Words such as natural, environmentally friendly, locally-produced and green are often bandied about by marketing people trying to convince the buying public that their product is a more ethical choice than someone else’s. Some of the buzzwords mean very little, as pretty much any product can say it is natural or green. Consumers are becoming much more aware of what they are buying and the ethos of the company, and are asking more questions about the impact their purchase will have on the environment. This is where the concept of sustainability comes from.
Sustainability is all about minimizing an individual’s impact on the environment. The concept is not just about buying products which are recycled or made in a way which reduces carbon footprint, it is also concerned with reusing products wherever possible, not buying new things every time fashions change, and making do and mending rather than throwing away. People who care about their impact on the planet often follow these principles in every aspect of their lives.
Most clothing which markets itself as sustainable is made from natural fibres such as linen or silk, or most commonly cotton. Cotton used to make sustainable cotton is not necessarily organic, but will have been grown in a way which does not impact the environment, such as cutting down or eliminating the use of chemicals and processing it in a different way. Cotton growing uses a huge amount of chemicals, and many parents worry about how these chemicals may affect their kids when they wear the end product.
Another arm of the sustainability movement is concerned with not only the product, but the people who farm or process the cotton. They feel that it is essential that people are paid a fair living wage for their product and are not exploited by large corporations. This may drive up the price of the bale of cotton or the t-shirt, but many consumers feel that it is a price worth paying. In many countries where clothes are produced the issue of child labour is still a huge problem, and companies operating along sustainable principles will seek guarantees from all of their suppliers that children are not used to produce the cotton or garments.
In the UK, there are several small companies such as People Tree and Mini Rodini who follow sustainable principles when buying and manufacturing their product range. Other larger companies like Marks and Spencer take part in the Fairtrade scheme, which lets consumers know that products marked with the Fairtrade logo have been produced ethically and without exploitation. It therefore does not take much effort on the part of the buyer to find products either on the high street or on the internet which are sustainable. As a lot of the items are good quality, there is a thriving second hand markets, with parents happy to buy Mini Rodini clothing for their children from second hand stores or car boot sales, given that it is excellent quality.
Mini Rodini sells sustainable baby clothes through the Olive Loves Alfie website.