The Best Eco-Friendly Baby Bibs


Bibs come in all shapes and sizes, and also all types of materials that have distinct environmental impacts. Materials like cotton are more water-intensive, from both the cultivation and use-phase perspectives, but materials like polyester and silicone require burning fossil fuels to manufacture. There is no silver bullet when it comes to bibs, which is why it’s important to consider all the factors before making a purchasing decision. 




Cotton is the most widely used natural fiber on the planet. Unfortunately, it is a water-intensive crop that takes a significant toll on the soil and is associated with deforestation. Cotton is also particularly vulnerable to pests and other insects, which has led to a flourishing agrochemical industry around its cultivation. Almost 5% of global pesticide sales and 10% of global insecticides sales come from the cotton industry. Luckily, some cotton is grown in ways that can be kinder to our planet (see Organic Cotton below). In general, a plant-based material like cotton requires less energy to manufacture than a petroleum-based alternative like polyester. 

Organic Cotton

Organic cotton is grown without relying on the use of harmful chemicals, leaving the soil, air, and water with fewer contaminants. In an LCA looking at the differences between organic cotton and conventional cotton, the Textile Exchange found that organic cotton produces 46% fewer greenhouse gas emissions, creates 70% less acidification of land and water, the potential for soil erosion drops 26%, surface and groundwater use falls 91%, and the demand for energy can drop by as much as 62%. While we think bibs made with organic cotton are the best option, we recognize that they’re harder to come by. Less than 1% of all cotton produced is organic. If you can’t find organic cotton options, we still recommend using conventional cotton bibs over polyester. 


Polyester is a plastic fiber that’s derived from fossil fuels. Extracting petroleum (which is needed to produce polyester) involves drilling and fracking, which have a host of negative environmental consequences (*cough*, oil spills, *cough*) that are not infrequent and can devastate already fragile wildlife populations. The environmental effects of drilling overwhelmingly impact people of color and low-income folks, who are more likely to live in communities near these sites. If that wasn’t bad enough, the chemical treatments used by polyester manufacturers are toxic and known to cause neurological damage and even cancer at high levels of exposure, putting factory workers at risk. Plus, every time polyester gets washed, it sheds tiny pieces of plastic threads that enter our waterways and devastate marine ecosystems or even find their way into our bodies. The Plastic Soup Foundation estimates that up to 35% of plastic polluting in our oceans comes from microfibers shed by synthetic fabrics. We’ll pass!

If you really prefer polyester bibs, look out for ones made from recycled materials. Recycling uses significantly less energy than making polyester from scratch. Studies have found that using recycled polyester can cut water requirements in production by two-thirds, and that using recycled polyester could lead to a 59% reduction in energy use.  


Some of the best-selling bibs are made from soft silicone. Silicone is a material that feels like a cross between rubber and plastic. While plastic comes from non-renewable resources like crude oil, supporting the fossil fuel industry, silicone comes from silica…which is derived from sand. Basically, to make silicone, silicon is extracted from silica, passed through hydrocarbons, and mixed with other chemicals. The whole sand thing sounds great, but it also can be mixed with plastics. Yikes. Look for high-grade (or medical-grade) silicone to avoid this. While silicone isn’t perfect, it doesn't break down into microplastics, which we can all agree are the devil. One of the benefits of silicone bibs is that they don’t need to be laundered, so this cuts back on laundry-related emissions. 


Polyfluorinated chemicals (PFAS) are synthetic, manufactured chemicals that are very stable in the environment and thus take a long time to break down (which is why they’re known as “forever chemicals”). They can also repel oils, grease, and other stains, which is why they have been found in many baby bibs. Unfortunately, PFAS are toxic chemicals linked to heart disease and cancer. Two prevalent PFAS, PFOA and PFOS, were originally invented in the 1940s and 1950s, and as early as the 1960s, DuPont became aware of the potential health impacts of both chemicals, especially PFOA. Through lab studies on animals, they found that these chemicals could increase the size of livers, bind to blood proteins, cause birth defects, and potentially lead to cancer. Later, they found detectable levels of PFAS chemicals in workers’ blood and found birth defects in the children of multiple pregnant factory workers. Take our advice and avoid bibs that contain these controversial chemicals at all costs.


When we’re in a bind or overwhelmed by greenwashy-messaging, certifications can help us make choices that keep the environment and social good in mind. Here are some certifications to look out for on bibs.

Global Organic Textile Standard Certification

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

GOTS is the gold standard of textile certifications (which is why we like to pronounce it GOAT-S). It requires that at least 70% of the materials in the product are organic and that the product complies with multiple environmental and social criteria along its entire supply chain. If you opt for bibs made with cotton, definitely prioritize finding this label.

OEKO-Tex Certification


The OEKO-TEX standard guarantees that every component of a product has been tested for potentially harmful substances such as pesticides, heavy metals, and formaldehyde, which predominantly impact people working at manufacturing facilities. This label means that the product is relatively harmless to human health, which is great for the people who make the bibs AND the babies who wear them.


When it comes down to bibs, there are two material routes to go: natural vs. synthetic. With natural materials (aka cotton) come significant water usage to cultivate the crop. With synthetic materials (aka polyester and silicone) come petroleum extraction. Neither is great for the planet, but if we had to recommend one material over another, we suggest organic cotton or silicone bibs. If you opt for cotton, make sure it’s GOTS or OEKO-TEX certified, and if you opt for silicone, make sure it’s high-grade. 


“What kind of bibs are the most sustainable?”

While there’s really no such thing as “sustainable” bibs because they always use energy and water as a result of washing, we came up with this list of more sustainable bibs based on what they’re made of.

“Which bibs are non-toxic?”

To be honest, ‘non-toxic’ doesn’t actually mean much of anything. In fact, no chemical or material is purely “non-toxic”. Instead of saying “non-toxic”, scientists will determine whether something is NOAEL (aka it has ‘No Observed Adverse Effect Level’). The NOAEL is the highest amount of a chemical an organism can be exposed to before it begins showing some sort of toxic response, like getting sick or developing a rash. When it comes to bibs, PFAS have observed adverse effects, so we recommend steering clear to protect your baby and the environment. 

“Are bibs necessary?”

Depends on the baby! Bibs are great because they protect baby’s clothing from all the drool, dribble, and spills that happen dozens of times a day, which means that fewer clothes need to get washed, but then the bib itself will need to be washed. If you’re looking to cut back on laundry-related emissions, a silicone-based bib may be the best option.