We all know textile trash is a massive problem. We’ve certainly done our fair share of dwelling on the horrors of fast fashion, for example.
In fact, EcoWatch says the fashion industry is one of the most polluting and wasteful industries in the world.
Butt (pun intended) since change starts at the bottom, it only seems appropriate that we start with our own by switching to sustainable and ethical underwear (no not edible underwear; this is not that kind of site!)… although if you are looking for something a little sexier, check out our article on ethical & sustainable lingerie.
And if you don’t have the time to browse all the briefs, Organic Basics and Pact both offer some of the most comfortable ethical underwear while ticking all the right boxes. WAMA is a new feature on our list and unique in that they claim to use the most sustainable fabric, a blend of organic hemp and organic cotton.
Do scroll to the end of the article (or click here) for more on what we looked for when researching sustainable underwear.
1. ORGANIC BASICS
About Organics Basics
Organics Basics don’t beat around the bush…
“The fashion industry is a dirty bastard.”
What an opening!
This hilariously inspiring Danish company started making men’s undies but have since expanded to women’s eco underwear, sleepwear, even socks.
Their goal is to end the poor life cycle of underwear. Check their guide on washing smarter so you can both conserve energy and water, and extend the life of your lingerie!
According to these fashion fellows, “We think that buying poor quality, fast fashion is a lot like peeing your pants when you’re cold. It feels nice at first, but it’s not so good later on.”
Organics Basic’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Really cool stuff here! To make their garments long-lasting and in need of less frequent washing (washing and drying accounts for 2/3 of clothing’s environmental impact), they spin it with real sustainably-sourced silver.
Sounds scary, but this well-tested EPA and Reach Act-compliant and Oeko-Tex 100-certified silver thread is spun in mere trace amounts with USB and GOTS-certified organic cotton to create SilverTech. What’s the benefit? Other than the fact that you can say there’s silver in your skivvies, it’s heat-regulating anti-bacterial, and odor-controlling.
- Supply chain & labour practices: OB definitely gets the award for workplace transparency. You can check out an exact numerical breakdown (vacation days, hours worked, etc.) for every one of their factories.
They personally visit these factories regularly sit down with workers to ensure job condition satisfaction. Finally, they’re BSCI-compliant and a member of Sedex, a non-profit that empowers ethical supply chains.
Pact, based in Boulder, Colorado makes a variety of fair trade underwear from sports bras to bralettes (both padded and unpadded), to comfy undies.
They believe “you should never show your underwear…unless it makes a really good point”.
Pact’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Every product is mostly GOTS-certified organic cotton, specifically long staple cotton, which makes everything super soft. Their underwear also contains elastane, a far more eco-friendly provider of stretch than the standard spandex. No toxic dyes or pesticides.
- Supply chain & labour practices: They are Fairtrade certified and employ water and energy efficient production methods, as per their latest impact statement. In fact, each product page specifies water saved in production of that one garment.
- Inclusivity: On their website, they show off their products on models of all shapes and sizes. Being comfortable in one’s own skin is a core part of their company values, which is why they started #justwearyou.
WAMA is something of an underwear guru, with every basic cut and shape possible for men and women. Buy your skivvies either solo or in extra sustainable packs. And since they’re made of sustainable materials AND manufactured in ethical environments, you could say they’re a bit of a double WAMA-my.
Founded by Shakib Nassiri on Kickstarted in 2017, this Los Angeles brand has grown tremendously in three years with even bigger green growth on the horizon. They told us:
“We are still a very tiny brand but as we grow we plan on working on many more sustainability initiatives like becoming a B Corp [and] offsetting carbon footprint with a one underwear purchased = one hemp tree planted initiative.”
WAMA‘s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: WAMA underwear is a blend of 53% organic hemp, 44% GOTS organic cotton, and 3% spandex. While hemp cannot actually be certified by GOTS (meaning no hemp brand in the world is fully GOTS-certified), it is still grown without chemicals and WAMA calls it “the world’s most sustainable fabric[…] to protect your privates, naturally!” – potentially the best sustainable underwear on this list?
- Supply chain & labor practices: While still too small to boast any Fair Trade or WRAP accreditations, their Chinese factory is BSCI-certified and monitored for fair conditions by a team member permanently stationed there.
