There's so much to unpack when it comes to sustainable fashion. And to be honest it's purposefully a minefield of it phrases and words that no one can truly make sense of- we'll get to the topic of Greenwashing later. One thing that's the easiest for a newbie to start with though, is fabric composition. Why? Well for a start because every item has a label. And every label has a breakdown telling you what that item is made from.
What we care about at The Green Kid
At The Green Kid, we try to avoid synthetic fabrics such as acrylic, polyester and nylon as much as possible in favor of natural fabrics such as cotton, wool and silk. Another thing you'll notice is that we try to source either OEKO-TEX, Fair Trade certified organic (GOTS) fabrics. If synthetics cannot be avoided, which sometimes is the case (think swimwear or weather wear) we most often look to recycled options such as Repreve. We are on a journey along with you and always looking for the best fabric compositions and adding these considerations to our product selection criteria when sourcing suppliers. Here is a (non exhaustive) list of some of the fabrics we love, what kind of clothing they serve best and why we think you'll love them to.
You'll notice the majority of the items on our site as GOTs certified organic cotton. This fabric serves as the perfect every day wear; think airy tees, long pants, shorts and even cardigans. Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture. Third-party certification organizations such as GOTs verify that organic producers use only methods and materials allowed in organic production. Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. In addition, federal regulations prohibit the use of genetically engineered seed for organic farming. All cotton sold as organic in the United States must meet strict federal regulations covering how the cotton is grown.
There are different types, weights, textures and look of cotton. Some of the types of cotton we stock at The Green Kid include jersey, velour, muslin and marl. You can shop the full selection here.
Wool has some unique properties that set it miles apart from its warm synthetic competitors. Due to the fact that wool can be woven in different weights, it can serve both warm and cold weather garments. The fabric is woven from the natural fibers that form the fleece of animals such as sheep, goats, rabbits, camels, and more. This raw material is made up of keratin-based proteins, which makes wool an incredibly elastic material. The biggest advantage of wool garments over others is that they hold in heat extremely well. Additional benefits of wool include its durability and its versatility, as it can be woven into both heavy, coarse fabrics and lightweight, soft fabrics. The Australian wool industry leads the world in wool production with 25 percent of the total global wool output. China and the United States are next, each with 18 percent, followed by New Zealand with 11 percent.
While there are many types of wool: here are some of the ones we stock and why
Cashmere: One of the most luxurious natural fibers, cashmere has a high natural crimp, which results in an incredibly soft and lightweight fabric perfect for our most precious little ones. Cashmere is costly because it's difficult to obtain (fibers must be combed from cashmere goats instead of sheared), and the cashmere goat produces a very scarce amount of cashmere wool per year. One other downside of cashmere is that it's not as durable as sheep's wool but it's so very soft and comfy against our little ones' skin. You can shop The Green Kid's selection of cashmere here.
Lambswool: Also known as "virgin wool" since it's taken from a baby sheep's first shearing when it's only several months old, lambswool is extremely smooth, soft, hypoallergenic, and is difficult to wrinkle. Since every sheep can only produce lambswool once, it's a rarer and more expensive wool to purchase. Shop our lambswool selection here.
Merino: This superfine, shiny wool is one of the softest types of wool and is perfect for regulating body temperature in both cold and hot weather, making it a popular choice for athletic apparel and winter baselayers or pajamas. Merino wool comes from the Merino sheep, which is native to Spain but today has its largest populations in Australia and New Zealand. Shop our merino wool selection here.
Recycled or Upcycled Polyester
Currently, around 49 percent of clothing is made of polyester and forecasts show this is set to nearly double by 2030. Parents are often interested in polyester clothing due to the perception that it is durable and resistant as compared to natural fibre items. But polyester is not a sustainable textile option nor is it the healthiest for our littles, as it is made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the most common type of plastic in the world. In short, the majority of our clothes come from crude oil. Recycled polyester is obtained by melting down existing plastic and re-spinning it into new polyester fibre. To give an example, five water bottles yield enough fibre for one T-shirt. Although recycling plastic sounds like a good idea, recycled polyester is far from being the best sustainable fashion solution. Here is why;
Recycled polyester: the pros
Keeping plastics from going to landfill and the ocean - Recycled polyester gives a second life to a material that’s not biodegradable and would otherwise end up in landfill or the ocean. 8 million metric tons of plastics enter the ocean every year, on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that currently circulate in marine environments. If we keep this pace, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
Recycled polyester is just as good as virgin polyester but takes less resources to make - Recycled polyester is almost the same as virgin polyester in terms of quality, but its production requires 59 percent less energy compared to virgin polyester. Manufactures of recycled polyester, aim to reduce CO2 emissions by 32 percent in comparison to regular polyester. In addition, recycled polyester can contribute to reduce the extraction of crude oil and natural gas from the Earth to make more plastic.
Recycled polyester: the cons
Recycling plastic has its limitations - Many garments are not made from polyester alone, but rather a blend of polyester and other materials. In that case, it is more difficult, if not impossible, to recycle them.
Even clothes that are 100 percent polyester can’t be recycled forever. There are two ways to recycle PET: mechanically and chemically. Mechanical recycling is taking a plastic bottle, washing it, shredding it and then turning it back into a polyester chip, which then goes through the traditional fibre making process. Chemical recycling is taking a waste plastic product and returning it to its original monomers, which are indistinguishable from virgin polyester. Those can then go back into the regular polyester manufacturing system. Most recycled polyester is obtained through mechanical recycling, as it is the less costly of the two processes and it requires no chemicals other than the detergents needed to clean the input materials. However, through the mechanical process, the fibre can lose its strength and thus needs to be mixed with virgin fibre.
The process of recycling PET impacts the environment, too-The polyester chips generated by mechanical recycling can vary in color: some turn out crispy white, while others are creamy yellow, making color consistency difficult to achieve. Some dyers find it hard to get a white, so they’re using chlorine-based bleaches to whiten the base, inconsistency of dye uptake makes it hard to get good batch-to-batch color consistency and this can lead to high levels of re-dyeing, which requires high water, energy and chemical use.
Recycled polyester releases microplastics - Last but not least, some counter argue the affirmation that recycled polyester keeps plastic from ending in the oceans. They still do a little, as man-made fabrics can release microscopic plastic fibres - the infamous microplastics. According to a recent study by a team from Plymouth University, in the UK, each cycle of a washing machine could release more than 700,000 plastic fibres into the environment.
As with most sustainable materials, there are both positives and negatives but going down a sustainable route will help reduce the impact fashion is having on the environment.