Want to outfit the family for some outdoor summer fun? Want that gear to be as green as the fields and forests you’re playing in?

How’s it made?

“Fair Trade” is a certification that we should always look for since most of our products are made, at some stage of the manufacturing process, overseas. As labour standards and regulations vary tremendously from nation to nation, it is important to know whether farmers or factory workers were paid fair wages and worked in safe and healthy conditions. Many companies disclose where and how their products were made, and make this information readily accessible on their websites. If such information is not easy to find, it may mean that they have something to hide. If an item is “Fair Trade” certified, you can feel more confident in the ethics of your purchase.

What’s it made of?

First let’s take a look at the two most widely used green options in textiles: organic and recycled. “Certified Organic” means that no toxic and persistent pesticides and/or synthetic fertilizers were used to make the material. It has a much lighter environmental footprint than its conventional counterpart. Cotton requires a large amount of toxic chemicals to grow – about 1/3 of a pound of chemicals are used to make just one cotton t-shirt. Conventional cotton happens to be one of the world’s most environmentally unfriendly crops, accounting for roughly 25% of the world’s use of insecticides. In many cases, these chemicals are applied to the cotton plant in a way that is unsafe to the cotton farmers, thus impacting their health as well. Organic cotton is definitely a greener and more ethical alternative.

We have all become familiar with our local recycling programs and the products that can be made from our “garbage.” For example, our used paper products are recycled into post consumer recycled paper, picture frames and handbags. Our recycled plastic materials are turned into pop bottles, auto parts, and shopping bags, to name a few. What you might not know is that the fashion industry is also working with recycled materials, mostly in the form of recycled polyester (from plastic bottles), recycled cotton taken from previously used cotton, and rubber tires are even being used to make the soles of shoes. You might also hear the term “up-cycling” - this is where old apparel is reworked into something new, like new clothing, toys, or accessories. This is a great way to save an item that is otherwise destined for a landfill - and when you consider that the average Canadian puts seven pounds of textiles into landfills each year, it is a great way to be more eco-conscious!

Where’s it made?

Where our textile goods are made is just as important to consider when determining if a product is “eco” or ethical as the materials from which they’re crafted. A product made locally can often mean a smaller carbon footprint, simply because a reduction in transportation results in lower greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately though, “Made in Canada” is a loosely used term that is, for the most part, unregulated. In order to use this label, a product need only be designed in Canada, so the onus is still on the consumer to dig deeper and discover just how much of the product is truly made in Canada. Because we simply do not produce the raw materials here, most of our “Made in Canada” products rely on resources from other countries, and the footprint can, in fact, be quite heavy. For example, the cotton in a Canadian made t-shirt may have been grown in India and was then shipped to Italy or France to be spun into a yarn, only then to be sent to Bangladesh to be made into a cotton fabric, and at that point sent to Canada to be cut and sewn into a final garment. Unfortunately a label alone does not disclose enough information, so keep in mind that just because it says “local,” this isn’t always the case.

How well is it made?

Of course at the end of the day, quality is also important when we are purchasing apparel or gear. We want the products we buy to last season after season. While our kids are growing, often like weeds, the reality is we cannot keep them in their clothes long enough to appreciate their durability. Keep in mind that there are always friends, or families in need, who will gladly accept hand me downs - or look for a clothing exchange or gear swap in your area. Ensuring that the products we purchase are quality-made and durable can go a long way to keeping them out of a landfill.

The whole family can look great and feel great sporting these affordable options!

For active families who enjoy overnight camping or backcountry excursions, having a well-made, durable backpack to fit all your gear is essential. Mountain Equipment Co-Op (MEC) takes pride in producing quality gear at excellent value that will last season after season. They have an excellent range of packs, at various price points. My favourite is the Brio 60 Pack — a top-loading, multi-day pack that has a full-length side zipper for quick access, as well as an extendable lid that converts to a waist pack for day trips. It retails for just $99.00 so it is very affordable. Available in blue/ gray or green/gray (shown) as well.