They also have a supplier code of conduct for all entities, including the family-run hemp farms also in China.
- Green business practices: WAMA ships using 100% recycled and recyclable poly mailers from EcoEnclose (which are also designed for reuse before recycling). Larger 10 packs orders come in recycled cardboard boxes.
Inside these bags or boxes, their sustainable underwear packs come wrapped in post-consumer & post industrial recycled content tissue paper (which is also fully compostable, save for the recycled paper logo sticker). While you may not be able to compost these stickers, they offer a take-back program to “consolidate and recycle the hard to recycle liner.”
- Inclusivity: With mens sizes ranging from S to 3XL, and women’s similarly from XS to 2XL, WAMA is fully inclusive, both in their sizing and their use of body inclusive models.
Boody is an Australian company who create everyday essentials, designed with all-day comfort in mind: no clasps, underwire, or other pinchy components.
Boody’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Boody uses rayon made from organic bamboo, created using a closed loop process (so no chemicals used during processing are released into the environment). This bamboo is certified Oeko-Tex, ECOCERT, and PETA approved vegan.
Note that like pretty much all brands on this list (with the exception of The Very Good Bra), Boody also uses other synthetic fabrics in their products like nylon and spandex (which are not compostable).
- Supply chain & labour practices: In terms of production, Boody’s objective is as follows: “maximizing positive outputs and minimizing negative ones through the entire supply chain”. They believe in equal opportunity employment, both in workers and customers.
- Inclusivity: “Boody fits who you are, naturally”. Their goal is to create affordable ethical underwear because everybody should have a pair of eco intimates, which is why they employ a 4-installment afterpay program so cost and budget can’t stand in anyone’s way.
- Community & charitable giving: Giving back is one of Boody’s 4 pillars of business, and they currently donate (either time, money, or products) to several different charities as well as being one of over 14,000 companies now participating in the 1% for the Planet program.
5. GROCERIES APPAREL
About Groceries Apparel
Shopping for fashion should be like shopping for groceries: complete with easy to read ingredients lists and nutrition labels. As such, in the words are Groceries Apparel:
“We are redefining transparency and human responsibility by supporting family farms, localized manufacturing, living wages, and Monsanto-free post-consumer ingredients. […] We are the future of our industry and we are here to create a demand for our values and would rather go out of business than compromise.”
Their line of ethical women’s underwear is made specifically for your top, with a host of bras and bralettes for just about every kind of activity.
Groceries Apparel‘s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: Groceries Apparel bras are made of three different blends: 1) 90% Organic Cotton and 10% Spandex; 2) 92% Eucalyptus Tencel lyocell and 8% Thiuram and Caba-free spandex; and 3) 87% GMO-free Organic Cotton and 13% Thiuram, Caba-free spandex.
While none are totally compostable thanks to the small amount of spandex, they are built to last.
- Supply chain & labor practices: This brand is pretty much a California brand, through and through. Meaning they source only California-grown GOTS organic cotton, get 98% of their other materials from fellow Los Angeles vendors, and make their products in their own California factory. All employees receive well above Californian minimum wage.
They call themselves Seed to Skin certified – fitting!
- Inclusivity: Groceries Apparel’s bras are available in sizes XS-XL.
Everlane is one of the top names in sustainable and ethical fashion. Why? Two words: radical transparency. That’s what Everlane sought to achieve upon founding in 2010.
And while we may not want our underwear to be transparent, we sure want the processes behind making them to be so. Everlane delivers on this promise, time and time again, both with their large selection of sustainable panties, bras, and bodysuits, and with the rest of their substantial line.
Everlane‘s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: Most of their ethical cotton underwear is made of an ultra soft barely-there feeling blend of 92% Supima cotton and 8% elastane. Supima cotton is similar to Pima cotton, but it comes from the USA. It’s an extra-long staple fiber making it softer and far more durable than regular cotton, but it makes up less than 1% of cotton grown in the world.
Everlane’s newest undies are their ReNew ones, made of 87% recycled nylon and 13% elastane.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Remember that whole “radical transparency” promise? Everlane publishes the place of manufacturing (down to the factory itself) for every single item in their huge collection. Their site even has an interactive factory map that links to more info on each one, like their code of conduct and certifications.
