By Melissa Hincha-Ownby on August 04, 2010

Hand-me-downs and repurposed fabrics are the new fad in children's clothing.

When you think about recycled children’s clothing, thoughts of secondhand stores and hand-me-downs may come to mind. Passing on your children’s clothes once they’ve outgrown them is a great way to help reduce the amount of “stuff” we have in our world. However, recycled children’s clothing goes beyond a second life for that favorite T-shirt and extends to products that are crafted from recycled fabric.

Unlike recycled children’s toys, which are relatively easy to find, kid’s clothes made from recycled products are typically sold by specialty retailers or are only available in limited applications. One company that is leading the way in the recycled clothing industry is Patagonia. Patagonia is probably most known for its expansive line of outdoor apparel, but it also offers a children’s line.

The Patagonia children’s line includes sweaters that have a 100% recycled polyester shell. This fabric is made from a variety of sources, including used plastic soda bottles, previously used garments that are worn out and second-quality fabrics. That’s right, plastic bottles can even be recycled into eco-friendly clothing.

In addition to offering children’s clothing made from post-consumer recycled content, Patagonia also encourages consumers to recycle their own clothing. The company’s Common Threads Recycling Program allows consumers to trade in their old and unusable Patagonia items so that they can be recycled into new products.

The important part of this program is that the clothing must be absolutely worn out and unusable. If there is life left in that product but you no longer want or need it, donate it to a charity so that someone else can get use out of it. But, if the item is completely worn out, Patagonia wants it back, regardless of its age.

This means that if you are a mom of four boys, there is a good chance that the beloved organic cotton Patagonia T-shirt will be worn out when your youngest is done with it. Instead of turning it into a cleaning rag, send it to Patagonia, where the company will recycle it into a new and fully usable product, in turn starting the shirt’s life cycle over again.

Big-name companies like Patagonia aren’t the only ones in the recycled kids clothing business; small business owners and even crafty mommas are in the business as well. One of the best sites to browse is Etsy, and it isn't surprising to see recycled kids clothing among their offerings.

One Etsy store that had some cute items is Little Overcoat. This momma’s products are cute but eco-conscious as well. She crafts items that are made out of recycled, upcycled and even repurposed fabrics.

While recycled kids’ clothing is harder to find than organic clothing, the products are out there and all you have to do is spend a little extra time looking for them. My guess is that in just a few years we will be able to find recycled kid’s clothes next to organic kid’s clothes at all the major retailers.

About the author

Melissa Hincha-Ownby is a freelance writer based in Arizona. She writes about a variety of environmental topics, including green business, green building, eco-friendly vehicles, the importance of a green economy and raising two eco-conscious children.


In addition to writing about the environment, Melissa's other writing passion is special needs parenting. As the mother of two children with special health care needs, she knows the importance of providing support and information to other families on a similar parenting journey.

Learn more about Melissa Hincha-Ownby


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