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 it’s taken care of.
There are a lot of factors to assess when you are looking for sustainable fashion brands, and sustainability is broad. We get it, it can be overwhelming, but the below breakdown are some simple but very impactful things you can use to determine whether a brand/company creates ethical outdoor clothing or not.
Ethical Outdoor Clothing & Sustainable Outdoor Brands
Manufacture With Sustainable Raw Materials
Raw materials are the first thing that comes to mind when we think about a sustainable fashion brand. They use eco-friendly materials such as:
- Organic cotton
- Weganool (Vegan wool)
- Peace silk
Sustainable companies put some effort into the chain of production to cause minimal impact on their surroundings. Examples include using renewable energy such as solar and wind. Also, treating waste before diverting it from the premises minimizes pollution in our waterways and landfills. A good thing, right?!
Once their goods are produced, they ship using sustainable shipping practices like minimal to no plastic, styrofoam, etc.
How Does the Clothing Industry Affect The Environment?
Before we dive in, let’s first set the foundation. From 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
Popular fabrics used to produce apparel and gear are made from synthetic materials. What are synthetic materials? Oh, so glad you asked. Synthetic materials are fabrics made from artificial materials, not from 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 synthetic materials are bad for the environment.” Check out the reasons below…
- Water Pollution – The production of fibers like polyester requires 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 aids 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 -To dye fabrics, harsh chemicals are used in the treatment process. Many of these chemicals are released into freshwater sources.
Source | Business Insider
Leaving Ethical Employment At The Door
Ethical outdoor clothing brands should treat their workers fairly and with respect. Their dignity is protected by earning a decent living wage from the work they do.
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. Providing a safe space for work is a must because sweatshops will never in a million years equal ethical employment.
Forgetting About Animal Welfare
The human race has used animal-made materials like fur, wool, and leather 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, and live in awful conditions until they are eventually slaughtered for the sake of a new pair of leather boots for you and me.
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, and their employees and give back to this big beautiful planet of ours.
Let’s 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. Brands like REI Co-Op Used Gear and Patagonia Worn Wear sell second-hand outdoor gear as a way to lessen the environmental impact the creation of new clothing has on our planet.
TIP: If you’re looking for affordable ethical clothing brands, going the second-hand route will definitely 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. Snag a comfy and cozy puffer bison vest or a recycled rain shell jacket.
Coalatree Organics started out as a self-sustaining organic farm in Colorado before starting a sustainable clothing line in 2010.
Sustainable clothing and accessories are the names 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 is the ultimate eco-friendly clothing from thread to packaging.
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 its 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 a 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 jacket colors will make you hard to miss.
Since 1938, REI has been a staple for outdoor enthusiasts. 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.
Along with REI’s used gear and rental program, their commitment to product sustainability is evident. 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 check out. 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. To crew t-shirts to yoga pants, prAna creates well-made, comfy clothes.
| 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 environmentally 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, is becoming PFC-free, and treat animals with the utmost respect they deserve. Plus, they are working to become completely carbon neutral by 2025. From their fleece hoodies to eco shell jackets, you’re set for whatever adventure comes your way.
Looking for outdoor wear that can be worn every day? Tentree is for you.
A Certified B Corp company that 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. Making their clothes from sustainable materials will not only have you look good but feel good too. To Ball caps and hoodies, Tentree is perfect for causal outerwear.
| Shop Tentree |
Bonus Sustainable Brands
Next up, let’s look at the ethical outdoor clothing sustainable brands that we love this year. Their clothes are stylish and long-lasting for those who love to venture outside.
Skida makes outerwear inspired by the ski lifestyle of the people of Vermont and New England. The local brand creates handmade limited-edition pieces. Skida began as a mother and daughter duo who created colorful printed hats for a ski team. After a while, the head warmers became a hit and a company was born to supply the demand.
Currently, Skida ethically employs local seamstresses. The company runs a program that donates hats to cancer patients who have lost their hair. The brand produces hats, neckwear, beanies, cashmere, brim hats, and headbands. Keep yourself warm with an Alpine print fleece-lined hat or unlined Nordic hat.
The brand is fun, and ethical, and the commitment to the community wins us over.
2. Wild Rye
Wild Rye creates both fashionable and specialized mountain wear for women. This is an exclusive woman-wear sustainable outdoor brand.
The clothes are ideal for skiing, hiking, mountain bike riding, and anything else women love to do outside. The bonus is that they are meant to fit real women’s bodies and look good while feeling comfortable. The brand conforms to strict environmental protection principles, and as a result, they are the industry leader in using textiles certified by BlueSign.
Wild Rye ensures that the textiles they use are produced, processed, and stitched following sustainable procedures throughout the entire process. Get padded bike shorts, base layers, key layers, neck warmers, and hats. The company collaborated with Skida to produce a new ethical outdoor line called Wild Poppy!
What Makes a Clothing Brand Ethical and Sustainable?
How do you know which clothing brands use ethical or sustainable practices? What makes a brand sustainable? Well, here are 5 things you can ask yourself when looking to buy a new pair of threads.
1. 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.
2. Do They Have Sustainable and Ethical Certifications?
Check for certifications on the outdoor brand’s 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.
3. 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.
4. 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 grassroots activism efforts? What these brands do for their communities and the environment speaks to the kind of companies they are.
5. 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 company’s 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.
In a nutshell, ethical outdoor clothing sustainable brands lay a great emphasis on welfare. They closely safeguard the well-being of the animals, humans, and the environment during their production processes.
It is difficult to protect each of these aspects perfectly, but it is the effort that counts. We have highlighted some great brands that do what they can to come as close as possible to perfect sustainability.
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– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)