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Dress For the Future

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More than 60 Canadian municipalities are currently developing antipesticide bylaw.

More than 60 Canadian municipalities are currently developing antipesticide bylaws. But, considering the impact of large-scale agricultural operations, are we missing the big picture?

Many parents will breathe a sigh of relief this year as their kids go out to play in chemical-free parks and private yards. Just beyond our own backyards, however, the clothing industry contributes massive quantities of pesticides to our soil and water every year.

Natural Fibres?

Are you wearing cotton right now? Consider this statistic: one pound of synthetic agricultural chemicals is used to grow the cotton required for just three t-shirts. Imagine the environmental impact of three million t-shirts or 30 million. Cotton crops alone account for 25 percent of the world's pesticide use. Cotton natural? Think again. Of course, petroleum-derived synthetics are not the answer, either.

Parents looking for an ecologically sound alternative ought to consider dressing their children (and themselves) in organic cotton or hemp.

The range of organic clothing available in Canada has grown rapidly in recent years, and children's clothing has been part of that trend. Not only is ecological kids' clothing more widely available, but gone are the days when having a conscience meant having to dress your child in beige from head to toe. Today's organic clothing manufacturers are blending both style and colour in their products. Canadians are leading the way, creating fun and funky designs for eco-conscious babies and kids.

Moms With a Mission

One of the joys of buying organic cotton is in supporting small, ethical companies whose staff uses the products they make. Linda Bowen of Sooke, British Columbia, was inspired to give her newborn a chemical-free start to life. Linda founded Sage Creek Naturals (sagecreeknaturals.com) which manufactures a wide range of children's clothing, all made from 100-percent organic cotton, free of heavy metals, formaldehyde, and pesticides. Dragonfly-printed sleepers and funky striped pants are among the offerings for the zero to 24-month set.

Many organic clothing manufacturers are, in fact, parents like Linda, whose companies have evolved in response to their own needs. Designer Nancy Watt of New Organic, based in Toronto, Ontario, was struggling to find the perfect fabric for her baby's organic sleepers, footed pants, and blankets. In the end, she had fabric made to her personal specifications, and has created a line of baby clothing out of her exclusive, softer-than-soft, organic rib-knit fabric.

Allergy-sufferer Lesley Roberts of Roberts Creek, British Columbia, also built her company in response to her family's needs. Lesley started Hankettes in 1996, and replaced her boxes of paper tissues with reusable organic cotton handkerchiefs (hankettes.com). Today, her product line includes reusable mom and baby products such as nursing pads, baby bath mitts, and receiving blankets. Lesley's most ingenious product is surely the Reusable Wet Wipe Kit, a vinyl-zippered 10-pack of organic cotton baby wipes with a bottle of herbal wet-wipe solution. Parents who use this kit will avoid tossing out thousands of bleached, synthetic, single-use baby wipes during their child's infancy.

Hip in Hemp

Organic cotton isn't the only natural fibre for eco-kids. Hemp is continuing its comeback as the fibre of the past and the future, as more people understand that it isn't marijuana. Hemp is the oldest and strongest natural fibre known, its use having been recorded as early as 8000 B.C. Ecologically, hemp is a solid choice it grows well without chemical maintenance and restores nitrogen to the soil.

This isn't to say that all hemp fibre is grown organically, although more and more certified organic hemp is appearing on the market. As the market continues to evolve, organic cotton-hemp blends are replacing the conventional blends that are commonly used. Of The Earth (oftheearth.com) is leading the adult clothing industry in this regard as they work towards certifying their hemp fields.

While hemp has ecological benefits, it is the unique properties of the fibre that have drawn the interest of manufacturers. Little Star Babyslings, out of Fredericton, New Brunswick (starslings.com), uses a sturdy hemp-cotton fabric to make simple, functional baby slings that have eight times the tensile strength of cotton. Hemp's antibacterial quality makes it the fibre of choice for Ecomum, based in Peterborough, Ontario (ecomum.com), which manufactures hemp-cotton diapers in both prefolded and fitted styles.

So, as you send your children out to play on your naturally weed-free lawn this fall, consider the other pieces of the puzzle. Whether it is for the health of your child or for the health of our planet, natural fibre options are the best choice for our collective future.

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