When I first found out that I was pregnant, one of the things I was determined to be a stickler about was clothing my child in organic cotton. It’s no secret that the cotton industry is famous for their use of pesticides and is a major contributor of environmentally disrupting chemicals, and this simply wasn’t something that I was willing to subject my child to. However, with more research and thinking, I have slowly changed my tune- and I want to tell you why.
First of all, there is no governing body over what can be called ‘organic cotton’. Much like we face in our quest to eat real food, gluten free, or all-natural, companies can claim organic cotton when that might not be what they are actually producing. Which leads me to the next point: a truly organic cotton garnet is actually very hard to come by. Even clothing from companies that claim to use organic cotton is often dyed using commercial, chemical-based dyes that basically undo any benefit that there may have been to choosing organic cotton in the first place. There isn’t anything regulating this, either- so you may purchase a onesie that is made with organic cotton, but is printed with horrible chemicals, and nobody has to disclose that to you.
Organic cotton may not be all that necessary, anyway. Many of us are familiar with the ‘dirty dozen’ and the ‘clean list’ when produce shopping, which helps us know what fruits and vegetables are worth spending extra money on to buy organic. This is largely based on which fruits and vegetables have the most residual chemicals and pesticides by the time they get to our supermarkets. This has to do with a number of factors, but mostly the makeup of the fruit itself. For example, potatoes and onions are important to buy organic, as they have thin skins and grow underground, and thus absorb whatever compounds are present. In contrast, avocados are not nearly as important to buy organic, as they have thick skins and grow on trees, so it is harder for them to absorb chemicals. Cotton is very similar to the avocado- it is grown above the ground and encased in a hard shell, breaking open only when it is about to be harvested. Thus, the amount of chemicals and pesticides that are in the final product is actually pretty negligible.
What may be more dangerous for our children, instead, are unnatural fibers and blends. Things like polyester, spandex, and rayon, while they are very soft and comfortable, are made of chemical compounds and plastics– the very ones that we are trying to avoid. In contrast, choosing a 100% cotton garment guarantees the purity of the materials that your child will be exposed to. While there may be a negligible amount of chemicals, at least it isn’t composed entirely of them.
Innovations in textile production have enabled fabrics to be made of things like bamboo and even wood, but the processes to make these fabrics are questionable in terms of environmental impact. While bamboo and wood can be sustainably sourced fairly easily, it seems that the final product is so far removed from the original that it probably isn’t as environmentally friendly or sustainable as it may originally appear.
So what’s the answer to this clothing dilemma? For us, it’s hand-me-downs and secondhand stores, followed closely by 100% cotton. Buying secondhand or receiving hand-me-downs keeps us from pouring money into the industries that we don’t want to support- even the cotton industry, which is still a culprit for environmental damage.
Do you have standards that you try to adhere to for your children’s clothing? Or do you feel like it’s too much trouble than it’s worth?
This post was shared with Wellness Wednesday!