We have a list of 10 ethical outdoor clothing brands that do their part for our environment. From sustainable production and manufacturing processes, to using recycled materials and ethical employment practices, these sustainable outdoor brands give back to the planet to make sure she’s taken care of.
Ethical Outdoor Clothing & Sustainable Outdoor Brands
How Does the Clothing Industry Affect The Environment?
Before we dive in, let’s first set the foundation.
The moment materials are produced to the moment it is put up for sale, the amount of waste, energy and labor needed to create one piece of clothing is crazy.
If you’re not already aware, the clothing industry is one of the biggest contributors to waste on our planet.
Wondering how? Let us tell you.
The Use Of Synthetic Fabrics & Materials
A popular fabric used to produce apparel and gear is synthetic materials.
What are synthetic materials? Oh, so glad you asked. Synthetic materials are fabrics made from artificial materials, not naturally occurring resources.
Synthetic fabrics, like polyester and nylon, are cheap and easy to produce and because of this, are often found in outdoor clothing and gear.
We know what you’re thinking, “get to the point where you tell me why are synthetic materials bad for the environment.” Check out the below…
- Water Pollution – The production of fibers like polyester require massive amounts of water. Through production, the water becomes contaminated and more times than not, pumped back into the world after use in factories.
- Carbon Emissions – During the production process, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are sent into our atmosphere, which aid in the spread of global warming.
- Not Recyclable – 75% of clothing isn’t recyclable or biodegradable and will get dumped into landfills and our oceans.
- Chemical Pollution – In order to dye fabrics, harsh chemicals are used during the dyeing and treatment process. Many of these chemicals are released into freshwater sources.
Source | Business Insider
Not Paying Attention to Fair Trade & Worker Safety
Sadly, a lot of big corporations outsource labor to developing countries where labor is cheap. These pieces of clothing are made by children, men and women in sweatshops where poor working conditions are harmful to their health. Not to mention, working for a wage that is unlivable.
Leaving Animal Welfare At The Door
The human race has used animal made materials like fur, wools and leathers for centuries. However, centuries ago, mass production wasn’t a standing production process.
It’s within the process of mass production where animal welfare falls to the wayside. Billions of animals are treated poorly, live in awful conditions until they are eventually slaughtered for the sake of a new pair of leather boots for you and I.
Examples like the above are reasons why the clothing industry has lasting impacts on the environment.
What Outdoor Clothing Brands Are Ethical?
Great, so you gave me a load of scary information, now what? Well, first things first, know which outdoor clothing brands are sustainable and ethical.
We’ve compiled a list of 10 outdoor clothing brands that pay attention to their production processes, their employees and give back to this big beautiful planet of ours.
Lets get to it….
Eco Friendly & Recycled Clothing Brands
Before you start looking to buy something new, consider the second hand route first. There are a few sustainable outdoor brands that repurpose worn and used outerwear.
TIP: If you’re looking for affordable ethical clothing brands, going the second hand route will definetly save you money vs buying something new
You can’t think outdoor adventure or travel brand and not think of Patagonia. Founded in 1963 in Ventura, California Patagonia has become a staple in sustainable outdoor apparel and planet activism.
| Shop Patagonia |
United by Blue is an outdoor brand with a focus on ocean conservation. So much so that for every product sold, United by Blue removes one pound of trash from our oceans and waterways. Pretty amazing, right?
By creating products that have positive impacts through sustainable materials, United by Blue makes high-quality products and leads the way for some serious conservation efforts.
Coalatree Organics started out as a self-sustaining organic farm in Colorado before starting a sustainable clothing line in 2010.
Sustainable clothing and accessories is the name of the game for Coalatree Organics. Using recycled materials, organic growing methods and sustainable energy sources, Coalatree Organics will then deliver your eco conscious attire in tree friendly packaging. The result, ultimate eco-friendly clothing from thread to packaging.
Like the sound of that? We do.
Creating high standards for themselves, Kuhl has made a commitment to fair and safe supply chains and using sustainable materials. Plus, whenever possible, Kuhl repairs damaged items to extend the life of their products.
Not to mention Kuhl partners with environmental organizations to help defend human rights and preserve our beautiful wilderness. Check out their popular seller (and Jesse’s favorite hiking pant) Renegade Pant by Kuhl.
| Shop Kuhl |
Another ethical outdoor clothing brand is Cotopaxi. Cotopaxi is Certified B Corp and through the Cotopaxi Foundation, Cotopaxi allocates 1% of annual revenues to end global poverty.
If that’s not good enough, Cotopaxi literally gives you transparent details on their manufacturing process, how their factories operate and an annual report to show how they positively impact the world through donations.
