When you buy clothing, sustainability may not be top of mind for you. With so many trends, patterns, styles, and prices to consider, factoring in the environmental impact of your wardrobe can seem overwhelming. But the fashion industry produces 20% of the world’s wastewater and 10% of global carbon emissions, so choosing to shop sustainably is one of the most impactful decisions you can make as a consumer.
Of course, the most sustainable way to shop for clothes is to stop buying brand new clothes, or at least limit your purchases. Shopping secondhand is much more sustainable because it helps move fashion from a linear economy — create it, buy it, wear it, throw it away — into a circular economy, where every item of clothing lasts longer and gets worn more. Plus, shopping secondhand can save you a lot of cash. And these days, there are plenty of secondhand clothing stores to choose from, many of them online.
If you are going to buy clothing off the rack, though, you can choose from many eco-friendly fashion brands that are bucking the mold and making environmental sustainability foundational to how they do business. We’ve collected ten of our favorites below.
#1. Alternative Apparel
Priding themselves on corporate social responsibility, Alternative Apparel offers a full range of men’s and women’s clothes made with sustainable processes and materials. They have lines made with recycled materials, non-toxic dyes, organic fabric, and low water footprint washes. Not only do they strive to make a clean impact, but their efforts to provide a safe working environment to people globally stand out as an admirable business practice when so many companies are cutting corners.
#2. Ecovibe Apparel
Ecovibe knows all too well the importance of being conscious of impact in the fashion industry. They make a promise to do their best to offset the industry’s environmental impact by using Green-e Certified renewable energy and joining organizations like 1% For The Planet, meaning they give 1% of their sales to non-profits around the globe. You can feel good when you buy clothes from them.
#3. People Tree
People Tree is a unique clothing manufacturer that meets the Global Organic Textile Standard certification. That means their supply chain integrates organic cotton from farm to final product. Their cotton is also fair trade and is always dyed with azo-free dyes. They use efficient shipping methods and local sourcing to limit their carbon footprint and use recycled or biodegradable materials where possible.
Pact is another company focusing on its environmental impact from cotton use. Using eco-friendly, organic cotton, Pact has reduced energy use, fertilization, terrestrial acidification, and water consumption while producing fashionable and comfortable clothes at affordable price points for shoppers. They also use PVC-free packaging and oxygen bleach to lower their impact on the environment and provide transparent information about their clothing production.
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#5. United by Blue
Founded in 2010, United By Blue makes a conscious and continuous effort to combat marine pollution by actually removing a pound of trash from the ocean for each item they sell. Not only are they funding this clean-up effort, but employees are out on the front lines hauling tires out of rivers and removing plastic from natural areas. Their products are made with recycled materials, organic cotton, and other sustainable materials. Check out one of their stores on the East Coast or find their products in outlets nationwide.
#6. Amour Vert
Amour Vert makes a conscious effort to offset carbon emissions by planting a tree for every tee shirt they sell. They partner with American Forest and have planted more than 140,000 trees. When producing their clothes, they use non-toxic dyes and incorporate an eco-friendly, zero-waste policy while maintaining a stylish approach to fashion.
Patagonia strives to eliminate waste and promote longevity with their durable outdoor and lifestyle clothing lines. They work hard to produce their clothes in energy-efficient buildings and transport them to market using sustainable means. Employees can earn hundreds of dollars a year by biking to work or taking public transportation, cutting down on fossil fuels.
#8. Study NY
Study NY has an eco-friendly, zero-waste philosophy when it comes to clothing production. They design clothing patterns to use fabric most efficiently. When there is fabric waste from production, they find ways to utilize it, making unique clothing items from fabric made from scraps of other clothes. Using organic cotton and repurposed material, Study NY sets a great example for the zero waste model in the fashion industry.
This company believes that we have a responsibility to protect and preserve the world we live in. Their earth-first approach means that all of their products are ethically manufactured from sustainable materials, but tentree is also out to empower all shoppers to do something good for the environment. For every item they sell, they partner with nonprofits around the globe to plant ten trees. It’s part of their “buy one plant ten” motto, and they’re on a mission to plant one billion trees by 2030.
#10. Girlfriend Collective
If you’re looking for sustainable, ethically made activewear that also focuses on inclusive sizing, look no further than Girlfriend Collective. The company is incredibly transparent about what their products are made from and where the materials come from. Their materials include recycled plastic bottles and recycled fishing nets. All of their clothing is manufactured in an SA8000-certified factory that guarantees fair wages, safe and healthy conditions for employees, and absolutely no child labor.