By Sarah Lozanova, Sustainability Writer
Fashion is one of the biggest industries globally, and there are more than 60 million workers in the clothing, footwear, leather, and textiles industry. The sheer scale of the apparel industry means it has a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions, working conditions, water quality, and resource consumption. But in recent years, numerous clothing companies have been sprouting up or shifting practices to embrace sustainability.
We reviewed many clothing companies to identify those using recycled materials, eliminating the use of toxic chemicals from their supply chains, minimizing packaging, and paying employees a living wage. Many companies are relatively young and were started with a vision of helping the world. Others have been in business for decades and are embracing greener practices.
Third-Party Sustainable Clothing Certifications, Ratings, & Initiatives
During our reviews of the clothing brands, we relied on the most reliable environmental and responsible business labeling and certification programs to identify the best options. Look for these labels to help distinguish companies that are leaders in adopting green, socially responsible, and humane practices.
B Corp Certified
To qualify for B Corp certifications, candidates must take the B Impact Assessment, which evaluates its impact on workers, customers, suppliers, the community, and the environment. To qualify, organizations must achieve a minimum verified score of at least 80 out of 200. The average score of an ordinary business that completes the B Impact Assessment is 50.9.
Bluesign Certified Materials
The Bluesign certification ensures textiles are tested for harmful substances and certifies high product safety in the apparel and footwear industry. Bluesign guarantees that certified products are not harmful to human health.
Climate Neutral Certified
This is a globally-recognized certification for climate accountability that entails measuring the organization’s carbon footprint and offsetting emissions. Participants must document carbon emissions reduction plans and progress annually.
Fair Labor Association Accreditation
Companies accredited by FLA meet international standards for labor rights by implementing a systems-level approach to human rights compliance and social responsibility. Fair Labor Accredited companies are evaluated on an ongoing basis and must demonstrate continuous improvement efforts to address working conditions and protect workers’ rights.
Responsible Down Certified
The Responsible Down Standard (RDS) ensures that geese and ducks are raised in compliance with animal welfare standards. It certifies products containing feathers and down from certified farms.
Responsible Packaging Movement
prAna created the Responsible Packaging Movement (RPM) to encourage like-minded companies to use sustainable packaging. Member brands set responsible packaging goals and collaborate and share sustainable packaging concepts with one another.
Climate Action Corps
This initiative by the Outdoor Industries Association (OIA) fosters collaboration in the outdoor industry to lead on climate action. Companies that join commit to measuring and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions and sharing their progress annually.
Textile Exchange Recycled Polyester Challenge
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action and Textile Exchange partnered up to challenge to accelerate the use of recycled polyester. The 2025 Recycled Polyester Challenge calls on businesses to commit to sourcing from 45% to 100% of polyester from recycled sources by 2025.
Reviewing Sustainable Clothing Brands
When we used the labels above and dug into their business practices, 18 clothing companies made the cut. They represent the best-in-class fashion brands, and we recommend them as a starting point in your conscious shopping. While no company is perfect, they make efforts to reduce emissions, water use, waste in their manufacturing and distribution systems, and treat the people who make the materials and clothing fairly.
We sampled women’s joggers, hiking pants, dresses, sunhats, sleepwear, bikinis, rain gear, and jackets from some of the leaders in sustainable clothing to give you the inside scoop. All of the items we sampled were for women or unisex, although many of the brands also feature men’s clothing. Dive in, and find the environmentally responsible look you love.
This green footwear company also has a line of men’s and women’s apparel, including socks, activewear, and loungewear. It has been Climate Neutral Certified since 2020, and its online product descriptions include information on the carbon footprint of products. It has set clear goals for reducing emissions, which includes greener materials sourcing and reduced supply chain energy use.
Allbirds uses innovative materials in its products, such as Trino. It is made from Eucalyptus tree fibers from sustainably managed forests and ZQ Merino wool, which has high standards for animal welfare, sustainability, and social performance. TrinoXO also contains chitosan fiber, which reduces odors and is harvested from discarded snow crab shells
We sampled Allbird’s R&R Sweatpants with organic pima cotton, hemp, and Tencel; Long Sleeve Sea Tea; and Trino Briefs.
Arms of Andes
This company has a very compact supply chain that’s based exclusively in Peru, where it sources alpaca yarn and fleece and manufactures fabric and garments. This approach gives Arms of Andes a smaller carbon footprint and enables traceability. Its clothing is made of 100% alpaca wool and natural dyes, so the garments are biodegradable and soft, and it uses plastic-free packaging. Arms of Andes was founded by a Peruvian-American bother-sister duo that works with family-run Peruvian alpaca farmers with small, free-roaming herds.
