10 Most Sustainable Recycled Polyester Clothing Brands: The Conscious Consumer’s Guide

10 Most Sustainable Recycled Polyester Clothing Brands: The Conscious Consumer’s Guide

By
Quynh Nguyen

Read Time:30 Minutes

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Stay impactful,

Amid growing concerns about the textile industry’s environmental impact, there is pressure to find greener clothes for your wardrobe. Recycled polyester is joining the “preferred materials” group as it bypasses polluting and resource-intensive polyester production. Unfortunately, fashion greenwashing makes it harder for you and all other consumers to figure out which recycled polyester clothing brands offer the most eco-friendly clothes. So, we had to ask: Which are the most sustainable recycled polyester clothing brands? 

The most sustainable recycled polyester clothing brands include Patagonia, Tentree, and Mara Hoffman, which use low-impact materials, employ full traceability, and strive for textile circularity. In addition, Finisterre and Ecoalf commit to reducing carbon footprints and plastic pollution. 

Whether you are searching for an outdoor jacket, a pair of sneakers, or some activewear to add to your wardrobe without negatively impacting the soil, the water, the animals, and other people, there is a brand for you. So, let’s keep reading to learn more about the most sustainable recycled polyester clothing brands and how they ensure sustainable, ethical practices. 

Here’s How Sustainable Recycled Polyester Fabrics Generally Are

Recycled polyester fabrics are generally considered sustainable. Reusing plastic bottles or discarded polyester fibers to make recycled polyester clothes reduces the pressure on fossil fuels—the raw materials for most virgin polyester. It leads to recycled polyester generally being a low-impact fabric, especially compared to conventional polyester. The Common Objective’s Made-By Environmental Benchmark for Fibres ranked mechanically recycled polyester Class A—the most sustainable category of fibers. 

Sustainable: The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level | Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”

Oxford Dictionary

To understand the sustainability of recycled polyester, we’ve assessed the life-cycle and each stage’s sustainability. This life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a method to evaluate the environmental impacts of products and materials. Here’s the quick summary of our LCA of recycled polyester!

What makes recycled polyester so sustainable: Recycled polyester fabrics re-circulate plastic waste that would otherwise take up space in landfills for centuries or get into marine environments, potentially harming animals and humans.

Additionally: Diverting discarded plastic-based materials back into the economy slows down the demand for land needed to store plastic waste, which could keep its form instead of breaking down for centuries. 

Related: Are you interested in the whole story of recycled polyester? Then check out our full article: “How Sustainable Are Recycled Polyester? A Life-Cycle Assessment

Here’s How We Selected the Most Sustainable Recycled Polyester Clothing Brands

The brands on this list were chosen based on their commitment and actions to promote sustainable practices while reducing the environmental impacts of the textile industry. 

They are transparent about their materials, processes, and workforce management within their supply chain. 

Some brands focus their efforts on reducing waste and optimizing natural resources while others strive to reduce the carbon footprint of their clothes. 

All of these brands share the commitment to reshape the textile industry toward a more sustainable and Earth-friendly sector.

These Are the 10 Most Sustainable Recycled Polyester Clothing Brands

Overall, these recycled polyester clothing brands are sustainable. Yet, they take various approaches to reduce environmental impacts and uphold ethical standards. Let’s dive into each brand and find out more. 

1

Patagonia: Everyday Wear for Those Who Care

Logo for Patagonia
Screenshot of the Patagonia front page

Together, we can prioritize purpose over profit and protect this wondrous planet, our only home.

Patagonia

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

Patagonia puts sustainability at the center of their operation. They work to reduce, rather than simply offset, carbon emissions where it matters the most: in the supply chain and material manufacturing. They reduce their carbon footprint by removing high-impact virgin fossil-based fibers from their collections, using “Environmental Profit and Loss” to guide their production decision, and helping their suppliers to cut emissions. Patagonia’s fall 2023 collections are made up mostly of preferred materials (91% by fabric weight), including Regenerative Organic Certified fibers, hemp, man-made cellulose fibers, recycled cotton, and recycled polyester. On top of that, Patagonia’s Worn Wear Program encourages customers to repair and recycle their products, extending the textile lifecycle and reducing waste. Lastly, Patagonia is certified as a B Corporation and a Bluesign® brand. 

