My online sustainable kids brand, My Little Green Wardrobe, has made it to its first birthday! And it's been quite a journey.
Within the space of a year, I’ve gone from being a mother of two young children with a steady job (and steady income), to the owner of a sustainable business start-up in ethical childrenswear.
I have no background in fashion. I was not an expert in the sustainability sector. I know nothing of e-commerce or business strategy.
So what prompted such madness?? Well, it started with a pair of wellies.
Why Set Up a Sustainable Kids Brand?
My name is Lucy. I am 40 years old and live in Maidenhead in Berkshire. I own and run the website My Little Green Wardrobe - which sells more sustainable baby and children’s clothing.
I learned of the impact the textile and fashion industry was having on the environment in my job at BBC News.
The fashion industry is the third largest manufacturing sector in the world. It is also one of the most carbon-intensive and heavily-polluting industries, however.
It is also responsible for some of the most appalling working conditions in the world - with child labour and forced labour among the litany of abuses.
The Role of Fast Fashion
The change towards fast fashion over recent years has only made these problems worse.
According to waste reduction organisation Wrap, the global production of clothing doubled between 2000 and 2015.
We buy around 60% more clothes than we did at the beginning of the century. And here in the UK we buy more clothes than any other country in Europe.
Meanwhile the average number of times clothing is actually worn has fallen by more than a third (at 36%) - with some suggestions that the average number of times a garment is worn before it’s thrown out is just five.
All this has meant an estimated 11 million garments are sent to landfill or incinerated each week in the UK alone. Some of them never worn.
These shocking statistics made me realise I couldn't continue to shop in the same way any more.
Cutting down on my personal clothing consumption was relatively easy - I already own a whole wardrobe of clothes that fit me.
But things weren't quite so straight forwards for my children. The problem with them is that they grow. ALL. THE. TIME!!
When I tried to shop more ethically for them, however, I found it extremely difficult. Deciphering which were the ethical kids brands from those that were greenwashing was hard.
When my eldest daughter was starting school I was supplied with a list of items needed for reception. This included a pair of wellies and a puddlesuit.
It broke my heart to buy more virgin plastic that would be worn a handful of times before being consigned to landfill.
So, I set about trying to buy items with a lower impact - that were either second hand or made from more sustainable materials.
It took me a whole afternoon to buy those two products from a sustainable kids brand I was happy with.
I’d gone down so many internet rabbit warrens, checking out not only the ethos of a clothing label, but where they manufactured; who made the clothes; what the item was made of etc.
Each time, I found the product or the brand weren’t quite as planet-friendly as they made themselves out to be.
A Home for Ethical Kids Brands
How could it be so hard to try to buy better? Why wasn’t there a website that sold only ethical and more sustainable kids' clothing from pre-vetted brands?
And when I eventually bought that pair of wellies (from a Swedish sustainable kids brand), I decided in that instant, that’s what I would do.
My Little Green Wardrobe sells only clothing brands that act more ethically than the current norm, so that busy parents can shop safe in the knowledge they are immediately doing some good both for the planet and the people on it.
Shop According to your own Values!
Shoppers can filter items according to the values most important to them - including the environment, fair labour, vegan issues etc.
As My Little Green Wardrobe hits its first birthday, my sustainable kids brand and I have both come a long way since that first pair of wellies - when I felt like I needed a degree in materials science to understand the information some of the brands were giving.
I’ve tried to make sustainability accessible so shoppers can actually understand what the brands they support are doing to improve their impact across the whole supply chain.
And don’t just take my word for it. Whether it’s organic cotton or recycled materials, all the brands I work with are certified - or use materials certified - by third party organisations that guarantee both environmental and social criteria.
What I've learned after a year running a sustainable kids brand...
What I've learned on my journey so far is that there is no perfectly ‘sustainable’ item. Everything has its own impact - we’re looking for progression, not perfection.
I’ve also learned that what I lack in knowledge, I make up for in passion. And, if in doubt, to fall back on my old journalistic training: to ask questions.
And, if you’re interested in shopping more sustainably - whether it's from an ethical kids brand, or any other brand - that’s what I'd urge you to do too: ask questions.
After all, without transparency, there can be no sustainability.