Alpacas have been domesticated in the Andes Mountains of South America since pre-Inca times. There is a way of life surrounding breeding and herding alpacas that continues in some highland communities to this day. Alpaca fibers are durable, breathable, and moisture-wicking, which helps with thermo-regulation.
We sampled the Women’s Alpaca V-neck shirt, a soft and breathable base layer for hikes and other physical activities.
Based in San Francisco, California, this women’s activewear manufacturer and retailer has realized some impressive sustainability achievements since it was founded in 1998. To date, it has repurposed 441 million plastic bottles into recycled materials, and it has partnered with TENCEL to source modal made from responsibly managed European forests.
In 2019, it announced that 60% of its materials are from sustainable fibers, including recycled polyester and nylon, TENCEL® Modal, TENCEL® Lyocell, and organic cotton. It also joined the Textile Exchange Recycled Polyester Challenge and agreed to use 45% recycled polyester by 2025 and 90% by 2030.
Athleta operates over 200 retail locations across North America, which are all powered by renewable electricity offsets. It has been part of the GAP portfolio of companies since 2008, along with Banana Republic and Old Navy, and four of its factories are Fair Trade Certified. However, it would be helpful to know more about the working conditions in other factories and if it plans to certify the remaining ones.
We sampled the Balance Jogger, Seasoft Pants, and the Seasoft 1/4 Zip Sweatshirt, which all contain TENCEL Modal. The fabric is super soft yet dries quickly, making it easy to line-dry to save energy.
This natural and certified organic mattress, bedding, and pillow company also has a line of bath robes and pajamas. Avocado has a very impressive list of third-party certifications verifying its strong commitment to sustainability and slowing climate change. For example, it was one of the first Climate Neutral Certified companies in 2019. The following year, Avocado became carbon negative by reducing its carbon emissions and then offsetting more than its entire carbon footprint.
We appreciate that Avocado uses GOTS-certified organic cotton, as cotton marketed as organic isn’t always actually organic, according to the New York Times. It also uses Lenzing-certified modal in its pajamas, which ensures it is ethically and sustainably sourced. In addition, Avocado donates 1% of its revenue to environmental nonprofits.
We sampled the organic terry cloth robe and the modal pajama shorts, which are both incredibly cozy.
This sustainable and ethical women’s fashion company believes in balancing “purpose and profit.” This certified B Corp scores especially high in the governance category, which assesses an organization’s mission, engagement for social and environmental impact, transparency, and ethics. It won the 2021 UN Global Climate Action Award, which shows Baukjen’s dedication to the green fashion movement.
Baukjen is increasing the use of recycled fibers in its clothing and shortening its supply chain. In 2020, it became carbon-negative across its supply chain by reducing carbon emissions and then offsetting more than it generates. It also vets garment factories, and has them agree to a rigorous Code of Conduct, and performs regular visits.
We sampled the Jo Top with Lenzing Ecover and the Lilith Shirt with Tencel, which use materials sourced from certified sustainably managed forests.
Fifteen years ago, Big Agnes introduced two sleeping bags and a tent that were made from 100% recycled materials, which was radically green at that time. This outdoor gear company has made some big strides in recent years in sustainable materials, fabrics, and packaging. All its products are 100% PFAS free, and it uses Downtek™, which has a PFC-Free, Bluesign® Certified water-repellant chemistry.
Big Agnes is reducing water and energy consumption during the manufacturing process of its tents with the use of solution-dyed fabrics, and many of its synthetic sleeping bags have recycled insulation and linings. It is even making its TwisterCane™ pad from sugarcane harvested in a carbon-negative process. Three of its U.S. facilities purchase 100% renewable electricity through offset programs, and it has joined the Outdoor Industry Association’s Climate Action Corps.
We tried out the Big Agnes Women’s Larkspar Insulated Jacket, which features post-consumer recycled content in the shell, lining, and shell. It’s lightweight, packable, and surprisingly warm without being bulky.
Coalatree launched its first clothing line in 2010 to create workwear for its organic farm in Colorado. This eco-minded apparel and gear company goes the extra mile to recycle or repurpose materials and is taking some impressive strides in producing clothing from recycled plastic bottles and coffee grounds. Coalatree has repurposed more than 83,000 cups of coffee grounds to date and uses a waterless dying system that conserves both water and energy.
According to the Coalatree blog, “Yarn infused with coffee saves landfills from coffee waste, reduces the amount of petroleum based products in production, lowers carbon emissions and uses less energy to manufacture.” Also, all the factories overseas that make its goods are Bluesign-certified. Although Coalatree is incorporating environmentally responsible practices, we’d like to see more concrete sustainability commitments and third-party certifications.
