The Clothes That Make The WorldTonight I decided to take my consumer power to the next level.  As you know, we started down the path towards responsible spending this summer and learned how to better focus our grocery dollars.  (For more information, check out Spend Responsibly: GoodGuide Your Groceries)  But groceries are just a small part of spending, aren’t they?  I mean, we are aware that the most environmentally reponsible thing to do is to re-use what’s already in existence; however, sometimes we need to buy things.  Even – yes I’m saying it – new things.

Tonight I scratched at the surface of our spending.  I went to our usual spending research starting point – GoodGuide – and started to look up some of the things we currently need.  I started with kids’ clothing retailers.

Much of the time, we dress our kids in hand-me-downs.  In a pinch, we order Carter’s or head to Old Navy.  Last year, I went online and ordered an entire summer wardrobe from Carter’s and had it shipped to my parents in Florida so that they could bring it to us before summertime.  I distinctly remember congratulating myself on how much volume I was able to order for only $200.

And now I know why.  Unfortunately, Carter’s, Incorporated scores an astonishing 3.9 overall according to GoodGuide.  (Yes – out of 10)  That’s WAY below average.  The environmental rating is only 3.3 and the comment actually says, “This company’s environmental policies, practices and performance place it among the worst/bottom 15% of companies rated by GoodGuide.”  Yikes!  Well, goodbye to Carter’s and OshKosh.  (A single tear spills over.)

Next up, Old Navy.  Luckily, Old Navy is owned by The Gap, Incorporated.  (They also own Banana Republic, Athleta and Piperlime.)  I was actually a little surprised to learn that The Gap scored an even 6 on GoodGuide.  It seems they have a ways to go in terms of “Biodiversity” and “Compliance”, but overall, this is good enough for me.

What scored better?  Shockingly, along with some of the more crunchy brands like Patagonia, Hae Now and Maggie’s Organics, Dockers and Levis were at the top of the list with overall scores of 7.8.  For ladies looking to head out, Zara and H&M fared well, in my opinion.

For children specifically,  I wasn’t really pleased with any of the retailers.  Little Marc Jacobs and Baby Soy topped the list, but still scored only a 5.8 and 5.7 respectively.  I mean, I’d likely not walk away based on this rating, but I’m not sure I’d choose them over the more affordable Gap or Old Navy, especially knowing that they scored slightly lower.  (I previously justified spending more on Baby Soy because I thought I was contributing to sustainability.  Darn marketing gets me every time!)

What to avoid?  Along with Carter’s, I was surprised to see that Polo Ralph Lauren scored attrociously along with Giorgio Armani and Liz Claiborne.  Even 7 For All Mankind didn’t score too well.  (It seems like they’re really “7 For Some Mankind” – sorry – couldn’t resist.)

Like always, tonight I feel that I won some and I lost some.  Did I win more than I lost?  Certainly.  I’ll now actually feel good shopping at Old Navy or Zara or The Gap – not wondering in the back of my head if I’m supporting child labor in a far off country while I attempt to dress my kids in the season’s latest.  And I’ll let go of Carter’s.  Maybe I’ll even find a new source of hand-me-downs.  Now that would be really good.

Image: Stuart Miles /

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Just a small town mom trying to make the world a better place for my kids. One small change at a time.

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