A different kind of Mother’s Day gift: Campaign calls for used children’s clothes

Environmental charity Hubbub has partnered with retailer Mothercare to redistribute hoarded used baby clothes to families in need in the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day.

Research released by the partnership this week revealed that UK homes are storing 183 million items of outgrown baby clothing, enough to provide over 250 items for each baby born in the UK each year.

The average family spends £11,000 on a child’s clothing to the age of 18, according to the charity, and a survey of 2,000 parents with children under 18 found that 70 per cent keep hold of clothes that their children have outgrown and that they think they are unlikely to use again. Moreover, a whopping 50 per cent of those whose youngest kids are in their teens are still hanging onto their baby clothes.

Another third of parents said that they’ve thrown clothing in the bin because they didn’t know what else they could do with it.

To stop this unnecessary storage and waste of useful items and provide them instead to local families in need of good-quality baby clothes, Hubbub has launched the #GiftABundle campaign to redistribute unused clothes.

Part of Hubbub’s on-going ambition to help people reduce clothing waste, the campaign is asking parents to gift good-quality, outgrown baby clothing to Mothercare stores this month.

Bundles of items for children up to six years old will then be wrapped and distributed for free to families in need of clothing by community groups, starting on Mother’s Day (26 March).

Mothercare stores participating in the campaign are: Aberdeen, Cribbs Causeway Bristol, Dudley, Edmonton, Gateshead, Ipswich, Kew, Leeds, Manchester, Romford, Solihull, Sprucefield, Lisburn and Swansea.

Subscription model also trying to address waste of baby clothes

The rapid use of clothing during a child’s growth is a contributor to the textiles and clothing industry being the fifth largest contributor to the UK’s carbon footprint.

Another circular solution unconnected to the Hubbub campaign that makes better use of resources has been launched by Danish company Vigga, which operates a product-service system, enabling parents to lease clothing and return it when it is no longer needed.

According to Vigga, making a new jumpsuit for a baby uses 3,000 litres of water, the same as the average adult’s monthly water consumption, and emits around seven kilogrammes of carbon dioxide, the same as a 55-kilometre drive.

To address this strain on resources, Vigga runs a subscription service that gives families access to its organic clothing for a monthly fee. Each bag delivered by the company contains 15 to 20 items of clothing. When the child has outgrown the bag, it is returned to Vigga, inspected, cleaned and passed on to a new family. 

The company says that the model allows at least five children to use each set of clothes, reducing each child’s water consumption and carbon footprint by up to 80 per cent. It also suggests that families are saving up to £1,700 in the first year alone through the leasing model.

Tips for prolonging the life of baby clothes

For those who can’t get to a Mothercare store, Hubbub has also provided five tips for caring for children’s clothes to help keep them fresher for longer, saving money and reducing waste:

  1. Separate, rinse, repeat – When washing, separate whites and colours as you would with your normal wash. Use a non-bio detergent and check for the British Skin Foundation logo on the packaging.
  2. Think practical – When buying, choose clothing that’s easy to wash and quick at drying. Breathable cotton is perfect as it helps prevent sweating and is soft against skin, while delicate fabrics with special care instructions and clothes with details sewn on such as sequins are difficult to wash and risk coming off and being swallowed.
  3. Act quickly, stay cold – When your baby makes a mess, scoop or wipe away as much of the stain as possible before treating the fabric. This will make the cleaning process much faster. If possible, rinse clothing immediately, or soak in cold water until you can deal with it. Never soak in hot water as the heat might set the stain, making it a permanent fixture.
  4. Be gentle – Avoid using harsh chemicals and cleaners that may irritate a baby’s skin. Natural bleach alternatives include ammonia solution, baking soda, borax and white distilled vinegar.
  5. Avoid the tumbler – WRAP’s Love Your Clothes programme advises to avoid the dryer, especially if you’re unsure whether a stain was successfully removed. The heat will set the stain and make it virtually impossible to remove. Hang to dry instead.

More information about the #GiftABundle campaign can be found on Hubbub’s website.

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