Coalatree produces a full line of women’s and men’s apparel and gear, such as 100% recycled nylon blankets. We sampled the Evolution Joggers, made with recycled coffee grounds, and the waterproof Trailhead Pants, which were made in a factory with an on-site wetland.
This company creates a variety of colorful outerwear and apparel for enjoying the great outdoors. Founded in 2013, its Gear for Good® promise shapes all aspects of the company and how it operates. Although this promise may sound like greenwashing, the outdoor gear company has numerous certifications and sustainability achievements that demonstrate its commitment, and it is both a B Corp and Climate Neutral certified.
According to Cotopaxi, its total carbon footprint is 13,859 tCO2e (tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent). It has been working to reduce emissions by eliminating single-use plastics from its packaging and replacing them with recycled or biodegradable alternatives. Cotopaxi has also been working with its suppliers to reduce emissions with recycled, repurposed, or third-party-certified responsible materials.
In addition, Cotopaxi provides multi-year grants to nonprofits addressing extreme poverty in Latin America by investing in health, education, and livelihood. It is a member of 1% for the Planet, a network of organizations that donate at least 1% of annual revenue to address pressing environmental issues.
We sampled the Cotopaxi Fuego Hooded Down Jacket, with responsibly sourced down and many colorful options. It’s relatively thin yet very warm even in winter weather and has a snug-fitting scuba hood.
This company makes ethically sourced activewear for women from size XXS to 6XL and uses 100% recycled and recyclable packaging. It sources recycled fabrics that are certified Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex, so they are tested for harmful substances.
“Did you know almost all synthetic activewear is made from plastic? We just make ours with materials that would otherwise clog landfills and pollute the earth. It all starts with post-consumer water bottles that have their labels removed, are crushed into billions of minuscule chips, and then washed until they’re sparkling clean,” according to the website.
The Girlfriend Collective works with recycling partners in Taiwan and sewing partners in Vietnam, where products are manufactured in factories with third-party certifications like SA 8000. Such certifications help ensure workers are paid a living wage and have safe working conditions.
We sampled the Comet Reset Swing Shorts, with delightfully soft fabric, and the Moss Trail Shorts. Both are made from recycled plastic bottles.
Mountain Equipment Company (MEC)
This Canadian outdoor retailer was founded in 1971, initially as a coop. It produces a variety of outdoor apparel, often with recycled and Bluesign-approved materials. MEC permanently phased out the use of long-chain (C8) PFC DWR chemistry from products in 2016 and is using safer alternatives. Many of its outdoor clothing uses recycled materials, such as nylon and insulation.
Many items in its lineup are also Fair Trade certified, which shows a dedication to the social impact of its products. MEC developed its first supplier code of conduct and factory audit program in the early 2000s and has standards in place for every factory that produces its products. Over the years, it has discovered and remediated issues in health and safety, excessive overtime, forced labor, and child labor.
MEC has a full line of women’s and men’s outdoor clothing and gear, including duffle bags made of 100% recycled material and totes made with salvaged fabric. We sampled the Aquanator Rain Pants, Aquanator Long Rain Coat, and Hybrid Softshell Pants made with recycled materials.
Orvis was founded in 1856 in Vermont as a company offering fly-fishing equipment. Conservation and a deep connection with the natural world are key aspects of the Orvis brand, and it has committed to protecting and restoring 50 million acres of vital habitat by 2030. It donates 5% of pre-tax profits to “to protecting nature, supporting communities, and advancing canine health and well-being.” The Orvis fly-fishing blog shows its dedication to education and preserving wildlife habitat.
It’s great to see an older company embracing sustainability and making its operations and products more sustainable over time. Numerous Orvis products contain recycled nylon and polyester and Bluesign-certified fabrics. It is a founding member of the OIA’s Climate Action Corps, has a goal to be climate positive by 2030, and use exclusively plastic-free packaging.
We sampled the Women’s Horseshoe Hills Jacket and the Pro Insulated Hoodie, which both contain recycled materials.
This fair trade fashion brand is based in New Orleans and produces loungewear, dresses, jumpsuits, sarongs, outwear, and more. Passion Lilie was founded to make fair trade clothing more stylish, affordable, and well-fitting, and each item is made in small batches in India. The company purchases carbon offsets for the emissions generated from shipping goods from India to the U.S. and encourages customers to offset their shipping emissions. It uses GOTS-certified organic dyes and no toxic azo dyes.
Passion Lilie’s dedication to fair trade goes beyond paying a livable wage and safe working conditions. It promotes gender equity in the workplace with a free job training program for women in the apparel industry in India to help them advice to a higher-paying tailor position. The 3-month training includes a salary, a loaned sewing machine, and free space to work.