- Green business practices: Everlane’s ReNew line, of which you can find some undies, is the product of the brand’s admirable (and necessary) goal to remove all virgin plastic from production by 2021. Soon, all their synthetics will be fully recycled ones!
- Inclusivity: As another great go-to for women of all shapes and sizes, Everlane’s underwear fit sizes XXS-XL. We looooove how they aren’t afraid to show a little bit of fabulous flab in their model images either.
- Community & charitable giving: The Thanksgiving season Black Friday Fund organized by this brand is a winner year after year. And the beneficiary of the contest? Why, Mother Earth of course!
Everlane donates $15 for every order placed to Oceana to help in their fight to clean up the oceans. Last year, they funded an entire year of Ocean projects by raising $300,000.
7. AZURA BAY
About Azura Bay
Although Azura Bay is not actually an independent fashion label, they are one of our favorite sustainable brands because they curate the most ethical underwear options (and more) from all the best brands out there. So if you’re looking to find all the choices in one convenient place (that have already been vetted for sustainable fashion criteria), Azura Bay is it.
Their selection of sustainable lingerie from a host of many great brands is epic, and their more basic underwear selection is just as impressive.
Azura Bay‘s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: Azura Bay hand picks only the most sustainable offerings from the most sustainable brands, meaning all their ethical underwear are going to be made of things like GOTS-certified organic cotton and TENCEL Lyocell. Their dressier, lingerie undies are made of recycled lace and other recycled synthetics.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Because they don’t manufacture anything themselves, they don’t have any factories to assess, but we can consider the brands that supply their products. Here, they choose only the most ethical brands with clearly defined sourcing policies and certifiably ethical manufacturing practices.
The majority of the products they pick are made in strict labor law countries like the US, UK, or Canada, or in Fair Trade certified factories elsewhere.
- Green business practices: All these boody-licious basics are shipped in basic materials, too (which is to say mostly biodegradable ones!). This includes recycled boxes, Better Packaging Co compostable mailers, and recycled tissue paper. The only non-compostable items are their EcoEnclose poly mailers, which are both recycled and recyclable.
- Inclusivity: Azura Bay is perhaps one of the most inclusive, plus-sized ethical fashion brands we’ve come across. Which is great for this category especially! Because everyone deserves to feel comfortable and confident in their underwear.
They actually offer expanded sizes from the brands they carry and even do their own plus-size model photoshoots of the items so women of all shapes and sizes can see themselves while browsing. Pretty darn empowering.
From solid basics to flirtatiously transparent lacy numbers, Reformation has a selection of sustainable underwear and intimates that is small in all the right ways. While there aren’t a ton of options, you can find some seriously cute thongs, cheeky panties, bras, and bralettes.
It’s tough to say which will make you feel sexier: your floor length Reformation dress with a split to the hip, or what’s underneath.
Reformation’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Material: Reformation uses mostly recycled synthetics (namely nylon, polyamide, and elastane), though they are sometimes blended with their virgin counterparts. The best options are their stretchy solid bralettes and panties made with TENCEL Lyocell derived from sustainably managed forests.
Since these fabrics are all either Bluesign or OEKO-TEX 100 certified and tested for many restricted substances, you can put them on with peace of mind.
- Supply chain & labor practices: Reformation manufactures 65% of their stuff in 32 self-owned factories in downtown Los Angeles. You can view more about them here or stop by for a tour if you’re in the area.
The remaining factories are located across Morocco, Turkey, and China. They hold these to the Global Social Compliance Programme’s (GSCP) Code of Conduct, as are their suppliers, which they rank in a Sustainable Partners Guidebook.
- Green business practices: Being both water neutral and Climate Neutral since 2015 (though they’re just now getting their certification), Reformation is big on purchasing carbon offsets. So big, they even sell them and incentivise customers to switch to a wind energy in exchange for $100 store credit.
Here they lead by example by having wind-powered Green Business certified office buildings. That’s on top of other cool green movements like having impact counters on each product page, using biodegradable packaging, and having eco-friendly office supplies.
