
Range: Organic baby clothes (swimwear)
Green Sprouts is a company that strives to maximize the lifecycle of every product they make and minimize its environmental impact. As often as possible, the company strives to source materials that are renewable, recycled, or recyclable.
Take the reusable swim diapers, for example. They can be used all season, then passed along to a friend when your little one has outgrown them.
Brands for Older Children
Range: Sustainable kids clothes (shorts, pants, skirts, dresses, tops, and accessories)
Based in Washington, DC, Jackalo features clothing that is made to be durable and long-lasting, uses organic fabrics, and is our pick for one of the best sustainable kids’ clothing brands in the world. This eco-friendly, 4- to 14-year-old range is ethically made using materials that have been sourced from energy-efficient factories and those with sound waste reduction and recycling practices.
Marianna Sachse, Jackalo’s founder, is acutely aware of the harm the kids’ clothing industry is doing to the environment. Their website includes some very helpful tips for the cleaning and repairing of their garments.
“As a mother,” she said to us, “I was tired of seeing my kids tear through clothes so quickly. Sometimes in just days, they’d return from school with holes in their pants. I started Jackalo to fight the waste this causes and make a truly sustainable, and circular, clothing company. For my kids, your kids, and for the planet they’ll inherit.”
Not only does she love the planet; she loves what she does, too.
“This Spring, I’ve restocked everyone’s favorite Jo dress and this time we have it in the gorgeous deep purple color, Berry. This dress is so wonderful because it can be worn alone in the summer, but has enough room in the armholes to comfortably layer it in the Autumn or Winter.”
Another very attractive feature of this brand is that they offer discounts on any future purchases for customers who send back their used Jackalo products for repair or upcycling. It is currently a $15 discount on your next purchase. The way that this supports a culture of repair and reuse is something that attracted me to this company.
Certifications this brand has earned include IVN, GOTS certified organic, and Fair for Life.
Range: Sustainable kids clothes (t-shirts)
The Kinder Voice is a brand that promotes more than just sustainable kids’ clothing. The online shop sells T-shirts that have printed across them some very positive and uplifting messages. What these messages promote is kindness to self and others, which is something that often seems to be missing in our modern world.
The T-shirts are manufactured using various eco-friendly materials, including certified organic cotton and recycled polyester. The inks are water-based and free from phthalates and PVC.
To make this brand even more sustainable, I’m pleased to report all products are packaged using 100% recycled materials. The company is also a member of 1% for the Planet.
Range: 100% organic cotton kids clothes (tops, bottoms, dresses)
Orbasics clothing line includes a range of gender-neutral pieces, ethically made with organic cotton that is certified under Global Organic Textile Standards. What this means is that the cotton is grown sustainably, without the use of harmful chemicals, pesticides, or toxins.
Range: Organic cotton kids clothes (underwear, tops, bottoms, and pajamas)
Lucky+Me is a family-owned company that makes sure every step of the manufacturing process is ethical and safe, not just for its customers but for its workers and the planet.
Only OEKO-TEX certified, non-toxic organic fabrics and dyes are used, so you can be certain the clothes you buy are free from harmful chemicals and heavy metals.
Their range is made with organic cotton certified by GOTS, so you know it is environmentally and socially responsible at every stage.
“Offcuts to Overalls”
Range: Sustainable Denim Overalls for kids aged 6 months and up
Over All 1516 is a company trying to change the problem of scrap fabric from clothes factories ending up in landfills.
The company is based in Australia and works with a mill in Guatemala. New textiles are produced from discarded denim offcuts, and then upcycled into trendy, long-lasting overalls, suitable for kids aged 0-6. The company motto says it all.
Reports show that their processing and manufacturing methods save 20,000 litres of water for every kilo of upcycled denim and prevent 20 tons of CO2 emissions for every ton. And that’s not taking into account all the denim that is diverted from landfills.
They also produce to order, meaning there are no wasted fabrics and no piles of unsold stock.
Art & Eden
Range: Organic kids clothes
The entire Art & Eden girls’ line is ethically made with GOTS certified organic cotton. The boy’s line consists of a mix of organic cotton and recycled or upcycled polyester.
Keep Your Kids Dry Sustainably
Range: Rain jackets and rain pants made from recycled plastic bottles
Faire Child is helping to clean up the mess and ensure it doesn’t get any worse. red. This Canadian brand makes waterproof kids’ jackets, coats, mittens, dungarees, trousers, and hats from PET plastic bottles, which are a pet hate of mine.
The company’s manufacturing center in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, uses climate-neutral manufacturing processes. I particularly like the fact that each garment is made from PET plastic bottles, but what also appeals to me is that they can be recycled over and over again.
Could it get any better? Yes, it can. Faire Child provides a ‘Take Back Program, so you don’t have to worry about recycling the garments. You simply send them back and they’ll recycle them. You’ll get a 15% discount on your next purchase as a thank you.
