But this year parents have more choices when it comes to eco-friendly options--and some of the biggest retailers are making organic cotton clothing (http://www.naturallysavvy.com/naturally-green/eco-living/beauty-a-fashion/598-wear-your-eco-heart-on-your-sleeve) more affordable than ever before.
Not only has organic cotton clothing hit the mainstream, the biggest brands and retailers are some of its biggest champions. According to the Organic Exchange (http://www.organicexchange.org/), an organization that promotes organic cotton farming, Wal-Mart, Nike, and H&M are among the top 10 worldwide brands or sellers of organic cotton, and the organic cotton market continues to grow, with most planning to expand their organic cotton lines to an average of 33 percent of their product by 2010.
"It is a sign of the times that despite ominous financial forecasts, brands and retailers are standing fast to their commitment to making their product lines more sustainable by increasing their use of organic cotton," says LaRhea Pepper, Organic Exchange senior director.
Choosing to purchase organic cotton clothing for your kids may seem insignificant in the face of global warming or energy use, but the environmental benefits are actually substantial.
Conventional cotton production consumes 25 percent of all insecticides and 10 percent of all pesticides used throughout the world, according to the Organic Exchange (http://www.organicexchange.org/), but cotton is grown on just 2.4 percent of the world's arable land.
In California alone, 5.8 million pounds of chemicals were used on cotton farms in 2005, according to the Sustainable Cotton Project (http://www.sustainablecotton.org/), an organization that brings together farmers, manufacturers and consumers of organic cotton--and the sunshine state is only responsible for 10 to 14 percent of yearly U.S. cotton production (http://www.ccgga.org/cotton_information/calif_cotton.html).
Not only does conventional cotton growing use a disproportionately high amount of chemicals, almost half of the pesticides used in cotton farming are designated hazardous by the World Health Organization, and according to the Environmental Justice Foundation (http://www.ejfoundation.org/page327.html), just one teaspoon of Aldicarb (http://www.pesticide.org/aldicarb.pdf), the number two pesticide used in cotton production, can kill an adult.
These chemicals also cause secondary environmental effects. Many cotton pesticides, herbicides and insecticides are easily absorbed by rainwater and are carried into streams, rivers, lakes and oceans. Pesticides are also a significant source of greenhouse gases, which is a major cause of global warming (http://www.naturallysavvy.com/naturally-green/climate-change/879-global-warming).
Going organic has two benefits: It eliminates the use of toxic chemicals and promotes biodiversity, which is key to a healthy ecosystem. Many organic farmers rotate crops to keep the soil healthy, and some farmers grow trap crops alongside their cotton fields to divert pests, and others plant a strip of alfalfa because a problem pest, Lygus, actually prefers alfalfa.
To put pesticide use in perspective, it takes about one-quarter to one-third of a pound of chemical pesticides and fertilizers to produce just one t-shirt. Purchasing four organic cotton t-shirts means a pound of chemicals did not enter the ecosystem.
Choosing organic cotton clothing for your kids also affords the opportunity to teach your kids how to make eco-friendly, sustainable (http://www.naturallysavvy.com/naturally-green/climate-change/1032-toward-sustainability-make-a-difference-in-the-push-for-a-sustainable-future) choices that work for them and won't cost you an arm and a leg.