Finding eco-friendly clothing for back-to-school

Editorial intern Kara Turtinen explores how children’s clothes are made, and discovers what to look for, and what to avoid, when purchasing for back-to-school.

From her article in the latest Green American:

Items made from sustainable fibers are the safest and Earth-friendliest clothing for kids and adults. Here’s what to look for:

Organic cotton: Organic cotton is grown without the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Be careful of cotton that is described as “undyed,” “untreated,” “natural,” or “green.” These labels are not regulated and are sometimes used to market conventional cotton. Also organic cotton may still be coated with toxic finishes.

Industrial hemp: Rapidly renewable industrial hemp produces three times more fabric per acre than cotton, and it requires little to no pesticides or herbicides.

Bamboo: Bamboo is a hardy plant that grows quickly and easily. However, toxic chemicals can be used to turn the plant into what is basically rayon. The US Federal Trade Commission mandates that companies using this process must label their products “rayon made from bamboo,” rather than just “bamboo.” Companies that use an eco-friendlier process may label their clothing as made from “bamboo.” Consumers should note that true bamboo fiber will not feel “silky smooth” like bamboo-based rayon.

Recycled polyester: Recycled polyester is made from recycled soda bottles, cast-off fabrics, and worn-out garments.

Wool: Wool is renewable, doesn’t need chemicals to grow, and is naturally fi reresistant. Animal rights activists, however, have expressed concern about “mulesing,” where farmers cut the folds around sheep genitalia. Farmers say mulesing helps prevent fatal blowfly infestations, but activists say the process is painful and ask shoppers to avoid new sheep wool items.

Read the whole thing »


  1. Very interesting article. I didn’t realize that bamboo was used to make rayon. I like how you mention Fair trade. I don’t think enough people realize that there are still parts of the world that force child labor and really are equivalent to slave laborers. I personally don’t want the clothes I wear to be made in that way. Also there are a lot of places where you can get really nice used clothing. And while the processes aren’t necessarily eco friendly the fact that you are recycling makes up for it.

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  3. Organic cotton is very big right now. I purchase from this one catelog called Alpha and they really make some quality clothing that lasts and the fibers are so soft for being organic. The only problem I had with purchasing organic cotton products was the texture but the refining process seems to be more advanced than ever! I am a big fan of organic cotton for bedding, mattresses and pillows. I recently switched every mattress in my house to organic from The best organic mattress store online and I got a lot of great stuff. I also got organic baby mattresses ,and organic pillows, covering and mattress pads. It’s very high quality, comfortable and they last much longer than normal cotton, for some reason! I’d highly recommend switching to organic fibers completely like I did!

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