Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why Buy Organic Clothing?

I wish I had more time in my day to...oh...read the paper, the books on my bedside table and probably most importantly read up on topics that I know are important and directly relevant to my family. Organic clothing is on that list. Especially as Holly and I research children's clothing brands, we see organics as a large and growing category. We asked Anthia Nickerson the founder of UrthChilda site that offers premier natural products for babies, children, and mothersto tell us about organic clothing. Anthia has spent hours upon hours researching and I admire her and UrthChild's dedication to natural living and preserving our environment.

Why buy organic clothing? What are the biggest advantages?
"Organic clothing has two main benefits. First, it reduces your family's exposure to harmful chemicals
everything from pesticides and chemical fertilizers to heavy metals found in dyes and appliques. Organic clothing is also not impregnated with chemicals like flame retardants and anti-wrinkle treatments. Pesticides, fertilizers, formaldehyde, flame retardants, metals, and other chemicals have been linked to cancer, neurological damage, behavioral issues, and a host of other health problems, and children are the most vulnerable. The CDC estimates that 50% of a person's lifetime cancer risk is developed by the age of 2 years, and 35% of a person's lifetime exposure to pesticides has been obtained by the age of 5!

Second, because organic clothing is created in a toxin-free manner, the environment is spared pollution from these chemicals during agriculture, processing, dying, and finishing. Conventional (non-organic) cotton is one of the most polluting crops on the planet. Every year, 25% of the pesticides used in agriculture are sprayed on cotton crops. Nearly 100 billion pounds of chemicals are used in conventional US cotton agriculture each year, and half of the top 15 chemicals used in conventional cotton farming are considered cancer-causing by the Environmental Protection Agency. These pesticides eventually find their way to our water supplies where they wreak further havoc on the environment. The World Health Organization estimates that each year 3 million people suffer from pesticide poisoning, and approximately 20,000-40,000 deaths per year are attributed to pesticides. Soy- and bamboo-based fabrics are also a growing concern because of the chemicals used in either their agriculture or processing; some critics of soy have also raised concern about the increase in genetically-modified soy."

If it is just not feasible to buy all organic clothing, what pieces do you think are most important?
"No matter what a mom's resources and greatest wishes are, it is impossible to buy all organic clothing. When prioritizing my clothing purchases for my family, I would first try to buy organic clothing for my newborn, placing highest priority on the first layer on the baby's skin (e.g., a onesie) or anything a newborn or baby will likely chew on.

I would then try to buy organic pajamas for all children and adults. Many pajamas in the marketplace today are impregnated with flame retardant chemicals that are so harmful to our health. (If you cannot buy organic pajamas, avoid anything made from polyester, which is produced from petroleum and is highly flammable.) Organic sheets would also be an important purchase since we
especially babies and childrenspend so much time sleeping.

A final area of prioritization is to buy a piece of organic clothing that has a long useful life, such as a dress that can turn into a tunic, a pair of jeans that can be worn several times a week, or a jacket that can be worn daily."

What should we be aware of when buying organic children's products?
"The first thing I look for when shopping for organic clothing is its organic certification. Some clothing may be made from organic cotton, but it may have dyes with heavy metals or azo or other nasty chemicals. Looking for organic clothing certification, such as GOTS, will help you know that no toxic chemicals were allowed during the agriculture, processing, dying, and finishing of the garment. At UrthChild, we provide the organic certification information in each product description by clicking on the "UrthChild review" tab on a product's webpage.

The second thing to look for is the worrisome trend of "greenwashing." Greenwashing is affecting everything from house paint to skin care, and is a major problem in organic clothing. For example, a piece of clothing may be made out of organic bamboo, but the process of turning bamboo into fabric is chemical-intensive and very hard on the environment as the waste products during bamboo manufacturing escape into waterways and into the air. Sodium hydroxide (a major ingredient in Drano) and carbon sulfide are two chemicals used in bamboo manufacturing that are seriously harmful to human health. Some bamboo manufacturers say that they have moved to a more closed loop process to protect the environment, but many organic activists say that these newer manufacturing techniques aren't transparent and prevention of pollution cannot be easily verified. In addition, several recent scientific studies have also raised serious questions about the claims that bamboo is antibacterial and UV resistant."

What are your best-selling children's clothing products?
"Parents everywhere are editing down their children's wardrobes, and our bestsellers reflect this. Looking for pieces that can be worn often or even daily and investing in clothes that can grow with your child (e.g., dress to tunic) is truly eco-friendly, sustainable shopping.

For babies, our number one sellers are organic clothes that are versatile and can be worn daily, such as
organic cotton buntings for everyday use and onesies, which can be worn alone, as layering pieces, and as nightwear.

For older girls, our bestsellers include the
Sarah Waldo Organics Beatrice Dress, which a girl can wear for several
seasons because once it's too short to be worn as a dress, it becomes the cutest tunic. Another bestsellers for girls is the Anna Nightie from Sarah Waldo Organics. The Anna Nightie has a bit of a celebrity following, and it is absolutely dreamy. I've had moms tell me that their daughters want to wear it every night. For boys, jeans by LOVE IS Organic Denim and cargo pants by Look Organics are big sellers because they look good, are versatile, and are items that will receive a ton of use.

In the winter, our
organic wool/silk long johns fly off the shelves. Organic wool is a wonderful natural fiber because it is naturally temperature-regulating, is self-cleaning and doesn't need to be washed often, and is naturally flame resistant."

A look from Sarah Waldo Organic's Fall 2009 (arriving at UrthChild next week).

Are there any brands in the children's organic market that are particular stand-outs?
"We absolutely love
Sarah Waldo Organics for girls. Sarah Waldo's clothing is so stylish and well tailored that it appeals to moms who aren't necessarily into organic clothing. Sarah, a Parsons School of Design "Designer of the Year", is also a bit of a trailblazer: She is helping shatter the idea that organic clothing is "crunchy" or "granola." She designs her clothing so that it is modest yet fashionable, and she really emphasizes the need for an item of clothing to last by over several seasons by incarnating from a dress to a shirt, for example. Her line reflects elegance, whether it is in a special occasion jacket or dress or an everyday basic. We also love how Sarah is committed to manufacturing her clothes in the USA."


  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  2. i like your article, excellent writing about organic clothing