One last thing, they’re moving toward being more zero waste by joining the 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment. In 2019, they set the goal to recirculate 500,000 garments by 2025 and less than a year after pledging, they’re way over halfway there!
- Inclusivity: Reformation isn’t the most inclusive, size-wise, as some of their stretchy items are only available in two sizes: S/M and M/L. Others come in XS-XL.
- Community & charitable giving: Part of reforming the fashion industry means being out for more than just profit. That’s why Reformation appropriately gives back to LA’s Tree People, the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and more.
They even donate their time through company volunteer days and by providing each employee a paid day off to volunteer each month.
9. THE VERY GOOD BRA
About The Very Good Bra
Don’t let the name fool you: they make very good ethical panties and sleepwear, too (all of which are compostable underwear!).
The claim to make the “only zero waste bra out there in proper bra sizes”. So far they’re the only zero waste underwear brand we’re aware of!
The Very Good Bra’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Australian-made with a combination of wood-based Tencel fibers, organic tree rubber, and organic cotton elastic. Every component (soy ink labels to special organic cotton hooks) is 100% biodegradable. Plus no underwire makes them super.
- Supply chain & labour practices: Lots of transparency about their suppliers, right from the Kickstarter. They ship in entirely compostable mailers, mostly through Australia’s Sendle, a carbon-neutral company.
- Inclusivity: These bras come in 24 proper sizes available to fit a range of breasts, butts, and bodies!
- Community & charitable giving: No charitable partnerships as if yet, but VGB hopes to become a B-corp in the near future!
10. SOKOLOFF LINGERIE
About Sokoloff Lingerie
Lots of Bs in that name but don’t let that fool you; the company motto is still, “because… there is no planet B”:
Sokoloff Lingerie’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: They use primarily three fabrics: organic cotton (the lining of every panty), recycled spandex, and Oeko-Tex-certified bamboo. We especially love the looks of their Responsible Sourcing Collection, which are made only of recycled materials (so no underwire in the bras).
- Supply chain & labour practices: They are careful to choose suppliers who are conscious of their water and energy consumption. Most their products are made and dyed (under Quebec’s strict environmental standards) right in Montreal, but they did recently start working with a new carefully selected Peruvian manufacturing partner.
- Inclusivity: Again, a lot of diversity in the models on their website.
- Community & charitable giving: Sokoloff donates all their fabric scraps to the Montreal paper-making studio, Retailes, so they get recycled into beautiful stationery.
11. ONLY HEARTS
About Only Hearts
Run by a New York City mother-daughter duo, Only Hearts make lingerie pieces that are “sensuous, natural and just a little bit naughty”.
This luxury line comes with a little higher price tag, for those special occasions.
Only Heart’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Their organic cotton line is made of 100% GOTS Peruvian Pima cotton, which is processed using only oxygen, bleached with GOTS-approved hydrogen compounds, and dyed with Ecological and Toxically Association of Dyes (ETAD) approved and GOTS organic dyes.
Read more about their fabric processing here. Their recycled nylon collection meets the Global Recycled Standard at 59% recycled, though we would ideally like to see more.
- Supply chain & labour practices: Most pieces manufactured right in their home NYC Garment District but their Pima cotton is grown and collected in Peru.
Twenty years in the ethical underwear business and Thunderpants – a family-owned New Zealand business has it dialed (they have a separate USA branch now).
Their “ultimate undie” comes in all sorts of super fun prints.
Plus they promise no wedgies or underwear lines and we are ALL about that.
Thunderpant’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Thunderpants uses SKAL (International Standards for Sustainable Textile Production) organic cotton dyed with water-based, non-toxic inks.
- Supply chain & labour practices: Thunderpants believes in traceable production. They grow their fairtrade cotton in India, knit in a mill in Australia, near their headquarters in New Zealand, and sew in their New Zealand or Portland, Oregon (for the USA branch) factories. Their NZ operations are also dog-friendly! “Always put people before profit” is their motto.
- Waste minimization: We’re adding this in because Thunderpants does an awesome job of this. Their factories buy in bulk where possible, compost, repurpose fabric offcuts, and use recyclable Eco-enclose mailers. In 2018, the pledged to the NZ government to be carbon neutral by 2050; until then, they offset their emissions through Ekos.