Also for overnight camping trips, you’ll want your kids to be cozy, warm and dry in the tent. Children should sleep in a bag that fits their size with little extra empty space, thus keeping them warmer. MEC also offers a great selection of sleeping bags, with my favourite being the Explorer Down Bag 0C for kids. The smaller bag measuring at 3’6” retails for $111.00 and the larger bag measuring at 4’6” goes for $118.00. This bag offers exceptional warmth and comfort and has an integrated pillow pocket in the mummy style hood with Velcro adjustment so there are no potentially dangerous cords.

More and more companies are making eco-friendly clothing options for active kids who love the outdoors. MEC offers a large selection, from infants through to young adults. One very affordable option is the Liam Long Sleeved T-Shirt made from 100% organic cotton, and light enough to wear in all seasons. It retails for just $9.00! Who says organic is more expensive? It comes in green (shown) and blue, in sizes 3-6.

The MEC Sienna shorts are perfect for everyday and ideal for hot days at the lake or playing tag at the park. They are 100% organic cotton, and retail for $24.00, available in size 3-6 with a few colour options. A longer version of this short is also available for boys.

Kids are hard on their shoes, so it is important to fit them in a product that is made to last, but at the same time comfortable to wear and able to withstand the elements. Timberland uses environmentally friendly materials whenever possible—like recycled soda bottles (PET) in linings or meshes, recycled laces and organic cotton canvas, and curious customers can read the “nutritional labels,” which include the amount of renewable energy used in production, right on Timberland’s 100 percent post-consumer recycled shoeboxes.

I love the Earthkeepers Belknap Sport Sandal which has open sides to let kids’ feet breathe, and the rubber toe cap and outsole provide protection and traction. It retails for $65.00 and is available in gray/pink (shown) as well as gray/red and dark brown/ orange, and in sizes 13 to 3.

For moms

Prana Mariposa Top, 90% spun poly, 45% recycled.
Made in the USA. $54

Prana Quinn Dress, particularly great in orange and pink. 90% recycled poly & 10% spandex.
Made in Taiwan. $66

For dads

Patagonia Generalist Jacket, also comes in black!
100% organic cotton.
Made in Thailand. $135

For kids and youth

MEC Chickadee Hoodie, in several cheerful colours.
100% organic cotton.
Made in India. $29.50

Patagonia Elena Dress, in blue or girly-girl pink.
57% organic cotton & 43% tencel.
Made in Vietnam. $49.00

Editor’s Note: You may have noticed that we really sing the praises of MEC in this issue. Well, why not? They’re Canadian, environmentally responsible, reasonably priced, encourage an active lifestyle and have some really, really, cute clothes! If you haven’t hit their website lately, they even indicate the MEC products that were made with lower impact materials and techniques, with their signature blue swirl. Check out some of these “super-styley” items that match Kelly’s ecofashion criteria!

When purchasing outdoor apparel,
here are some friendlier fabrics to look for

• Organic cotton

• Hemp: Best when blended with another fabric such as organic cotton or silk • Bamboo: However 99% of bamboo is not made in a closed loop system which means it is less environmentally friendly than most think – it is a rayon and the Textile Labeling Act and Competition Bureau legislated that all bamboo textiles be labeled rayon in 2009. Closed loop means that the effluent — the toxic chemical waste water that comes from extracting a fiber from the bamboo plant in order to turn it into a rayon — is not dumped into the environment. Instead it is treated and then reused, so that nothing escapes.

• Tencel or Modal: This fabric also comes from a wood pulp but it is made in a closed loop environment

• Organic wool

• Recycled cotton and recycled polyester

• Tussah Silk: Where the silk worm isn’t killed


EcoParent is a national magazine for families that want to make healthier, greener lifestyle choices. Fun and inspirational in tone—and never judgmental—it is Canada's premiere publication for the conscientious parent. Food, fashion, books, travel and so much more!