As a green parent you'll experience many challenges: how to get everyone to recycle, how to serve organic food on a budget, how to sort out which sunscreen is safe and more. None of these challenges are insurmountable however. What IS impossible, if you happen to be a green advocate with a son, is finding eco clothing for boys. In fact, of all the eco-peeves I have, the utter lack of sustainable clothing for boys is probably number 1 on my list. Consider this: as a long-time eco-blogger and environmental advocate, I've got dozens of green-minded clothing stores bookmarked on my laptop. Guess how many carry a lot of sustainable clothing that might, emphasis on MIGHT fit my 12 year- old son Cedar and appeal to him design-wise? About 8... maybe. As a new parent, clothing is easy because a dizzying array of stores carry wonderful sustainable baby clothes for boys and girls. However, by the time your son is size 6 or 8 you're lucky to find a few decent sustainable clothing shops catering to boys. Once your son hits 10 or older, you're seriously out of luck. You're not going to find even ONE full collection of sustainable clothing for boys age 10 through the teen years. This makes normal stuff, like back-to-school eco-shopping really tough. As a parent trying to help other parents of boys, I've got a few suggestions about how to handle this, so keep reading.
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Don’t you have better things to complain about?
If you’re an adult with tons of options or a parent of a baby or toddler, finding sustainable clothing is no big deal because stores cater to your needs. Finding eco-clothing IS a huge deal to me though because I have a 12 year old son and we have almost zero options. My son and I work hard to buy green products, use reusable water bottles, eat organic and recycle, so why shouldn’t my son get the same green clothing options as everyone else? Doesn’t it seem odd to encourage your kid to be green when he can’t even dress green? Plus, clearly sustainable clothing is better if your family’s goal is to live green. Every eco-clothing company website out there spits out pages of information about why you should wear organic, hemp, bamboo or another eco-material vs. conventional. Eco-clothing companies boast about their commitment to environmentally sound production, Fair Trade, safe water-based inks and so much more that your head will spin. None of their claims are false either. Eco-friendly clothing is better for people, the planet and the workplace environment.
Yet, if eco-friendly clothing is so awesome, why aren’t eco-companies committed to offering clothing for kids past the toddler age? It’s like sustainable clothing companies think boys deserve clothing until about age 8 then should run around naked until they hit adulthood, unless they want to wear clothing that’s swimming in chemicals and made with zero ethics. I have no idea where sustainable clothing companies got the brilliant idea to offer clothing to just three age groups - baby, toddler and adults, I just know that they do and it’s extremely frustrating to know that kids 10 to teen matter so little to the eco-clothing companies of the world.
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Is there anything parents of boys can do?
I’ve been complaining about this on and off for years, and no one listens to little old me. However, if parents band together, sometimes amazing things happen – like pink slime gets banned from schools. Send sustainable clothing companies letters, call or email and tell them you have a son age 8 to 18 who would like sustainable clothing. You can also blog about it, or post complaints on companies Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Be sure to be specific when complaining to clothing companies. When I’ve been lucky enough to come across organic tees for boys aged 10+ they usually have big cartoonish animal designs or silly logos plastered across them or come in little kid pastel colors. I’ve got two tweens and one teen living at my house, all of them with many friends, and I know for a fact that older kids and teens do not want pastel toddler clothing in bigger sizes, they want clothes that are cool and match their age. My son, for instance, understands the benefits of eco-clothing, and he’s willing to go green, but his rational doesn’t expand to the point where he’s willing to wear a pastel shirt with a friendly smiling elephant on it. He wants the kinds of tees they have at “cool” shops, like Threadless or Exit Real World.
Also point out to companies that you’d like affordable sustainable clothing. Eco-clothing should cost a little more than conventional, for many good reasons. However, when I’ve come across clothing for older kids, it’s always insanely expensive, and not by a sensible amount, but seriously hopped up to beyond affordable unless you’re a millionaire. On the next few pages I’ve listed some of your better options when it comes to outfitting your elementary to teenage son in sustainable attire.