- Inclusivity: This is one of their core values: “Thunderpants stands by inclusivity, championing minorities and supporting other organizations that do the same.”
- Community & charitable giving: Just call this company Philanthropants! We wish we came up with that name, but we can’t take the credit. Thunderpants created this extension of their company to support local schools, create community initiatives, and work with a seriously impressive list of charities.
13. MIGHTY GOOD BASICS
About Mighty Good Basics
This Australian company believes that “ethical is the new look” and encourage people to #switchyourunderwear with their line of classy men’s and women’s underwear.
Even their “granny undies” are somehow stylish and flattering!
Plus, they received an A+ from the Australian Ethical Fashion Guide 2 years running.
Mighty Good Undies’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: They use 95% certified organic cotton with a 5% elastane blend.
- Supply chain & labour practices: Their entire supply chain is certified GOTS, Fair-Trade, AND sa 8000 social accountability (basically the gold standard for ethical labor requirements).
Plus, they have an awesome Transparency page where you can look at some neat infographics about the exact processes of their three Indian cotton suppliers. In hopes to one day become carbon neutral, they offset 1kh of carbon for each pair of undies.
- Community & charitable giving: In 2017, they initiated the now annual Bare for Good campaign, where they invited celebs and others to bare themselves in portraits to raise awareness about the unethical and unsustainable reality of underwear production. They’ve also worked with non-profit, Free the Girls to help victims of sex trafficking.
14. WHITE RABBIT NEW YORK
About White Rabbit New York
White Rabbit, a company with French roots but based on Mexico City, is one of the oldest ethical “everyday intimates” companies.
They asked themselves:
“In a world where we care so much about what goes into our food, our bodies, our clothes, how is it that no one paid attention to how our underwear is made?”
White Rabbit New York’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: These undies are made of “uber soft” bamboo rayon
- Supply chain & labour practices: Their bamboo is sourced from 3-4 year old bamboo trees in China’s Yunnan province. It is then processed and crafted by an OEKE-Tex certified knitter that adheres to ISO-9000 (workplace safety) and ISO-14001 (environmental) manufacturing standards.
- Inclusivity: White Rabbit stands for women’s advancement and thus employs only women in a country where it can be difficult for women to find fair work.
- Community & charitable giving: A percentage of every purchase goes toward their partner women empowerment organization, Fabrica Social. This Mexican organization focuses on teaching female artisans how to design new products and ensure their work is properly valued so women can become a driving economic force.
15. Y.O.U. UNDERWEAR
About Y.O.U Underwear
Another Kickstarter funded company, Y.O.U. Underwear focuses on fair trade underwear in black and beige.
We love the classic, simple look, because really, what more do you need?!
Y.O.U Underwear’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: All products are made of PETA-certified vegan and GOTS-certified organic cotton.
- Supply chain & labour practices: Both their source material and production is certified Fairtrade, crafted in India’s “number one ethical and sustainable manufacturer”.
- Inclusivity: As the name might suggest, Y.O.U. makes underwear for you, as in EVERYONE! They are “committed to using real men and women of all shaped and sizes” as models. Everyone should be comfortable in their own skin.
- Community & charitable giving: Y.O.U. Underwear backs every their purchases with a buy-one-give-two promise, which they fulfill through Smalls for All. The donated underwear get distributed across Africa to women and children in need.
(PS – Did you know young girls in some communities are denied going to school during their period because they don’t have underwear?!)
16. TOMBOY X
About Tomboy X
A tomboy can be a lot of things, namely:
“A girl or a woman or person who […] is utterly, completely, and unapologetically themselves, who is not afraid to stand up, stand out, be heard, be seen […] A person who is damn okay with who they are.”
Let’s all aspire to be tomboys, then!
Tomboy’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Their sustainable underwear is mostly created with MicroModal (an eco-friendly renewable fabric made of Beechwood fiber) and Oeko-Tex organic cotton.
- Supply chain & labour practices: Seeking to end “fast fashion” and mass production, they work with women-owned factories located in Los Angeles, Vancouver, and China that are well lit, safe, clean, and fair in payment. They regularly visit to ensure they adhere to these standards.