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

Patagonia commits to fair trade practices. Through the partnership with Fair Trade USA, they currently produce 86% of their clothes in 20 Fair Trade Certified factories. Patagonia pays a premium for every item produced in such factories, accumulating in a fund for workers to use in their chosen community projects, whether in healthcare or parent support or to withdraw as a cash bonus. Additionally, they have various social responsibility programs to prevent harm and create positive impacts on the lives of apparel workers in their supply chain. These include the Fair Labor Association, the Living Wage Program, the Migrant Workers Program, and the Responsible Purchasing Practices. Patagonia is fully transparent about the locations of their facilities and suppliers

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

Since 1985, Patagonia has pledged 1% of sales annually to environmental causes. They have awarded over $89 million in cash and kind donations to domestic and international grassroots environmental groups, making a difference in their local communities. In 2022, the founder of Patagonia gave away his family’s ownership of the company to the newly created Patagonia Purpose Trust and the not-for-profit organization Holdfast Collective, ensuring that all future profits from the company are used to fight the climate and extinction crisis

🛍️

What is their product range?

  • Best for: kidswear, menswear, womenswear 
  • Product range: shirts, pants, jackets, blazers, hoodies, sweatshirts, T-shirts, shorts, plus-size
  • Price range: $$$ 
  • Size range: XXS–XXXL
2

Tentree: A Lifestyle Clothing Brand That Plants Trees for Every Item Purchased

Logo for Tentree
Screenshot of the Tentree front page

“ We believe the future of business is restorative.”

Tentree 

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

Tentree ensures sustainability by planting trees, promoting circularity, opting for low-impact fabrics, and attaining responsible packaging. Since their inception, they have planted more than 100,000,000 trees, which helps regenerate ecosystems, capture carbon, and provide forestry jobs in communities around the world. Together with textile recycler SuperCircle and resale guru Treet, Tentree has created an integrated solution to resell or recycle pre-loved Tentree clothing items, keeping them in circulation and out of landfills. Tentree also uses eco-friendly fabrics and blends, including organic cotton, hemp, recycled polyester, and TENCEL™. Regarding packaging, they replaced all single-use plastics with FSC-certified and 100% recycled paper. Finally, they have B Corporation and Climate Neutral certifications. 

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

Tentree enforces fair labor practices by collaborating only with manufacturers and suppliers that guarantee a safe and respectful environment for their employees. They regularly audit their partner facilities to ensure compliance with their Code of Conduct and international labor standards. Part of their supply chains is certified by organizations that protect workers, such as Fair Wear Foundation, Global Organic Textile Standard, Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit, and Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production – WRAP. Additionally, Tentree commits to protecting forests through their paper, packaging, and fabric choices. 

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

Giving back is a cornerstone of Tentree’s mission. Tentree plants 10 trees worldwide for every item purchased, contributing to reforestation and combating climate change. In 2022 alone, their customers helped plant over 22 million trees across nine countries, restoring over 2,000 hectares of terrestrial forests, over 1,000 hectares of coastal mangrove forests, and hundreds of hectares of marine land.

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

  • Best for: kidswear, menswear, womenswear
  • Product range: T-shirts, tank tops, shirts, sweaters, cardigans, dresses, pants, hoodies, dresses, shorts, skirts, joggers, jackets, coats, underwear
  • Price range: $$
  • Size range: XXS–XXL
3

Mara Hoffman: Womenswear Brand Promoting Mindful Fashion Habits

Logo for Mara Hoffman
Screenshot of the Mara Hoffman front page

As a team, we remain committed to reducing our footprint on the planet by extending the life of each garment, contributing to the regeneration of the environment, and advocating for the communities least responsible for, yet most impacted by, climate change.”

Mara Hoffman 

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

Mara Hoffman’s sustainability efforts focus on responsible materials, low-impact manufacturing practices, and mindful fashion habits. When sourcing for their designs, they prioritize natural, recycled, and organic materials and do not use any fur, leather, or feathers. Specifically, their swimwear is not made with virgin polyester, but REPREVE® recycled polyester yarns. Additionally, their packaging is free from plastics and uses natural materials that can be easily recycled. Since 2019, they have transitioned into 100% recycled paper mailers for small shipments. Regarding the manufacturing stage, Mara Hoffman aims to minimize waste and energy usage wherever possible. For example, they choose digital printing to reduce fabric waste and water waste. Lastly, they encourage mindful fashion habits such as “Wear More, Wash Less“, repairing, and repurposing to keep garments lasting a long time while reducing the climate impact. They also have a platform, Full Circle Marketplace,  where you can buy and sell pre-owned Mara Hoffman garments. 

