Sustainable vs. Eco-friendly: What’s the Difference?

Green nature heart

There are many worlds flying around these days that are similar and used interchangeably, but aren’t technically interchangeable. When it comes down to the details and what word to use, many people ask: What’s the correct word to use when? What’s the difference? Why does it matter? Here is a breakdown of the commonly interchanged words green, eco-friendly, and sustainable.

Green

“Green” is more of an umbrella term for the movement of being aware of the impact we have on our ecological systems and economy. It is a general term and can be used for things that might not necessarily be either eco-friendly or sustainable; “green” can refer to something recyclable or something that is slightly better for the earth than a mainstream product in reference to architecture, clothing, cars, and other materials. It’s not a very specific term and can be used pretty loosely by many people and companies.

Eco-friendly

This term pertains to the awareness of our impact on this earth and environment, hence the term “eco”. Products that are eco-friendly are ones that are intended to not do harm to the planet, and are usually made from recycled or recyclable materials, sometimes biodegradable materials, and may be manufactured in such a way that is better than mainstream manufacturing (eg. uses less electricity, is conscious of pollution, uses less plastic). This is also in terms of electric cars and building materials like bamboo.

Sustainable

“Sustainable” can refer to a lifestyle that reduces waste, but more commonly specifically refers to the full life cycle of a product. From idea, to sourcing materials, to fairly paying workers, to how many resources go into manufacturing, to packaging, to shipping, to purchasing, the life cycle of a product can either help our planet or pollute it.

A great definition of “sustainable” comes from the UN World Commission on Environment and Development: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This is why I choose to use the word “sustainable” on this website; because moving towards a fully sustainable society, a fully sustainable earth, will help protect our planet for generations to come, and teaching the next generation about sustainability is how we are going to achieve this.

Honestly, there are few products that are truly, fully “sustainable”, which is why I’ve searched and do my best to provide truly sustainable options as well as the next best thing. I’m also constantly learning as new sustainable products and processes come on the market, so please share with me any source of sustainability you’ve found.

Let’s do the best we can!

Regardless of what we call it, it’s broken down into this simple act: being good stewards of our earth. All of our natural resources come from the earth, and if we destroy it faster than we are helping to regenerate it, the likely conclusion is that we will eventually no longer have these resources. I, for one, want to teach our children to consciously care for our earth so that our future generations can have it for years to come. By each of us being as conscious and intentional as reasonably possible, we can provide for our loved ones for years to come.

Conclusion

Sustainable products are the best for our health and environment, but truly sustainable products can be hard to find. This is why our site focuses on finding the most truly sustainable products out there, and recommending the closest things we can find when sustainability might not be an option.

While we have gotten into modern habits and might be comfortable with many of the things and ways we currently purchase, changing even one to a more sustainable source or product can make a big impact in the long run. If we change one thing at a time in a time frame that works for us, and teach our children to make the most sustainable choices they can in the life they have, we can continue caring for our planet one person at a time.

Sustainable Kids Clothes – Where to Buy, What to Buy

When buying sustainable kids clothes, it’s hard to know where to turn. While there are many more options now than there were even a few years ago, it’s still sometimes difficult to know whether or not a brand is truly sustainable, or if just parts of their process are eco-friendly (to know the difference, check out this post here).

In addition to that, many big-brand clothing companies are not conscious as to where their material comes from, and are unaware that it could be harming others. For example many cotton fields in foreign countries use child labor, and not necessarily willing or paid child labor. While this may not be the case for all big brands, unless a company is certified or open about their sourcing it’s hard to know who sources from where. Afterall they are first and foremost businesses, and likely buy the cheapest, mass-produced materials for their mass-produced clothing.

So, we have broken down different methods and companies to make your go-to guide for sustainable kids’ clothes!

Earth Hero: Ages 0-13

Earth Hero is our number one favorite brand overall for sustainable kids clothes! They carry truly sustainable clothing for ages 0-13 (and for adults!), as well as toys, footwear, water bottles, and more.

What makes them “truly sustainable”? First off, they are a certified B Corporation! (Read this for a better understanding of B Corp) That says a lot. They source their materials from renewable, recycled, upcycled, organic sources; they pay fair wages to their workers who hand-make the clothing; they have carbon-neutral shipping; they make products that are either meant to be composted or recycled, and the products that can’t be either they BUY back and upcycle — thus, their waste and carbon footprint are incredibly low. How cool is that?! That makes this mama super happy. 🙂

Purchase from Earth Hero

Pros: A truly sustainable company! They carry clothing, toys, shoes, accessories, and more for all ages.

