Are Secondhand Baby Clothes Greener than Organic Ones?

Here’s a green idea that works for me: I buy all of my child’s clothes at secondhand stores.  It seems like lately I keep hearing about expensive organic cotton onesies and bamboo socks.  While it’s great to support companies who use sustainable products, why not just buy clothes at a consignment shop?  I’ve found so many cute things—many of them from mainstream manufacturers like Old Navy, the Gap, and Gymboree–for much less than retail.  In fact, I have never paid more than eight dollars for an item of clothing.  (My limit used to be six dollars, but then I splurged on an adorable eight-dollar bunny sweater!)

Are you worried that pesticides and chemicals from non-organic clothing will irritate baby’s skin?  I have to say that I’m not, but another bonus of used clothing is that once it’s been washed several times, less pesticide and chemical residue remains on the fabric.

The Children’s Exchange in Portland, Oregon

I usually go to consignment shops for my baby clothing, as I appreciate the selection.  However, it’s much less expensive to buy kids’ clothes at thrift stores.  Garage sales supposedly boast even cheaper wares (I am not a garage saler myself!).  I’ve also heard of people scoring huge lots of clothes from eBay or Craigslist.  Lastly, don’t forget the best way to acquire used clothing: hand-me-downs!  Audrey is fortunate to have older cousins who pass on their outgrown garments.

I’d venture to say that acquiring secondhand clothes is better for the environment than buying new organic duds.  Whenever Audrey needs a wardrobe update, we walk on over to Portland’s The Children’s Exchange (pictured) and pick out whatever she needs.  I get to support a local company and dress my daughter in deceptively eco-friendly fashions.

Fill us in on your used clothing adventures or brag about a great deal by posting a comment!  And for more Works for Me Wednesday tips, head on over to Rocks in My Dryer. 


  1. I am absolutely all about buying used. Everyone in my household gets as much used clothing as possible, it is rare than we purchase new. I just cannot do it with the amount of perfectly good clothing out there and the amount of money that I save our household.

    Here are a couple of my baby clothes finds in two trips at a couple of Value Village thrift stores. I happened to hit both days on 1/2 off baby clothes sales, and everything I got was in pristine condition, no wear at all, and the most I may have paid for an item was $1.
    This was about $12
    And that was maybe $8?

    I do think it’s better environmentally to reuse, that’s one of the big 3!

  2. Since my friends have started having kids I’ve hit up some garage sales. I have found the best deals! Some of the items I’ve picked up still have tags on them. Babies/Kids grow out of clothes so fast. When I have kids- garage sales is were I’ll be- getting 5 outfits for $5. Where else can you beat that!? As you can see I’m very excited about my new find :)

  3. I dress my kids almost exclusively in 2nd hand clothes. I really like gymboree and baby gap style, but can’t bring myself to pay full price for it. Since I pay less I also don’t get as upset when she spills spaghetti sauce all over herself (which happens a lot!).

  4. I buy most of my son’s clothing from thrift store and consignment shops, too! Occassionally I’ll get a gift card and buy new clothes, but mostly it’s used used used! (Actually, sometimes I find brand new items at the thrift stores!) Not only is it cheaper, I do agree with you that it is better for the environment!

    I have never ventured to purchase clothes on ebay or craigslist. It just seems like a lot of work for clothes that you can’t touch first hand! One thing that I like about going to thrift stores is that you can really examine stuff before buying it. I have purchased so many top-quality (even Polo and other designers!) clothes for my son (and sometimes even myself!) like-new things from the thrift store that I just wouldn’t feel comfortable having to trust someone else who says it’s “like-new!”

  5. I get most of my daughter’s clothing through hand-me-downs, consignment stores and e-bay. Don’t be intimidated by e-bay! Once you win one auction and figure it out, it is soooo easy and actually pretty fun. I have bought several brand new items and like new items for $1, there is shipping however, so you just have to determine if the item is worth it to you. By far though, I think hand-me-downs are the best, recently my cousin gave me 16 boxes of her daughter’s clothing!!! We are set for awhile and so are my friends because my daughter will never be able to wear all of them herself.

  6. I love getting used clothes for my girls. It’s like a treasure hunt to go to the resale stores and see what I can find. I also have been blessed with many hand me downs. I also once got a great deal from craigslist. I went to the woman’s home and went through all that she had, which was a lot, picking what I wanted. It came out to about $1 each, can’t beat that!

  7. Wow, everyone is making me look downright extravagant with my $8 sweater. Maybe I should tighten the purse strings a bit and keep my eyes out for those $1 steals!

  8. We love thrift stores and I love that for our generation it is something we can do with pride. We feel like treasure hunters when we find great things which we always do. The last time we went to Value Village, I got my daughter 4 adorable, name brand outfits in perfect condition for all of $20. One of these was an expensive boutique outfit that would have been well over a hundred new. The clerk at Value Village told me that they have upper limits on pricing for each department. So even if something is an antique or high-end designer, you won’t pay more than a certain amount (for the children’s dept it was 6.99).

  9. Wanted to add – buying used clothing is way better fro the environment than the newer “green” products which still have to be produced, shipped, packaged, etc. and are still using a resource, renewable or not. There is plenty of existing clothing which can be obtained locally. Environmental impact? The store space, the car which dropped off the donation (local) and the little price tag.

  10. I have recently launched a website when New Zealand parents can swap kids’ clothing, toys & accessories online. There seems to be a lot of interest so far.

  11. I know from first hand that organic cotton clothing is a great way to naturally alleviate some skin conditions.

    That is an easy call since conventional methods of cotton production use such harsh chemicals.

    I have heard some varying numbers on the amount, but everyone agrees the chemicals just are bad for the earth and us.

    “Traditional cotton production also attributes to 25% of worldwide insecticide use and 10% of worldwide pesticide use.”

  12. Ha! Easily one of the better things I’ve read today. Thanks!

  13. Organic clothing isn’t as much about the environment as it is about personal health.

    I absolutely support buying used for the environment!! I shop Goodwill and Value Village for almost everything, especially clothing. But for my baby’s clothes I’m a bit pickier. I still prefer to buy used, and so far that’s all I’ve done but it takes longer! I’ve been flipping through racks and racks of baby clothes at consignment shops. I look at the tags before even looking at how cute the outfit is or what size it is. I’m looking for the words ”100% organic”. If that magical phrase appears *then* I look at what’s in my hand and decide if I want to buy it.

    So yes to second hand! And yes to organics! 😀
    Two relatively separate concerns and both very valid, imo. -suzi.

  14. I just wanted to add that there’s more to the pesticide issue than we like to think. Assuming that chemicals can be washed out or worn out after many washings is a dangerous mistruth.

    That is very like thinking that pesticides can be washed off the surface of non-organic fruits and vegetables. Crops are watered with pesticides… this water infuses and becomes the seeds, roots, leaves and grains. If the water is poisoned the individual plants will be too. Pesticides become a part of the grain or fabric and that will never become undone. It’s not a surface issue like dirt smudges on leaves.

    The word pesticide doesn’t usually register to most consumers as poison but that’s exactly what it is. They are toxins used to kill off small pests. They don’t kill us immediately because we are so many times bigger than the insects and rodents they’re aimed at but if they are used to kill things smaller than us how can we think low doses will be ‘healthy enough’ to eat or wear constantly. Especially for our small bodies babies and kids.

    Our skin is also not a solid barrier. What rubs onto our skin goes deep into the levels of tissue and into our bloodstream. Sleeping on and wearing non-organic clothing has an effect on our health, minimal as it may be it’s the ugly truth of standard American commercial clothing.

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