We sampled the Badru Button Dress with hand-woven cotton ikat fabric.
This is one of the most impressive companies featured in this article from a sustainability standpoint, and its high B Corp score is a reflection of this. Each year, B Lab recognizes companies with the highest verified scores in five impact areas. Patagonia made the Best for the World: Community and Best for the World: Environment lists for the last two years. It has also been a certified B Corp since 2011, which shows it is a pioneer in environmentally friendly and ethical business.
Patagonia has some innovative materials which help conserve resources. It uses Infinna Fiber from post-consumer recycled cotton from its take-back program, recycled spandex, and all the virgin cotton it uses is organic. Patagonia even promotes Regenerative Organic Certified cotton practices with farmers in India, and over 2,200 farmers are participating.
We sampled the Nano Air Light Hybrid Hoodie, which is Fair Trade-certified sewn and contains recycled materials.
This brand has produced performance clothing, such as activewear and yoga accessories, since 1992. The company embarked on a journey to reduce the use of plastic waste in its packaging in 2010 and has realized many sustainability goals since. It then launched the Responsible Packaging Movement in 2020 to promote sustainable packaging practices in the consumer goods industry. To date, more than 150 like-minded brands have joined, including MEC and Smartwool and nonprofit partners 5 Gyres and Canopy, to help with education and advocacy.
One way that prAna is unique from a sustainability standpoint is that it works to bring organizations together to collaborate and realize shared goals. It also works with the Fair Labor Association to promote workers’ rights, and with Bluesign to minimize its chemical impact. Many of its products feature recycled cotton and nylon materials.
We sampled the comfortable Hall Pant II made with 95% recycled fabric.
This functional swimwear brand for women has products from size XS to XXL that are designed by a professional kiteboarder. The company was launched in 2012 and has a vision of “A world in which women no longer doubt themselves.”
Sensi Graves uses recycled fabrics from Spain and produces its performance swimwear in the U.S. It uses recycled packaging and compostable poly bags and donates 1% of revenue to environmental and women’s empowerment causes. Starting in 2020, Sensi Graves started measuring and offsetting its carbon footprint and is working on reducing future emissions. The swimwear company is now Carbon Neutral certified.
We sampled the Alexa Surf Bikini Top and Jennifer Eco Friendly Bikini Bottom. Both are made in the USA of recycled fabrics.
Founded in 1994 by ski instructors, Smartwool makes a variety of apparel from merino wool, including socks, base layers, tops, gloves, and beanies. It sources ZQ-certified merino wool, a wool accreditation program from the New Zealand Merino Company that ensures operations meet sustainability, social, and animal welfare criteria.
Smartwool has set several impressive 2030 sustainability targets, such as using exclusively climate-positive wool and only regenerative, recycled, and responsibly sourced renewable materials. It is also working towards a circular business model by minimizing waste and collecting old socks to be repurposed into new products.
We sampled the Women’s Active Lined Short and the Active Fleece Insulated Glove with ZQ-certified wool.
This family-owned business started 30 years ago and has shown a strong dedication to going “Beyond the Brim” by becoming more sustainable over time. Sunday Afternoons recently became Climate Neutral certified by measuring its carbon emissions, taking actions to reduce its emissions through its operations and supply chain, and offsetting with solar energy.
Currently, 78% of its products use recycled or responsibly sourced materials and 63% are Bluesign certified. It is also using CoolCare in its products, a cooling technology built into the fibers of the fabric, and it produces numerous hats that are PFAS free.
We sampled the Luna hat, which contains 44% paper, and the Sunseeker hat.
This performance clothing brand is inspired by a coastal California style and was founded in 2015. Vuori believes in ethical manufacturing, sustainability, and community. Manufacturing partners must adhere to the Vuori Code of Conduct for fair treatment and environmental performance.
Vuori started measuring its scope 1, 2, and 3 carbon emission and offsetting them with forestry and renewable energy projects, becoming carbon-neutral. Now, Vuori is working towards rigorous carbon emission reduction goals by 2030.
We sampled the Performance Jogger, made with 89% recycled polyester, and the Seabreeze Short.
This article was originally published on Earth911.
By Sarah Lozanova, Sustainability Writer
Sarah Lozanova is a sustainability journalist and communications professional that helps shoppers find greener, socially-responsible, and more eco-friendly consumer goods. These products may use recycled or upcycled materials, have third-party green certifications, be made by employees earning a living wage, and minimize waste. Lozanova is the author of the book Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and holds an MBA in sustainable management from Presidio Graduate School.
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