Cons: Not much variety within kids clothing yet.

Little Emperor: Ages 2-8yr

Little Emperor is a company dedicated specifically to sustainable children’s clothing, and has some seriously cute prints! They have dresses, short-sleeve shirts, and long-sleeve shirts, and like many sustainable/eco-friendly clothing companies, don’t have too large of a variety. Some may see this as a drawback, but I like that there aren’t many options; I tend to be minimalist and don’t buy an excess of clothes, and fewer options makes my shopping experience easier and faster. 🙂

They are a company that is conscious of their impact on where they source materials, ensuring everyone along the way gets paid a living wage and has good working conditions. They use organic materials, renewable energy, and even bank with a bank that doesn’t use fossil fuels! They also take the material scraps and make them into blankets to reduce waste.

Purchase from Little Emperor

Pros: Super cute clothes for kids; good prices; fully sustainable!

Cons: No real cons! 🙂 They are based in Australia which (depending on where you are based) may take longer to ship — also, because they are based in AU, remember to change the currency in the upper left-hand corner to your currency (AUD is more $$ than USD).

Boody: NB-18mo

Boody has clothes for men, women, and babies. They source their material from bamboo, a fast-growing resource which makes it a sustainable. They also test for phthalates and heavy metals in their clothing, and stay away from unsafe dyes and chemicals.

Using bamboo for clothing (and other products) is a very sustainable alternative, as bamboo grows rapidly, takes little water use (compared to trees and cotton), and there is no need for fertilizers or pesticides! Making bamboo a naturally organic material that saves water, health, and money.

Purchase from Boody

Pros: Soft; made from a sustainable, organic resource; vegan.

Cons: Only clothes for babies, no older kids.

Sense Organics: Ages 18mo-8yr

Sense Organics is a great option for eco-friendly kids’ clothing. They don’t detail much about their production or any kind of waste management, but they do have a Fair Trade certification (meaning the makers of their materials and clothing get paid fair wages), and use only organic textiles. They have cute, minimalist options for kids, babies, and women, as well as toys. I can’t give any firsthand recommendation, but have heard from others they are comfy, quality clothes!

Purchase from Sense Organics

Pros: Conscious of quality of materials and fair wages in production.

Cons: Not necessarily “sustainable”.

All ages: Buy secondhand

Many people say that one of the best ways to buy susainable kids clothes is secondhand. Consigned clothes are typically good quality and lightly used, and even though they were likely not made sustainably, it is a sustainable practice to save them from landfill while they are still wearable.

On top of that, there is no manufacturing involved in the piece of clothing you buy; manufacturing clothing can produce a lot of waste and pollution.

Thus, buying secondhand instead of firshand can save money and be a great sustainable solution!

HOWEVER, I tend to disagree with this to a degree, because I believe if we are buying exclusively from consignment stores then we aren’t supporing the clothing companies that have taken the step to be revolutionary; to change the way we source, produce, and wear clothing.

Also, lots of popular kids clothing contains flame-resistant chemicals, synthetic dyes, and pesticides which can all be harmful to our children’s health.

Pros: No manufacturing involved; good quality; likely cheaper prices.

Cons: Materials are typically not organic and do contain toxins; we aren’t supporting brands trying to make a difference; we aren’t supporting the fairly-paid workers who either gather materials or make the sustainable clothing.

Where to buy secondhand:

– Your local kids’ consignment store

– Online consignment stores like ThredUP

– Yardsales

Facebook Marketplace

Conclusion

While we do enjoy consignment shopping, there are pros and cons to purchasing secondhand. It is based on individual preference and finances, but we believe a mix of purchasing secondhand and purchasing sustainably firsthand is the best practice for our family.

There are various companies that make truly sustainable kids clothing, but tend to only make clothing for specific ages. Some other brands also aren’t fully “sustainable” but do still fall under the ethical and eco-friendly category.

Where do you buy your clothing? Do you love other sustainable sources we haven’t mentioned? We love hearing from you, so let us know in the comments below! 🙂