The Ethics and Sustainability of Kids’ Clothing
Buying sustainably has never been as affordable as it is today. It’s excellent news, as we’re all being encouraged to shop more conscientiously. Ethical and sustainable clothing for kids wasn’t so easy to find a couple of decades ago, when I was shopping for my little darlings. And what was available was definitely out of my price range.
Big fast fashion chains offering super cheap clothing for children were so hard to turn down. With my kids growing so quickly, I easily found outfits that didn’t break the bank, and they didn’t have to miss out on the latest trends.
Fast forward to today, and there are endless budget-friendly ethical children’s clothing brands to choose from. Before I introduce our complete list of the best sustainable kids clothing brands, let’s look at the benefits of shopping sustainably and what you need to look out for.
5 Reasons Why You Should Shop Sustainably for your Kids
“Sustainable” is a very trendy word at the moment, but just what are the benefits of shopping this way? Here are five good reasons to steer clear of the big-name brands when shopping for your young ones, and to look out for more sustainable kids clothing brands.
Fast Fashion Brands Often Use Harmful Chemical Compounds
Did you realise that more than 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used to produce the clothing many of us wear every day? Lots of research has gone into these compounds, and many have been shown to be toxic and carcinogenic.
Some of these compounds are there from the very beginning of production. Toxic pesticides are used when growing certain crops, and polyester, nylon, and acrylic are made from petrochemicals.
Then there are the various processes such as scouring, bleaching, dyeing, and finishing. These are all chemically intensive, and it has been proven that problematic chemical residues are left behind on the finished product. These can cause contact issues such as allergies and rashes, or even worse they can be easily ingested.
If you want to shop sustainably, look for children’s clothing brands that share in detail how their clothing is made, from the fibers they use, to how they wash, dry, and finish.
Natural Fibres Breakdown and Biodegrade
Synthetic fabrics, such as nylon, polyester, and acrylic, can take anywhere between 20 to 200 years to decompose. You’re probably already aware of the increasing textile waste problem we’re currently facing. Landfills are filled to overflowing, and some brands are burning excess stock because they have nowhere to store it.
Natural fibres like certified organic cotton tend to avoid this problem. When your kids’ clothing has reached the end of its useful life, it’s reassuring to know that it will break down naturally, or biodegrade.
Our Kids and Grandkids Deserve a Cleaner Planet
If we’re not going to do it for ourselves, we can at least do it for future generations. The production of conventional fast fashion fabrics is devastating the environment. Non-eco dyes are applied, and harmful finishing chemicals used, which all end up swallowed by our oceans and air.
Here are a few statistics, published by the UNEP and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation:
- Every year, the fashion industry uses 93 billion cubic metres of water – enough to meet the consumption needs of five million people.
- Around 20% of wastewater worldwide comes from fabric dyeing and treatment.
- Of the total fibre input used for clothing, 87% is incinerated or disposed of in a landfill.
- The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions.
- Every year, we dump half a million tons of plastic microfibers into the ocean, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles.
Sustainable Clothing is More Kid-Friendly
Many of the best sustainable fabrics used in making clothes for kids are moisture-wicking, antibacterial, and hypoallergenic. The best ethical and sustainable brands are progressive in other ways too, such as by offering gender neutral pieces, by promoting ethical causes, and by encouraging children who wear them to learn about environmental and social issues.
Ethical Brands Ensure the Safety of Workers
The clothing industry employs millions of people, often in developing countries. Labour regulations can be at a much lower standard than in the Western world, and fast fashion has a lot to answer for. Buying eco-friendly reduces the exposure of these workers to toxic compounds. This in turn avoids a health hazard to them and their families.
About 77 million agricultural workers suffer poisoning from pesticides each year growing conventional cotton. Additionally, exposure to azo dyes correlates with cancer in textile workers.
What Makes Kids’ Clothing Sustainable?
There are a couple of things that stand out when it comes to sustainable clothing for kids. Compared to the “fast fashion” we’ve become accustomed to, it’s planet-friendly and worker-friendly. Sustainable clothing tends to last many seasons. Eco-friendly fabrics form it’s core material, including reused, organic and recycled materials. The best sustainable clothing brands pay their workers a fair wage and provide decent working conditions.
Eco-Friendly Fibres: How Clothes are Made
Not all natural fabrics are greener than synthetic materials such as polyester. Take cotton, for example. When grown conventionally, it requires vast amounts of fertilizer and pesticides, many of which are highly toxic. Cotton can be grown without these inputs, but harvesting it is very labour intensive, and even certified organic cotton requires vast amounts of water.
Greener fabrics exist, made from renewable fibers that are easy to grow or produce. They require less water and energy, and many of them are recyclable.
What are sustainable textiles for kids?
- Linen: Made from flax, which requires far less water, fertilizer, and pesticides than cotton. It requires little energy to manufacture and is easy to compost or recycle into paper.
- Hemp: Doesn’t need much fertiliser or pesticides. Transformable into a wide variety of organic fabrics, including canvas, denim, jersey, fleece, and twill.