Plus when making their products, Cotopaxi uses sustainable product design and where possible, uses recycled materials. If you’re looking to stand out on the trail Cotopaxi’s array of fun travel packs and jackets colors will make you hard to miss.
Since 1938, REI has been a staple for outdoor enthusiast. From gear to apparel, REI has it all. With more than 70 percent of REI’s annual profits going back into the outdoor community, REI is a leader in the outdoor space.
It’s easy to find ethical outdoor clothing at REI. Below are a few of our favorite sustainable clothing brands for you to check out!
Browse more ethical clothing and sustainable brands from REI here.
For something to wear for every adventure or for eco yoga clothes, prAna is a great sustainable outdoor brand to checkout. prAna is vigilant in looking for ways to reduce their impact on the environment.
Through partnerships with organizations like Fair Trade, bluesign, Textile Exchange and Responsible Down Standard, prAna is ensuring their people are taken care of and production processes are sustainable.
| Shop prAna |
What’s the main fabric in Smartwool? Wool of course!
Using 100% responsibly sourced Merino wool in their base layers, Smartwool really thinks through ethical sourcing practices.
In fact Smartwool is ZQ-certified meaning their wool is of the highest quality, is environmental responsible and the sheep that produce the wool are well taken care of.
One of the best things you can buy for any outdoor adventure is a good pair of socks. Well, Smartwool has plenty of socks for you to choose from!
| Shop Smartwool |
An outdoor brand that has been around for more than 50 years and means “Arctic fox” in Swedish is Fjällräven. Balancing materials that are functional and efficient, wherever possible Fjällräven uses organic, renewable and recycled materials.
Fjällräven says no to using fluorocarbons, are becoming PFC free and treat animals with the utmost respect they deserve. Plus, they are working to become completely carbon neutral by 2025.
Looking for outdoor wear that can be worn everyday? Tentree is for you.
A Certified B Corp company who truly lives up to its name. For every item you buy, Tentree will plant 10 trees. By partnering with charitable organizations, Tentree has a goal to plant 1 billion trees by 2030.
| Shop Tentree |
What Makes a Clothing Brand Ethical and Sustainable?
How do you know which clothing brands use ethical or sustainable practices? Basically, what makes a brand sustainable?
Well, here are 5 things you can ask yourself when looking to buy a new pair of threads.
What Are Their Clothes Made From?
Look for clothing that is made from all natural or renewable materials. Another option is to check out clothing that has been made with recycled items like plastic water bottles.
Also, skip the cheaply made products. Durable, well made materials are essential to sustainable brands.
You want longevity out of your clothes. Cheaply made items will eventually rip and contribute to landfill waste.
Do They Have Sustainable and Ethical Certifications?
Check for certifications on the outdoor brands website. A few top and important sustainable certifications are below…
- GOTS: Everything from processing to packaging to distribution must be made from at least 70% certified organic natural fibers.
- B-Corp Certified: Measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance.
- Oeko-Tex Certified: Tests for toxic chemicals that are harmful to humans.
- Bluesign: Given to textile manufacturers who are producing materials in a way that is safe for both humans and our planet.
- Fair Trade Certified: Provide fair wages and safe working conditions to their workers.
- 1% for the planet: Given to companies who commit at least 1% of profits to environmental organizations.
- Cruelty Free / Vegan: No animals were harmed or used for testing while making products.
- USDA Organic: Ensures materials have not been treated with pesticides, synthetics, fertilizers or hormones.
How Do They Treat Their People?
From the farmers that grow the materials to the workers sewing fabrics together, these individuals should have safe working conditions and fair pay.
Do They Give Back?
Does a portion of their sales go to environmental programs to help offset their carbon footprint and/or waste? Do they support grassroot activism efforts?
What these brands do for their communities and the environment speak to the kind of companies they are.
What Is Their Manufacturing Process?
How much water are they using? Are they incurring loads of waste? Do they use harmful dyes that pollute waterways?
Basically, what is happening when clothes and gear are being made. Are they using ethical processes? Are they doing what they can to limit the environmental impacts their clothes make?
Do Your Own Research & Be An Environmental Steward
At the end of the day, you must take responsibility for your buying patterns and habits. When looking to give your money to a brand, read the companies stance on sustainability.
If their policy is vague or non-existent, you can make an assumption that environmental sustainability is not a top priority for them. If that’s the case, consider spending money elsewhere to support a brand that cares about the future of our planet.
WANT MORE SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTS?!
PIN IT FOR LATER!
For more travel tips, guides and awesome travel shots, be sure to poke around our site, follow us on Instagram @wanderingstus, Pinterest and on Facebook. Oh and if you have any questions, let us know in the comment section. We’re happy to answer. Or, just leave us a positive note!
– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)