There are few things more fun than shopping for pint-size fashion, but not all adorable is created equal. When you consider the life cycle of an item of clothing, from the hands that created it, to the materials used to make it, and eventually to its final resting place, children’s clothes impact much more than our IG feed. We’ve asked Geneva Karwoski, our Joshua Tree Scout and resident ethical fashion guru, to break down how to build a child’s wardrobe that’s equal parts kid-friendly, eco-friendly, and fashion-friendly. Spoiler alert: it’s totally doable.

Understand why.  As Geneva explains, sustainable fashion is a response to an environmental and an ethical issue. “Nowadays, with all the information out there about the environmental toll of manufacturing and concerns about ethical production, I believe that if you care about environmental issues and human rights issues, you have got to pay attention to your purchases,” she says. Clothes are one of the most polluting consumer goods, and the low cost of clothing usually translates into low wages for garment factory workers in developing countries. Not cool.

Focus on the basics.  A wardrobe of high quality basics will give the most mileage on the day-to-day— and quality pieces can be passed down. With that as a foundation, you can add pieces to customize the wardrobe to suit each kid’s style (hello, princess-dressed-like-a-policeman phase).  Geneva has another tip: “I like to get separates so I can mix and match, and plus I think they fit longer than one pieces.” For special items, Geneva suggests “quality over quantity,” which brings us to our next point.

Buy less, but better. It’s estimated that we are buying 60% percent more clothing today than we did 10 years ago, without spending more money on clothing overall. The fashion industry is full off buzzwords like “micro-trends,” and “fast fashion” which collectively mean one thing— we’ve become accustomed to having a closet full of poorer-quality clothes that we’re ready to replace as soon as the next trend tells us to do so. Geneva admits she loves to shop, but follows the “buy better and buy less” rule to satisfy her love of style and will splurge on a few special items for her daughter each season. Other investment-worthy areas? Great accessories (she’s partial to shoes and bonnets) and anything worn daily, like a jacket.

Try your hand at secondhand.  Here’s an interesting fact: of the negative impact textiles can have on the environment (for example: the water, energy, and chemicals it took to produce the pair of pants you’re wearing) 58% of that impact actually falls on the consumer, in how we care for, launder, and dispose of clothing. Buying and selling high-quality children’s clothes secondhand is a great first step in building a more eco-conscious wardrobe without cracking into your 401K. (Geneva has recently started selling clothes on Loved By Ziraffe.) That being said, kids are still kids, and your “not sell-able” pile still might rival Kilimanjaro. But there’s good news: you can recycle it. Clothes are almost 100% recyclable.  Let “never to a landfill” be your rule.

photo credit: Valerie Denise