- Bamboo: Has both pros and cons as a sustainable fiber. It grows fast and requires almost no pesticides. The fabric it produces is soft and easy to care for. However, turning the fibres into cloth often requires toxic chemicals.
- Lyocell: A fabric made from wood pulp, typically the eucalyptus tree, which grows quickly with little water or chemicals. The material produced is naturally wrinkle-resistant, so it’s easy to care for.
- Alpaca: Alpacas are similar to llamas and are native to Peru. They have long hair that produces beautifully soft fibres. Alpacas are hardy animals and don’t eat or drink much. They can also stay healthy without antibiotics. Alpaca wool is more eco-conscious than cashmere.
- Organic wool: Organic sheep farms don’t use traditional toxic pesticides on their pastures or treat their animals with toxic dips. Organic farmers keep their sheep and pastures healthy utilizing the animal’s manure to nourish the soil.
- Silk: Produced by caterpillars known as silkworms. This natural fabric is lightweight and durable. At the end of its life, it breaks down naturally.
Sustainable Kid’s Clothing Contains Fewer Chemical Compounds
Toxic dyes are a big problem with many fast fashion fabrics. Many traditional dyes contain harmful chemicals, and the dyeing process requires vast amounts of water. During the colouring process, much of the dye washes out, polluting rivers throughout the developing world.
Does that mean white fabric is a cleaner choice? Absolutely not, because in most cases, snow-white fabric is bleached with chlorine. The bleaching process releases dioxins, a group of chemical compounds that can cause cancer and damage many bodily systems.
A greener alternative is natural and low-impact dyes. Natural dyes such as cochineal and indigo are derived from plants, insects, or animals. Low-impact dyes are lower in toxic chemicals and require less water to process. Another green option is unbleached fabric, which has a natural, off-white colour.
Upcycling vs Recycled Plastic
Another way to make children’s clothing eco-friendly is to make them from recycled materials. Fleece, for example, is often made from recycled plastic bottles. This turns a waste product into something useful and reduces the use of non-renewable oil.
New polyester fabric can also be made by recycling old polyester garments. The process of creating recycled polyester uses less energy and produces less pollution than making fabric from petroleum.
The greenest choice of all is to reuse clothing. Recycling reduces waste and energy use, but reusing clothes cuts both to almost nothing.
The easiest way to reuse kids clothing is to simply pass it on to new users. For instance, take any old pre-loved garments that are still in good condition to the thrift store or sell them online. Pass outgrown clothing from older children to younger children.
Worker-Friendly Workplaces: Where Clothes are Made
The primary focus of sustainable clothing is to protect the environment. However, many eco-conscious brands are also concerned about human rights. Truly sustainable clothing must be ethically made in ways that are safe and healthy for workers.
Look for children’s clothing that bears the Fair Trade Certified label. To earn this label, manufacturers must promise to pay all their workers a living wage. They must also guarantee their factories are safe and their production is eco-friendly.
Certifications for Children’s Clothing
There’s a lot of confusing blurb used when it comes to sustainable clothing, but there is a secure way to evaluate a brand’s green credentials. Certifications are crucial because they reveal a lot of information about how a garment was made and what the working conditions are like.
The Global Organic Textile Standard GOTS covers the processing, manufacturing, packaging, labelling, trading, and distribution of all textiles made using at least 70% certified organic fibers. GOTS certification also includes an Örganic” grade which means it must contain a minimum of 95% certified organic fibers.
While GOTS certified organic cotton is definitely something to look out for, this standard focuses not just on cotton, but all organic fibers, including wool, bamboo, and silk.
Furthermore, this standard sets limits on the environmental impacts of the production process. These limits include restricting toxic and potentially toxic chemicals, no use of azo dyes that release carcinogens, biodegradability requirements, waste management, and water treatment and packaging materials.
Workers should be able to choose their employment. There must be no child labour. Finally, health and safety criteria are met, and fair wages paid.
The Oeko-Tex Standard is a four-tier system used to evaluate the toxicity of chemicals present in clothes. Compliance tests are run by independent inspectors. Oeko-Tex certification is often awarded in conjunction with GOTS certification.
The Fair Wear Foundation is a non-profit organization that works with brands, factories, trade unions, NGOs, and sometimes governments to verify and improve workplace conditions, and ensure fair wages, for garment workers in 11 production countries in Asia, Europe, and Africa.
Brands that become members of 1% for the planet commit to giving 1% of gross sales each year to the organisation’s approved nonprofit environmental causes.
If a brand has Fair Trade Certification, it shows that its workers receive a fair wage and the conditions they work in are safe. The Fair Trade website states that “a Fair Trade certified seal means a product was made according to rigorous social, environmental, and economic standards.” You can be certain that the methods used in the manufacture of the material protect the people who made them and the environment.
Want to see your favourite sustainable kids clothing brand on this list? Leave a comment, or get in touch with us at [email protected].