Five sustainable and ethical outdoor clothing brands

Shop these brands; refuse to contribute to the environmental costs of fast fashion

Did you know that the pair of jeans you’re wearing required approximately 2,000 gallons of water to create, from growing the cotton through manufacturing?1 Or that textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of clean water globally, after agriculture?2

How about the fact that 16 million tons of textile waste entered the municipal waste stream (landfills) in 2015, representing over 6% of the total waste stream?3

The list of negative environmental and social impacts of the fast fashion industry, as it’s called, is seemingly endless. Fast fashion focuses on speed and low cost to deliver the latest runway-inspired fashions to store racks, capitalizing on fads while they are top-of-mind for consumers. But this multi-billion dollar industry comes at a monumental cost to the environment and to the people who make the clothes. Toxic chemicals used in textile agriculture, water pollution, textile waste, and slave labor are among the true costs of the cheap clothing that Americans voraciously consume.

Luckily, consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of the impact of our clothing on the environment and on the people making it. As a result, more environmentally and socially conscious brands are emerging or improving their long-held environmental standards, including many outdoor brands. This gives you the opportunity to make a positive difference in the world when you make your next clothing purchase. Because we do, after all, have to dress ourselves — and we should feel good about the impact we’re making.

Read on to learn how these five noteworthy outdoor brands are committed to ethical and sustainable practices, and why you can rest easy about supporting them:

1. Patagonia

Ventura, California
Outdoor clothing and gearPatagonia goes far beyond sustainable sourcing and production to be one of the most well-known environmentally conscious clothing companies in the world. The company engages in activism, offers environmental grants, and funds innovators working on solutions to environmental issues.

Its Worn Wear program offers for sale repaired and recycled Patagonia garments. The company donates 10% of sales to environmental causes each year. And socially, its Footprint Chronicles program tracks every step of its supply chain to ensure products are made under fair, safe, and humane conditions. When you’re looking for environmentally sustainable and ethical outdoor clothing and gear, you know you’re getting it with every Patagonia product.

2. PrAna

Carlsbad, California
Yoga, travel and adventure clothes

PrAna was the first North American clothing brand to produce Fair Trade Certified clothing, which ensures farmers and factory workers at the company’s factories around the world are paid a living wage. Environmentally, PrAna’s bluesign program is a red list of environmental toxins that are not used in the company’s dyeing and manufacturing – eliminating the problem of water pollution before it even begins. The company also uses organic cotton, which reduces the use of water and toxic chemicals in cotton agriculture; recycled wool; and responsible down.“Quality, durability, and versatility play an integral role in the path to creating clothing sustainably,” says PrAna’s environmental statement.

3. Tentree

Vancouver, British Columbia
Casual and outerwear for men and womenTentree’s commitment to the environment is in its name: it plants 10 trees for every item purchased, with a goal of one billion trees planted by 2030. (There’s a counter on the homepage of the website. Current count: 25,113,780).

The company’s goal is to become the most environmentally progressive brand on the planet, which includes using sustainable materials and production methods, as well as promoting fair labor practices and safe working conditions.

4. Obōz Footwear

Bozeman, Montana
Hiking boots, hiking shoes, sandals

Outside + Bozeman = Obōz. This outdoor footwear company, inspired by the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, also plants trees (one for every pair of footwear sold). In addition, it carbon-offsets all product shipments, donates any unsellable (but still wearable) shoes to people in need through nonprofit partnerships, and its headquarters is powered completely by wind energy.Obōz is known for its O-fit insole, which offers unmatched fit, feel and performance.

5. KÜHL Clothing

Salt Lake City, Utah
Outdoor apparel for men, women and kids

KÜHL is all about mountain culture and creating an exceptionally high quality, unique product. “Our responsibility to reduce impact extends to every component of our brand,” says the sustainability statement on KÜHL’s website. This includes thoughtful, accountable manufacturing processes; seeking out safer materials; and operating out of an environmentally sustainable headquarters in Salt Lake City.Ultimately, reducing our impact is not as simple as donating/recycling old clothes. It’s changing the way we think about clothing in the big picture. It’s a shift from viewing clothing as disposable to something we’ll keep and love for many years; as something made to last, to be taken care of, repaired and reworn, and finally reused or repurposed. It’s recognizing that investing in a well-made product from an environmentally and socially responsible company honors the true cost of creating the garment.

This means choosing durable, classic, beautiful pieces of clothing that you will love to wear while also reducing your impact on the environment. It means buying less, supporting brands like those above (all available at Soko Outfitters), and being more thoughtful about how you spend your money — because this is still the fastest way to affect change.

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References:

  1. Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products by Steven Leahy. https://www.amazon.com/Your-Water-Footprint-Shocking-Everyday/dp/1770852956/
  2. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/environment-costs-fast-fashion-pollution-waste-sustainability-a8139386.html
  3. https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/textiles-material-specific-data

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