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

Mara Hoffman works with Fair Trade Certified™ products and factories to ensure workers receive premium work payment. Additionally, they regularly conduct in-person factory visits. They also support the growth of smaller factories with incentives like sponsoring website development and delivering training programs on transparent record-keeping. For transparency, they publish the list of the Tier 1 factories where the last stage of production happens. 

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

As Mara Hoffman has shifted toward sustainability, they have increased contributions to and participation in social justice movements. They give back in various ways, including sponsoring, fundraising, and mentoring, in partnership with many organizations working towards social justice and sustainability. The list includes Black in Fashion Council, CanopyStyle, Equality Now, Woman March, and Sweet Freedom Farm

🛍️

What is their product range?

  • Best for: womenswear
  • Product range: dresses, tops, blouses, pants, skirts, swimwear, jumpsuits, playsuits, bodysuits, plus size
  • Price range: $$$ 
  • Size range: XS–XXXL
4

Finisterre: Ocean-Inspired Sustainable Outdoor Gear Made Ethically 

Logo for Finisterre
Screenshot of the Finisterre front page

Yet from our cliff top workshop, we stay true to our original design ethos of functionality and sustainability, remaining committed to product, environment and people.

Tom Kay, Founder of Finisterre

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

Finisterre places circular sourcing at the center of their sustainability commitment. They use renewable and recyclable textiles and biodegradable natural fibers and finishes. At least 50% of their clothes are made using recycled fabrics. For example, in 2022, 87% of the synthetic polymer fabrics used in Finisterre clothes were made using recycled fabrics, including polyester recovered from post-consumer and post-industrial waste. They also use low-impact natural fibers, including GOTS-certified organic cotton, hemp, linen, and bamboo. In 2019, they replaced all plastic packaging with water-soluble, ocean-safe, and biodegradable “Leave No Trace” garment bags. Finisterre strives to reduce textile waste by offering repair services and giving in-store credits for gear trades-in, which would be reconditioned for resale. They also implement various incentives to reduce their carbon footprint, including switching more of their stores and offices to renewable energy tariffs and transporting products using less carbon-intensive modes on land and sea. Last but not least, Finisterre is a B Corporation

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

Finisterre is committed to full transparency in their supply chain, holding their partners to the high standards in their Code Of Conduct and their Anti-Slavery & Trafficking Policy. Additionally, they partner with Fair Working Conditions (FWC), enabling the mapping of their supply chain, the screening of suppliers, and targeted audits at high-risk locations. Their facilities are also listed on Open Supply Hub. Finisterre’s ethical values also extend to their dedication to saving the sea. For example, they provide a free resource to inspire ocean activism

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

Finisterre provides financial support to various giving-back campaigns and programs through the Finisterre Foundation, championing ocean access for all. For example, Finisterre turned 2021’s Black Friday into Blue Friday, where they swapped discounts for donations, raising funds for The Wetsuit Project, which adapts wetsuits for children and adults with various disabilities to access the sea. In 2022, Blue Friday was used again to raise money supporting Level Water to provide specialist swimming lessons for children with disabilities. Other projects include The Seasuit Project, City Kids Surfing, Seasuit Donation, and Art Auctioning for Good

🛍️

What is their product range?

  • Best for: menswear, womenswear
  • Product range: shirts, pants, tops, sweaters, dresses, hoodies, shorts, denim, swimwear, jackets, blazers, sweatshirts, t-shirts, baselayers, socks, shorts, 
  • Price range: $$
  • Size range: XS–XXL
5

Ecoalf: Committing to Recycling Waste and Cleaning the Environment 

Ecoalf was founded in Madrid, Spain, in 2009 by Javier Goyeneche with a vision to create a sustainable fashion brand by carefully using natural resources. Today, Ecoalf stands as a prominent global brand in sustainable fashion, renowned for its innovative use of recycled materials and dedication to eco-conscious practices. 

Screenshot of the Ecoalf front page

“I believe the time when fashion was just about looking good is over. More than ever it has to be about doing what is right and feeling good about it.” 

Javier Goyeneche, founder of Ecoalf

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

Ecoalf’s commitment to sustainability is evident in its innovative recycling practices. They minimize the use of natural resources by using mainly waste as raw materials, collecting and transforming discarded materials such as plastic bottles, discarded fishing nets, and post-industrial cotton into high-quality fashion items. In 2023, they launched their first 100% recycled cotton collection that can be recycled again to achieve circularity. In 2021, 74% of the materials used by Ecoalf were recovered from waste, saving 1,377 tons of CO₂. In combination with recycled fabrics, including mechanically recycled cotton, recycled wool, recycled polyester, and recycled nylon, Ecoalf uses a small percentage of low-impact natural fabrics, such as linen and kapok. Ecoalf is also Bluesign® and B Corporation certified

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

Ecoalf ensures their ethics by protecting their workers and the environment. In particular, they ensure there are safe and fair working conditions in their supply chain by mandating a Code of Conduct, an Equality Scheme, a Crime Prevention Handbook, a Disciplinary System, and a Bullying at Work Protocol. Additionally, they run many campaigns to raise awareness of the state of our ocean and earth-damaging consumerism habits. 

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

Ecoalf actively participates in giving-back programs. The Ecoalf Foundation was founded to clean the oceans of marine waste with the help of the fishing industry while giving a second life to plastic waste through recycling and closing the loop. They achieve that with the “Upcycling the Oceans” projects. In 2021, Ecoalf donated 10% of all Because There’s No Planet B sales to the Ecoalf Foundation to expand the “Upcycling the Oceans” project beyond the Spanish border and into countries like Thailand, Greece, and France. The foundation also partners with Biotherm to set up the framework of “Limpia ríos, salva océanos”, a project supported by corporate volunteer days to collect waste and restore the environment. Additionally, Ecoalf’s employees volunteer in various environmental incentives

🛍️

What is their product range?

  • Best for: womenswear, menswear, kidswear
  • Product range: shirts, pants, jackets, blazers, hoodies, sweatshirts, tops, blouses, knitwear, T-shirts, sneakers, accessories
  • Price range: $$
  • Size range: XS–XL
6

ASKET: Timeless Clothes Made Under Full Transparency and With Life-Cycle Responsibility

Logo for Asket
Screenshot of the Asket front page

Our mission is to end overconsumption and restore value to the clothing industry.

Jakob Dworsky, founder of ASKET

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

ASKET ensures sustainability by reducing waste and using less energy throughout the life-cycle of their garments. They tackle the textile waste problem with their Repair Program that helps keep clothes last longer and their Revival Program that diverts used garments from landfills to be repaired, renewed, resold, or recycled. On top of that, they use various recycled fabrics, including recycled wool, recycled cotton, recycled silk, recycled polyester, and recycled nylon. ASKET also runs a Care Program, helping consumers keep their garments fresh longer while using less energy, lowering the environmental impact of the usage stage. In an effort to encourage consumers to buy and waste less, they are fully transparent about the environmental impact of their clothes

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

ASKET maintains ethics through fair labor practices, responsible sourcing, and a commitment to transparency in their supply chain. In 2022, their average traceability score across their entire collection was 96.0%

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

ASKET is not known to be part of any giving-back programs. 

🛍️

What is their product range?

  • Best for: high-quality, essential, versatile wardrobe pieces 
  • Product range: tops, sweaters, pants, chinos, jackets, coats, socks, underwear
  • Price range: $$$ 
  • Size range: XS–XXL
7

VEJA: Sneakers Made With Innovative, Low-Impact Materials 

Logo for VEJA
Screenshot of the Veja front page

VEJA is walking on two feet: ecology and social justice on one side, design on the other. We never compromise between the both of them.”

Sebastien Kopp, Co-Founder of VEJA

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

VEJA ensures sustainability by opting for a high proportion of low-impact materials and reducing textile waste. In 2020, recycled polyester and organic cotton made up nearly 76% of their sneaker materials. They also use other eco-friendly materials, including organic jute and recycled cotton. VEJA discloses the total carbon emissions released throughout their supply chain and the equivalent carbon footprint of various models. By working out the proportion of their emissions, they identify the hot spots and reduce their footprints in multiple ways, including using renewable energy, improving the most-polluting products (leather-based sneakers), reducing air freight for transportation from factories to retailers, and taking the train as the main transporting methods for team members. In June 2020, they launched project VEJA x Darwin, a test hub for cleaning, repairing, and recycling old sneakers, keeping materials longer in circulation while reducing waste and carbon footprint

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

Fair trade is one of the three fundamental pillars VEJA is built on. They work directly with producers and use annual contracts to guarantee income and a reasonable price for producers. Workers who manufacture VEJA sneakers are well compensated and live in normal conditions. Their Supplier Code of Conduct covers the ILO’s Four Fundamental Freedoms principles. VEJA traces most of their supply chain and visits their suppliers regularly. 

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

VEJA partners with Log’ins (Logistics & Insertion), an organization that employs people with light disabilities and promotes their social inclusion. In 2022, more than 200 employees recognized as disabled workers were supported by Log’ins.

🛍️

What is their product range?

  • Best for: womenswear, menswear, childrenswear
  • Product range: sneakers
  • Price range: $$
  • Size range: XS–XXL
8

Lucy & Yak: Independently Owned and Circularity-Focused Apparel Brand

Logo for Lucy & Yak
Screenshot of the Lucy & Yak front page

Every pair of Yaks we make should stay in circulation for as long as possible

Lucy & Yak 

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

Lucy & Yak prioritizes sustainability by sourcing low-impact materials for their clothes, aka their “Yaks,” while ensuring that every Lucy & Yak item is reused and repurposed to stay in circulation for as long as possible. They use a high proportion of eco-friendly materials, including GOTS-certified cotton, GRS-certified recycled polyester, linen, hemp, and deadstock fabrics. Additionally, Lucy & Yak uses renewable energy in their supply chain to reduce their climate impact. Lastly, their sustainability efforts focus on keeping materials and clothing items in circulation for a long time. Various approaches include creating durable and timeless designs that can be used over a long time, buying back preloved Yaks, selling imperfectly made Yaks at a lower price to divert them away from landfills, facilitating a Facebook group where consumers can trade, sell, or buy second-hand Lucy & Yak items, and upcycling returned items

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

Lucy & Yak publishes the list of its suppliers. They monitor health and safety issues by visiting all suppliers responsible for the last stage of production and ensuring the payment of a living wage to workers in part of their supply chain. Additionally, Lucy & Yak traces most of its supply chain.

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

Lucy & Yak supports causes such as helping educate school girls in poor communities or championing initiatives supporting anti-racist work.

🛍️

What is their product range?

  • Best for: womenswear
  • Product range: shirts, denim, sweaters, hats, dresses, pants, jackets, blazers, T-shirts, tops, blouses, jumpsuits, playsuits, boots, accessories, plus-size
  • Price range: $$
  • Size range: XS–XXXL
9

Girlfriend Collective: Essential and Timeless Activewear Made Out of Recycled Materials

Logo for Girlfriend Collective
Screenshot of the girlfriend collective front page

We make everything locally in small batches to make sure we don’t have a negative impact on the environment.”

Girlfriend Collective 

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

Girlfriend Collective’s sustainability efforts start with using recycled and recyclable textile and packing materials. Their clothes are made from recycled materials such as post-consumer water bottles, fishing nets retrieved from the seas, fabric scraps, and other waste. On top of that, their packaging is 100% recycled and recyclable. After their clothes are dyed, all the wastewater is sent to a treatment plant 100 feet away. Treated water that meets safety standards is released into the waterway, while mud dye is donated to a pavement facility to be turned into paving stones. Additionally, they help prevent microfiber release with a branded microfiber filter. Their program “Recycle. Reuse. Regirlfriend.” collects old Girlfriend Collective Compressive leggings and upcycles them into new pieces that can be worn again and again, reducing waste while moving towards a more circular fashion model. Lastly, Girlfriend Collective partners with EcoCart to provide a carbon-neutral option for all orders placed on their site to offset the carbon footprint of their products.

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

Girlfriend Collective’s facilities are fully certified by Social Accountability International – SA8000. An SA8000 certification guarantees no forced or child labor, safe working conditions, and the right to unionize. They also ensure all workers in their supply chain are paid fair wages and provided with free lunch and guided exercise breaks. 

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

Girlfriend Collective is not known to be part of any giving-back programs. 

🛍️

What is their product range?

  • Best for: womenswear
  • Product range: dresses, hoodies, sweatshirts, activewear, sportswear, maternity, tops, blouses, t-shirts, stockings, tights, shorts, lingerie, plus size
  • Price range: $$$ 
  • Size range: XS–XL
10

Fanfare: A Circular Fashion Brand Promoting a Sustainable and Moral Way of Doing Things

Logo for Fanfare
Screenshot of the Fanfare front page

We can take something already in existence and give it a second story as something new to love, all whilst supporting the causes we care about.”