- Inclusivity: Tomboy X’s slogan is “underwear for all” and their line is fit for all sized bodies (4S-4X).
- Community & charitable giving: Activism for social justice, LGBTQ, and women’s rights are at the core of this company: “Our #humanagenda is not just a gay agenda, or a feminist agenda… It is all of those things.”
Started in 2016 by two friends Julie Kervadec and Lara Miller by crowd-funding, this all-female powered U.K. company creates sexy, vintage-style intimates.
Amaella’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Their SmoothSilk is crafted from GOTS and Oeko-Tex organic cotton and occasionally elastane for waistbands.
- Supply chain & labour practices: Their products are first designed in the UK by training designers. They’re then crafted in an ILO & UN-certified Portuguese factory that employs local women. Their goal is to combine ethically vintage designs with the rich textile heritage of the Portuguese culture.
- Community & charitable giving: AmaElla partners with a UK non-profit that helps young women hone their skills in the fashion industry.
Aikyou, meaning “love and respect” in Japanese, specializes in fine-crafted elegant sustainable women’s underwear for small breasts.
The goal is make small-breasted women “feel wonderfully feminine” without excessive padding and uncomfortable underwire.
Aikyou’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Luxury fine lingerie calls for soft and delicate Oeko-Tex 100 organic cotton. They are currently undergoing the GOTS certification process.
- Supply chain & labour practices: Entirely certified fair trade underwear, Aikyou keeps supply chain close (all in Europe!). The yarn in spun, knitted, dyed, and cut in Germany, then sent to Croatia for sewing. Both human and animal rights are important to them.
Their partnering suppliers/factories are Fairtrade certified, offering fair working conditions. All their products are animal free. Finally, they ship via DHL GoGreen in recycled/recyclable packaging from certified forestry sources.
- Inclusivity: We love that this brand gives smaller busted women an option! Their paddable bras are great for women who have had mastectomies!
- Community & charitable giving: They support the animal rights organization Pro Animale and several bee and insect protection programs.
Proclaim does not make plastic free underwear. Quite the opposite actually. But it’s not what you think!
As a young company (only 1.5 years old), they currently focus on one style of cutout bralette (in three nude shades).
And they create this eco friendly underwear entirely out of plastic bottles!
Proclaim’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: Yes, you read that right: bras from bottles. Their ultra-soft bralettes consist of 100% post-consumer recycled #1 PET plastic water bottles. These bottles are washed, blended, melted into REPREVE, then textured into fibers which are BPA-free and Oeko-Tex 100-certified.
- Supply chain & labour practices: Made in the USA right in their home city of Los Angeles, California, so they can help drive and diversify their own local economy. They pay laborers hourly, instead of per piece (as in many “sweat shop” plants). Plus, products ship recycled poly mailers with a dual adhesive trip so you can reuse it!
- Inclusivity: Proclaim began because the founder grew “tired of not being able to find a nude bra that matched by brown skin.” Their goal is to expand the definition of nude for all ethnicities and skin tones.
Anekdot is recycled underwear specialist. They call themselves an “upcycle brand”.
All their bras and underwear are made with entirely recycled materials, which makes all their pieces unique and limited.
Anekdot’s Ethical and Sustainability Practices
- Materials: They use pre, not post, consumer (i.e. never worn) production leftovers like fabric trimmings and manufacturing miscalculations. When they source pre-consumer waste directly from the supplier, they know that it is Oeko-Tex 100 or GOTS. They also use recycled nylon and organic cotton for our crotch linings.
- Supple chain & Labour practices: All pieces are hand-made, fairly, in Berlin, Germany or in Poland, but their suppliers are always changing; whoever has unwanted materials laying around!
On one hand, we know this means the materials might not live up to some of our standards (just because we don’t know their history prior to arriving at Anekdot). Still, we like this concept of repurposing fabrics in such a unique and utilitarian way
FINDING ECO FRIENDLY UNDERWEAR
First and foremost, each eco underwear must be made from ethical and sustainable materials.
Basically, we want something with a good “end of life” outcome (ideally compostable underwear (as possible) not trash-able). Fabrics from the earth (cotton, hemp, and bamboo) can go back to it; synthetic fibers, like polyester, can take 200 years to break down.
