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I’m a mommy-to-be. Is it better for the environment to buy new, organic baby clothes or to purchase used clothes. —Elizabeth Freyman
Both choices you present are environmentally sound, but used clothes top the green list. If you consider the entire life cycle of an item from production to disposal, it’s always best to reuse or recycle by buying secondhand. When you do buy new, however (and who can resist at least a few fresh items for a brand-new baby?) buying certified organic natural fibers—cotton, wool and/or linen—supports growing methods that will keep the planet healthier for all our children.
Conventional cotton, in particular, is a very dirty crop. It ranks third in pesticide use in the U.S., after corn and soy. If every American chose one organic instead of a non-organic cotton T-shirt, we’d keep 250,000 tons of chemicals out of our air, water, and soil.
For a baby’s sensitive skin, I also recommend seeking clothing without dye or water- or moth-resistant treatments that may contain formaldehyde and the Teflon-type chemicals that have been linked to developmental problems in infants.
Before your baby shower, make it clear that you prefer certified organic wool and cotton clothes or polyester outerwear made from recycled plastic bottles.
Mindy Pennybacker regularly answers readers' green-living questions. She is also editor of GreenerPenny.com and author of Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices.