Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wrap your baby up in renewable resources

The clothes, blankets, and bibs that surround a baby during early developmental phases are safer when sourced from renewable resources.

With that button nose and those big pudgy cheeks, is your baby swaddled in renewable resources? Baby clothes fly into the market with adorable animals designs and favorite cartoon characters, yet what we may not realize is what’s woven into the fabric. The majority of clothes on the market today are made with synthetic materials or harvested through a process extremely dependent upon them. So although a baby’s physical footprint is small, the footprint of their clothes, blankets, and bibs may be obscenely high. We typically choose baby clothes and products based on their “softness”, an important thing for our precious little ones. This has resulted in an array of cotton, bamboo, and synthetic fabrics. Let’s take a look at what that means for your baby and our environment.

Cotton requires an intense amount of pesticides when conventionally harvested. This dependency keeps it from being truly one of the renewable resources that we look for when designing green lifestyles. Outside of just the harvesting and environmental impact of conventional cotton, is the possible impact on your baby. There are a limited number of studies reviewing chemicals used on crops and their subsequent health impacts when manufactured into something that sits consistently close to the human body. At present, there are few conclusive studies but when you think it through you can understand the possibility.

With millions of gallons of pesticide being used to maintain productive cotton crops, the plant will intake a portion of those chemicals. Studies continue to come out on our “chemical body burden” explaining how chemical exposures through the air, body products, clothes and our environment actually cause the build-up of chemicals in our systems. During the fragile developmental stages of a baby, it would be wise to swaddle, dress, and feed them in clothes that are free from these chemicals. Two simple solutions are buying organic cotton, which can be harvested and made in the US and is a more true renewable resource. Organic bamboo, which is almost always a product of Southeast Asia, is another option and is considered a renewable resource because of its quick growth cycle. They both promise reduced chemical exposure for your baby, and a significantly lower ecological cost.

Synthetic materials, such as polyester are also on the rise. As we become increasingly more adept at creating softer and lighter fabrics the options expand significantly. Yet most of these synthetic ingredients are byproduct of petroleum or other crude manufacturing processes. After learning about harmful offgasing of certain materials, Europe and the United States have put in place higher standards on what can be utilized in clothing. But as our chemical manipulations grow exponentially, it is difficult for regulating bodies to keep up. Personally, I stay away from synthetic materials as often as possible since the health risks are understudied and their resource use can be astronomical. It is very dependent upon the type of material used, how it is manufactured, and where it was originally sourced.

So keep your little one safe with organic cotton and bamboo fibers.

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