We also look for fabrics that are:
- naturally dyed
But we don’t just focus on environmentally friendly fabrics, it’s also very much about the companies and brands – they should employ:
- ethical and transparent labor practices (#whomademyclothes)
- ethical supply chains (Fair Trade certified and supportive of local communities)
- sustainable operations (low waste, use renewable energy, carbon offsets, optimized shipping, low waste/no plastic shipping)
Handcrafting is a pro, too, because it creates local jobs and eliminates carbon emissions from machine use. Ideally, they’ll also be involved in charitable giving, promote a positive body image, and be all people inclusive.
We know that’s a lot of things to consider and we haven’t been able to hit all of them for each pair of eco undies but we think it’s still a pretty damn good list from some ethical underwear brands to choose from!
We hope you find it helpful!
SUSTAINABLE FABRICS FOR SUSTAINABLE UNDERWEAR
As mentioned above, the kinds of fabrics used are crucial to ensuring your eco friendly underwear (and ethical activewear) are in fact eco friendly. On this list the most common fabrics you’ll come across (which also happen to be some of the most sustainable around) are:
- Organic Hemp: Used as a fiber by humans for thousands of years, similar to linen in feel and able to keep you warm when it’s cold, cool when it’s hot and even protect you from UV rays. Hemp may be one of the most eco-friendly fabrics: it uses 50%+ less water than cotton, requires no pesticides and can be converted into fabric sustainably
- TENCEL (Lyocell/Modal): There are two types of TENCEL, another biodegradable / compostable fabric. Both Lyocell and Modal are derived from renewable raw material wood and turned into fibres through an entirely closed-loop,solvent-spinning process, which recycles process water and reuses the solvent at a recovery rate of more than 99%. The fibres are 100% compostable (provided they have not been combined with a synthetic non-compostable material)
- Organic cotton: How is it different from regular cotton? It’s grown without chemicals, making it better for you, the farmers, and the environment. Working conditions are safe and hygienic, pay is fair and raw material and final textile products meet stringent waste limits, among other things…
- Recycled synthetics: Sometimes, natural doesn’t quite cut it, unfortunately. Things like stretchy waistbands must be derived from something else, but we like when that something else is at least recycled. Recycled nylon, for instance, produces 90% fewer CO2 emissions than its virgin counterpart.
- Bamboo: Made from the fiber of one of the fastest renewing plants on earth. Bamboo requires only natural rainfall to grow, can be harvested without killing the whole plant, and consumes more carbon dioxide than hardwood trees. It’s an ideal activewear fabric because it’s soft, antimicrobial, breathable, moisture-wicking, and durable. However, how the bamboo was made matters
SOME SUSTAINABLE FASHION JARGON
There are a few terms you may come across in the list above. We want to take a second to explain what they mean.
These are basically third party certifications that brands can receive in order to verify that their claims are accurate. Anyone can claim to be organic or Fairtrade, but these stamps of approval provide some extra reassurance.
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): Holds fabric production to strict ethical and ecological criteria. Basically, fibers must be produced organically, so no chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, or even machine harvesting. To get this cert, all companies involved at any stage, all the way to packaging and labeling, must meet these criteria. Think of this as seed to shelf.
- Oeko-Tex 100: Ensures the fabrics (either raw or finished) and devices used to process them do not contain any harmful chemicals. This includes heavy metals (i.e. nickel and cadmium), colorants, formaldehyde, and other fabric preservative agents. It also keep everything at a skin-friendly pH.
- Fairtrade: Upholds standards of workplace ethics, including fair wages, safe/hygienic workplaces, proper training, and reasonable/limited work hours. It prohibits child labor, discrimination, forced labor, harassment, and abuse. Similar certifications are those by International Labour Organization (ILO) and Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI).
FINAL THOUGHTS ON SUSTAINABLE UNDERWEAR BRANDS
Vatter, really sums it up:
“Any successful business should return part of its success to the environment in the form of an eco-social commitment”
Let’s up the undue ante and give changing our undies new meaning. It just goes to show that sustainability is about so much more than what’s meets the eye.
What’s underneath counts, too!
In love with any ethical underwear brands not on our list? Let us know in the comments or send us a note!