BySarah Lozanova

Mar 17, 2015
Childrens clothes for sale in window

Becoming pregnant seven years ago intensified my concern for our dear planet. Although I always had a desire to minimize my environmental impact, bringing a child into the world made me more dedicated than ever. Considering everything from diapers to clothing, raising children can have a huge impact on the planet.

Image courtesy of June_Plum.

After a few mental calculations, I realized how much clothing we could consume in the upcoming couple of years. I wanted to purchase some maternity clothes, and a baby grows fast enough to need a new wardrobe every few months for the first year.

Although cotton has numerous beneficial qualities and is commonly used in children’s clothing, it has many downsides from an environmental standpoint. Cotton is a thirsty plant, requiring large amounts of water. A shirt or pair of jeans can require 20,000 liters of water to produce cotton, as 73 percent of cotton is produced on irrigated land. Cotton plants are commonly treated with chemicals, accounting for 24 percent of the world’s pesticide sales.

These facts (not to mention the cost savings!) helped motivate me to reduce my consumption of new clothing. Using primarily secondhand items was my top strategy in minimizing our impact and saving money. Interested in learning more? Try these other tips on for size.

Clothing Swaps

I’ve organized several children’s clothing swaps over the years, where I invite parents to swap clothes. They were all fun events, where we walked away with bags of clothing and had passed along our outgrown outfits to others. The unclaimed clothes were donated to local charities.

The swaps were easy to organize. I first found a large location (ideally with a play space for children). I’m a member of several parenting groups, so I used my networks to advertise the events. I also asked for a couple of volunteers to help bag up unwanted items afterward. We set up tables for different sizes of clothes, so it was easier to sort and sift through the items.

Thrift Stores

young child
Image courtesy of June_Plum.

Most thrift stores have a decent selection of children’s clothing, especially baby items. Some stores also donate proceeds to local charities.


Many friends have been very generous in sharing hand-me-downs with us. Because some families are more receptive than others to using secondhand clothing, let your friends and family members with slightly larger children know that you will gratefully use secondhand items.

Garage Sales

Church and yard sales can be a goldmine for kids’ clothing if they sell clothing in the desired sizes. Such sales, however, can be time-consuming, but doing a bit of homework can be useful. Craigslist and other detailed online sale descriptions can save time, if the listing includes information on the size of clothing. If you know any diehard yard sale shoppers, they may have good advice on particular annual church sales that are worth your time, particularly congregations with lots of children.

Craigslist and Online Listings

Many people will sell a lot of children’s clothing at one time on Craigslist. For example, someone may pack up all their daughter’s 3T summer clothing and sell them for a fixed price (not per item). If the lot contains some undesirable items, you can always sell or donate them. and other online listings are also worth reading.

Looking for more information on clothes recycling?

Feature image courtesy of Lulu Vision

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.