Looking to buy some sustainable outdoor clothing and want to know which brands to buy from? You’ve come to the right place!
The clothing industry has a seriously damaging impact on the environment. It takes a surprising amount of energy to manufacture clothing, not to mention some clothing is made unethically or with nasty chemicals. An estimated 92 million tonnes of textile waste is generated each year; much of this is non biodegradable so when it ends up in landfill, it remains there indefinitely.
Not only this, but the fibres of some textiles shed when we wash them, leaching microplastics into the ocean and causing devastating effects on marine life.
If you enjoy spending time in the great outdoors, you’re going to need suitable clothing. And while clothing cannot be 100% sustainable, we can choose to buy from brands that make clothing as ethically and responsibly as possible.
In this blog post, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know in order to make an educated decision about the outdoor gear you buy, and will show you 10 of the best sustainable outdoor clothing brands to buy from in 2022.
What makes an outdoor clothing brand sustainable?
Every part of the supply chain has the potential to cause harm, whether it be to the environment, animals, or to the people manufacturing it. But brands who make it their mission to do the least harm possible are the ones we should be supporting. Materials, production, quality and disposal are the things you want to look into when choosing a sustainable clothing brand to buy from:
It’s important to consider the material an item of clothing is made from when making buying decisions. Synthetic materials such as nylon, polyester and spandex require lots of energy to produce and are not biodegradable, so will remain in the environment indefinitely.
Not only this, but the production of many synthetic materials requires the use of harmful chemicals, including carcinogens, and if these are emitted into the water and air untreated, they can pollute the environment.
It’s best to choose clothing that’s made from natural materials, such as organic linen, cotton or hemp, as these won’t warm the planet anywhere near as much – provided they are responsibly sourced.
Products made from recycled materials such as recycled polyester, nylon or cotton are usually the most sustainable choice, though. Using recycled materials lessens our need to extract raw materials. Recycled materials also require less energy and water in the manufacturing process, and allow us to make use of materials that might otherwise end up in a landfill.
Where is the product made? Different countries have different laws and standards when it comes to the environment and human welfare. If you’re looking for outdoor clothing that’s produced ethically, you should look at how it has been made, and what the conditions are like for the workers.
Sadly, many clothing brands outsource their manufacturing to developing countries, where working standards are poorly regulated and wages are very low.
Quality & disposal
Did you know that the average person throws away 37kg of clothing every year? That’s about 92 million tonnes of textiles waste globally!
If we choose to purchase high-quality clothing that’s made to last, we’ll need to buy fewer clothes overall. This means fewer resources used, less production required and less textile waste ending up in landfills.
Think about how you will dispose of your product when it does reach the end of its lifespan. Can it be recycled or repurposed? Is it biodegradable? These are some things to consider when purchasing outdoor clothing to ensure you’re shopping sustainably.
How can you tell if an outdoor brand or product really is sustainable?
‘Eco-friendly’ and ‘sustainable’ have become major marketing terms, so be careful of greenwashing. Greenwashing is the act of trying to make something seem eco-friendly when it’s not.
Most brands who care for the environment are proud to show it! Check the labels for certifications or other information when shopping in-store or read the product description when shopping online. Certifications and materials used are more indicative of sustainability than slapping the word ‘eco’ on it.
These are the sort of things you want to look for:
It’s made from recycled material: Many consumers believe that products made from recycled material will be of lesser quality, but this isn’t the case. Recycled polyester, old clothing or even plastic collected from the beach can all be made into new clothing.
It’s PFC and PTFE free: These nasty chemicals do not easily break down and can persist in the environment for a long time. Studies have linked PFCs and PTFEs to problems such as liver toxicity, developmental changes, immune system alterations and cancer.
It’s vegan friendly: Most brands will place a vegan-friendly label on products that are cruelty-free, so you’ll be able to see that the product is not made from unsustainable animal products.
It’s a B Corporation: B Corp certification is reserved for the most sustainable outdoor clothing companies. These companies “meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.”
It’s Bluesign® certified: Bluesign® certification is a strict criterion used for companies that are mindful of people, the environment and resources. It looks at all stages of the supply chain to ensure that processes, chemicals and materials used are safe for the environment, workers and customers.
It’s Fair Trade Certified™: The Fair Trade certification is given to companies who hold high human welfare standards, particularly those who employ workers from developing countries. This includes fair workers’ rights, fair wages, and things like community development.
Second-hand clothing is the most sustainable choice
The reality is that no piece of clothing can be 100% sustainable. It may have been created as consciously as possible, but no item of clothing can be produced in a totally sustainable way. This is why buying second-hand outdoor clothing is the best thing you can do.
Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everything. Second-hand hiking socks or underwear are probably a hard no, for example. However, with things like jackets, trousers and jumpers, the pre-owned option is definitely worth considering and will probably save you some money too.
You can buy used gear directly from brands such as:
Why these decisions matter
In this digital world, a wealth of information is available with the click of a button. We have the ability to research almost anything we could possibly want to know, and on top of this, we have the luxury of huge amounts of choice when it comes to the products we buy.
