Organic Cotton: Worth the Investment?

Organic Cotton: Is it Worth the Investment?

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!

Don’t Surround Your Baby in Plastic!

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One thing that has always worried me a little bit about the typical baby’s life is the amount of plastic they are surrounded with. From swings and jumperoos to high chairs and diapers to an incessant amount of toys and tethers, it seems that everything the modern baby touches is plastic! In light of recent studies about the dangers of BPA and the chemicals that are leached from plastic in general, it seems only fitting that we should look for healthier and more sustainable alternatives to plastics for our children.

Lucky for us, there is a surge of artisans waiting to make our babies beautiful wooden toys, playlets, and high chairs! Not only are these items perfectly designed, but they are often sustainably sources, made by individuals in small companies, and are of heirloom quality. Of course, that means a higher price point, especially when compared to China-manufactured big box store toys. This begs the question: is it worth it, this quest to avoid plastics? Let’s take a look at the benefits of choosing wooden toys:

Healthier for your child. BPA has been villianized in recent years for it’s hormone-disrupting properties and cancer-causing agents, and rightfully so. But in addition to this, there are many other chemicals of concern in plastic toys, which often require batteries, are of concern for off gassing, and are regularly recalled for safety concerns. Wooden toys, void of these chemicals and never requiring batteries, can set our minds at ease.

Less environmental impact. Plastics rely on the crude oil industry, and take years to breakdown, if they break down at all. Many wooden toy manufacturers, in contrast, focus on using sustainable methods to source their wood, using wood sources that grow back easily or even that are somewhat of a nuisance (such as in the case of bamboo). Look for companies that work with the Forestry Stewardship Council! In addition, you can find great companies that not only source sustainably, but use plant based dyes and natural glues if they need to use these things in the design. Many toys are simply carved out of a solid piece of wood, perhaps embellished with a wood burning tool.

Heirloom quality. Plastic toys break, they are designed to. They are created to be a temporary fixation for your child, to be battered and bruised and then tossed away, easily replaced by the next chemical-laden gadget on the market. However, wooden toys are designed to last for generations- and they do. One toy can be passed down as an heirloom and barely look used at all. While the price point may be higher, you get so much more for your investment.

Encourage imagination and cognitive development. While plastic toys are designed to entertain, usually with a very specific purpose in mind, wooden toys have limitless possibilities. A set of blocks can become a princess castle, a boat, a tower, grocery store items- the possibilities are limitless. This flexing of the imagination paves the way for heightened cognitive development and encourages the child to think for themselves and be independent.

Here’s some of my favorite wooden toy companies:
Tegu
Grimm’s Spiel und Holz Design
Plan Toys
HABA Toys
Little Sapling Toys

On the whole, I would so much rather my child be surrounded by wood than by plastic. What do you think? Are there plastic toys that your child just couldn’t live without?

The Diapering Decision: Why We Are Choosing Cloth

diapersOver the past few months, I have developed a serious diaper obsession. Call me crazy, becauseI know that’s what most parents dread about having a newborn, but I can’t stop thinking about diapers! Maybe not the diapers you’re used to, though. Cute ones. Reusable, good for the planet, will last until potty training ones. Cloth Diapers!

I have to be honest, this was a pretty easy decision for us. I had a conversation with a friend a few weeks ago who has two children and she told me how convicted she was feeling about using disposable diapers, and how she wanted to make the switch to cloth. I completely understand! Financially, thinking about spending $3,000+ on diapers for one child that would just get thrown in a landfill and would surround that precious bottom in chemicals makes me feel sick (see this article on chemicals in diapers). Even spending a bit more to get a responsible brand of diapers with less chemicals still didn’t seem environmentally responsible to us. We try to create the least amount of waste that we can in our home already, and we don’t want to change that once our baby girl arrives! Most importantly, we believe that each dollar given to us is one that we should spend to build the Kingdom, and I just can’t spend those dollars on things doing straight into a landfill. This is a conviction that the Lord has placed strongly on my heart to be part of my role as a graceful homemaker.

At the onset, cloth diapering is completely overwhelming. There are SO MANY different kinds of diapers you can choose from- different styles, from prefolds (the old-fashioned thing your mom and grandma think of while reading this) to pockets to all-in-ones (AIOs). Within each style there are countless brands at all different price points and made of different materials. It’s easy to get super confused and want to run for the nearest pack of pampers!

Here’s some suggestions: read up! Here’s a few blogs that were helpful to me in the beginning:
CLOTH DIAPERING 101 via View Along The Way
10 REASONS TO CLOTH DIAPER via Nourishing Joy
6 REASONS THAT CLOTH IS BETTER via Mama Natural
CLOTH DIAPER ESSENTIALS via Modern Alternative Mama
WHY WE CLOTH DIAPER via Wellness Mama

The other intimidating factor with cloth diapering is the price point. Cloth diapering is an investment! For pocket diapers (what we have chosen to stock up on), you will spend anywhere from $8-30 for a brand new diaper. One diaper. That’s crazy, right? Maybe so…but we have found ways around it and built ourself a nice stash that will last us all the way through potty training.

Find discount websites. Zulily runs great specials on cloth diapers! The BEST ones that we have bought new have been from there, and they are routinely half the retail price (so, around $10), come with all the accessories, and are completely adorable. Ebay can also get you great deals, as can overseas distributors- though, we choose to stay away from those because of labor standard concerns (full disclosure, I did buy a cheap pack of Chinese ones in the beginning, and I feel really bad about it now).

Don’t be afraid of used diapers! This was a game changer for me. Cloth diapers have to be taken care of very well, washed with specific detergents and almost always line (or at least gentle) dried. Moms know the investment that goes into these diapers, and they are good stewards of their possessions! Diapers also get put through a sterilization process called “stripping”, which many moms do before selling. Therefore, I have built a significant portion of my diaper stash by purchasing used diapers that are in very good or excellent condition- often only worn a few times. Craigslist can provide some of these for you, but the most reputable site I have used is DiaperSwappers. Moms are very honest about the condition of diapers and you can get great deals! Here’s just some of the brands I now have in my stash, thanks to Diaper Swappers:

Green Mountain Diapers
Little Bee Co
Bum Genius
Charlie Banana
Thirsties Duo
Rumparooz
Happy Heiny
Awesome Blossom

Many of these retail for $20+, but I never paid more than $10 for one diaper (and that was only one), and that was with shipping. All in all, I have about 25 diapers ready to go, and I have invested about $175 in a stash that will diaper at least 2 children through potty training. Much better than the cost of disposables, no matter how many kids we have! While this number will definitely last us, I have still registered for some more diapers- the more you have, the longer they will last, as they will be in a bigger rotation.

The best part about these diapers (ok, maybe not the best, but you get the idea) is that they can be resold AGAIN when we are done with them for about 50-75% of what I paid for them, making the investment even more worthwhile. Keep the cuteness while you need it, then make some money back!

Lastly, you could make your own!  If you are crafty, making your own diapers and accessories might be very easy for you, lowering your costs even more AND letting you create exactly the diaper you want! Prefolds are easy enough to sew, but there’s patterns even for the most intricate all-in-one or pocket styles. I can’t sew worth a lick but I hope to learn this fall, and at least make some good flannel wipes and some insert/doublers. Here’s some good sites to get started:

DIY Diaper Inserts via Rusty Cookie Cutter

DIY Diaper Detergent via The Eco Friendly Family

DIY Diaper Patterns via Keeper of the Home and via Northern Baby

Have you tried cloth? Are you interested? What questions do you have?

Happy Diapering,

Karli