Baby clothes are a prime opportunity to reduce, reuse and recycle
When it comes to clothing, there is perhaps no creature so wasteful as the human infant. It’s not the baby’s fault. It’s the doting grandparents, parents, aunts and siblings who can’t resist the cutest onesie they ever saw. Even more, it’s the fault of nature, given the body’s insistence that it grow and grow, particularly from birth to about 18 years old.
So, yes, babies need clothes—and cribs and high chairs and bouncy seats—but those things don’t have to be brand spanking new. Most baby products are used for only a few months, if not weeks, making them a prime opportunity for what may be the holiest of the three-R trinity: Reuse.
At Once Upon A Child in Reno, parents peruse racks of baby clothes and a floor full of neatly arranged jogger strollers, play yards, toys, books—all gently used, clean, carefully selected and at least half the price of their newer counterparts. Employees have also tested each product for functionality and looked them up through the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to ensure they’ve never been recalled.
Jennifer Cole, franchise owner of the Reno store, is also a mother of two young girls. “With the first child, you feel compelled to go out and buy everything new, top of the line, and you’re freaking out if you can’t get it,” she says. “You think it won’t be good enough. A few months into new parenthood, you realize how expensive and unnecessary that is. The baby industry takes advantage of new parents in that way. I feel resale is a really good option for new parents.”
It’s also an environmentally friendly one. Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Solid Waste. But before clothing even gets to the landfill it has to be manufactured. Ever popular polyester is made from petroleum, as are other synthetic fabrics, and their production also involves greenhouse gas emissions and solvent discharges. According to the Environmental Justice Foundation, cotton production accounts for 16 percent of global pesticide use—more than any other crop. Then there are the fossil fuels required to transport the clothing from low-wage places like China, Bangladesh and Honduras. With this perspective, no matter how well they’re laundered, new clothing seems a bit dirty. Giving clothing and other products a second life at thrift stores and consignment shops is one way to reduce their environmental impact. Furthermore, aside from a 4 percent franchise fee, the money spent at Once Upon a Child stays in the community—the products are bought from and sold to local people.
“I’m totally a convert,” says Cole. “I was never the flea market person. I didn’t grow up that way. I wasn’t used to ‘treasure hunting.’ Now I do it all the time.” Places like Goodwill, Savers, Plato’s Closet and Junkee Clothing Exchange are her first stop before going to a conventional store. “It saves money, and the first line of environmental life is buying something you can reuse. That’s the most important. Recycling still uses money and resources. Reuse doesn’t really cost anything.”