As consumers, we hold all the power. We are the drivers of commerce and if we only buy from the most sustainable brands, then other brands must follow suit if they want to remain competitive. So by choosing to buy only the most sustainable outdoor clothing, we are changing the market and forcing companies to produce clothing that is as eco-friendly as possible.
The best sustainable outdoor clothing brands
Sustainable outdoor clothing brands are those that minimise negative consequences on the environment and are advocates for animal and human welfare. It’s difficult to be perfect when it comes to sustainability, but these are the brands that come close – while still producing quality clothing!
This wouldn’t be a sustainable outdoor clothing guide without mentioning Patagonia! This California-based outdoor brand was a huge player in bringing environmental awareness to the outdoor industry.
Their trail-blazing ethos on environmental responsibility has had a huge impact on the outdoors community. They’re aiming for a carbon-neutral supply chain by 2025 and work hard to use the most sustainable materials in their clothing.
Cotopaxi is a certified B Corporation, which means they do more good than harm! Many of their products are made from recycled or environmentally-friendly materials, and 1% of their profit goes towards poverty relief and sustainable community development.
Not only this, but Cotopaxi are also Climate Neutral Certified, which means they’re working to become 100% carbon neutral. Their slogan is “Gear For Good,” so you know from the get-go where their ethics lie.
Kathmandu is one of the largest brands to become a Certified B Corporation, meaning they meet the highest standards of social and environmental impact throughout their supply chain.
The brand has been dedicated to sustainability since it was founded 30 years ago; they use recycled and responsible materials, low impact vegetable dyes, and low carbon emissions. They also have 5* recycling programs and power their warehouses with solar energy!
“In every step of the design, manufacturing, and shipping process, we look for ways to be more sustainable and minimize our impact. Environmental responsibility is central to our mission,” says Coalatree.
Most of Coalatree’s products are made from recycled or repurposed materials. They’re working towards zero emissions by incorporating sustainable energy into their factory buildings. AND, their manufacturing processes are clean and safe for the environment.
VAUDE is a fantastic sustainable outdoor clothing brand based in Germany, producing quality products made to last. They hold several well-regarded environmental standards and certifications, including Fair Wear and Bluesign.
Not only this, but VAUDE has initiated a major research project on how the environmental impact of microplastics that textiles shed can be reduced.
“We are striving for global climate neutrality and aim to manufacture our products predominantly from biobased or recycled materials by 2024,” said Antje von Dewitz, CEO at VAUDE.
The North Face
The North Face has been catching up to Kathmandu and Patagonia in environmental efforts. Their mantra is “exploration without compromise” and they have various projects aimed at protecting the environment directly and indirectly through environmentally friendly outdoor clothing.
There is The North Face Renewed, where used North Face clothing is refurbished and renewed in a bid to produce less textile waste. This recycled apparel is sold at a fraction of the original cost, making it a win-win for customers and the environment alike.
Not only this, but The North Face also co-founded The Conservation Alliance, contributing more than $1 million to protecting the environment. Oh, and the Californian HQ is run off 100% renewable energy.
- Read The North Face’s sustainability statement
- Learn more about The North Face Renewed
- Shop The North Face
Arc’teryx is driven by durability and performance, fighting fast fashion with clothing “designed for the long run.”
They provide lots of information on product care and repair. After all, proper care is the simplest ways to extend the life cycle of any product and reduce the amount of textile waste going into landfill.
Bluesign certified, they have a strong focus on the materials and technology that go into their clothing, and use an 8 step Life Cycle Assessment to measure the environmental impact of each product.
Not only this, but Arc’teryx also working on a research project with Ocean Wise to understand microfibre pollution from synthetic fabrics.
Marmot is driven by three areas of responsibility: People, Product and Planet.
They promote fair, humane working conditions and support social initiatives. They produce high-quality clothing that’s made to last. They produce environmentally conscious products and encourage good stewardship in the outdoors.
“We do this by minimizing our impact on the planet and its resources, protecting wild places and wild creatures, and supporting scientists and researchers working to protect our planet,” says Marmot.
Columbia are known for their durable, high-quality products, but are also major players when it comes to sustainable outdoor clothing.
Bluesign certified, Columbia ensure responsible practices throughout their supply chain, and make every effort to respect and preserve natural resources.
“Columbia is proud to support initiatives that focus on doing right by the people we reach, the places we touch, and the products we make,” says Columbia.
Bluesign and Fair Trade certified, REI is raising the bar on sustainability for outdoor brands. Their materials are responsibly sourced or recycled and their Climate Commitment pledges to half their carbon emissions by 2030.
Back in 2018, REI set sustainability standards for every brand they sell. Every supply chain has to meet safe working conditions, flame-retardant chemicals cannot be used on tents and conservative farming practices for materials like cotton, wool and leather must be enforced.
Thank you for reading! If you found this post useful, I’d be grateful if you would consider using the affiliate links below when planning your travels. I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. This will help me to keep this blog running. Thanks for your support – Lauren.
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