Fanfare

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

Fanfare places sustainability at its core by promoting circularity throughout their entire business model. They design and produce clothes to last, using rescued textiles and certified sustainable fabrics. They also create garment longevity by focusing on material health, durability, recyclability, and traceability. Their virgin natural fabrics (cotton and linen) are certified with GOTS and OEKO-TEX Standard 100, while their recycled fabrics (recycled cotton, recycled polyester) have the GRS certification. Fanfare also sources deadstock fabrics and wool cut-offs for their garments. Additionally, they assist their customers in repairing, repurposing, recycling, reusing, and returning Fanfare garments to continue their life-cycle. They also use recycled packaging to reduce waste. Lastly, they keep their manufacturing local to lower the transport carbon footprint

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

Fanfare has total transparency in their supply chain, which includes an East London studio and a few nearby local suppliers. They have an Ethical Trade Code of Conduct, which covers the ILO’s Four Fundamental Freedoms principles

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

Fanfare is not known to be part of any giving-back programs. 

🛍️

What is their product range?

  • Best for: womenswear
  • Product range: denim, sweaters, jackets, blazers, tops, blouses, T-shirts, shorts 
  • Price range: $$$ 
  • Size range: XXS–L

Recycled Polyester Fabrics: Low-Impact Textiles Re-Circulating Plastic Waste 

Recycled polyester fabrics are synthetic materials made with plastic waste that would otherwise take up space in landfills for centuries or get into marine environments, potentially harming animals and humans. 

Here are the life-cycle stages of recycled polyester fabrics and each stage’s sustainability assessment:

  • Sourcing of recycled polyester fabrics: Utilizing plastic waste for recycled polyester fabrics avoids further depleting nonrenewable fossil fuels—the conventional raw materials for virgin polyester—and the serious adverse environmental impacts associated with extracting and refining fossil fuels. Diverting plastic waste back into usage prevents it from clogging up landfills for hundreds of years or entering bodies of water where it can harm wildlife and humans. 
  • Manufacturing of recycled polyester fabrics: Recycled polyester fabrics can be manufactured via mechanical recycling or chemical recycling. Mechanical recycling is more sustainable than chemical recycling because the former doesn’t depend on toxic synthetic chemicals. However, polyester fibers recycled mechanically have inferior qualities compared to ones made via the chemical route. 
  • Transportation of recycled polyester fabrics: Recycled polyester fabrics typically travel from various locations to collection hubs, processing factories, sorting centers, shops, and consumers’ homes before going to recycling centers or landfills. The GHG emissions associated with transporting vehicles could be significant. 
  • Usage of recycled polyester fabrics: Washing polyester fabrics, the recycled variety included, releases microplastics into bodies of water, causing harm to fish that ingest them and numerous animals further up the food chain. Due to a low moisture absorbency rate, polyester fabrics often require washing more frequently, increasing water and energy usage. Due to their shortened length, mechanically recycled polyester fibers are typically less durable than virgin polyester fibers. 
  • End-of-life of recycled polyester fabrics: The end-of-life stage for recycled polyester is not sustainable because this fossil-based material is not biodegradable. Polyester fabrics, the recycled variety included, take centuries to decompose in natural environments

Mechanically recycled polyester fabric is generally considered one of the most sustainable textile materials. Reusing plastic bottles or discarded polyester fibers to make recycled polyester clothes reduces the pressure on fossil fuels, the raw materials for most virgin polyester. Consequently, recycled polyester fabrics have relatively low environmental impacts, especially compared to conventional polyester.

Why Is It Important to Buy Products Made of More Sustainable Fabrics

It is important to buy products made of more sustainable fabrics because a sustainable textile industry has a lower carbon footprint, helps save natural resources, and is better for forests, animals, and humans. 

Buying Sustainable Fabrics Reduces Your Carbon Footprint 

The production of clothing and footwear is estimated to contribute 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions—more than all international flights and shipping combined. If the fashion industry were a country, it would be the fourth largest emitter of carbon dioxide

One way to reduce the carbon footprint of the clothes you buy is to opt for sustainable fabrics. Sustainable fabrics, which are often made with natural or recycled fibers, have relatively low carbon footprints compared to petroleum-based fabrics. For example, organic cotton made in the US has a carbon footprint of 2.35 kg CO2 (per ton of spun fiber)—a quarter of polyester’s carbon footprint.

Buying Sustainable Fabrics Reduces Demand for Natural Resources and Waste Management

The textile industry uses water and land to grow recycled polyester and other fibers. It is estimated that 79 billion cubic meters of water were used for the sector worldwide in 2015. For example, producing a single cotton t-shirt requires as much water as one person drinks for 2.5 years (2,700 liters of fresh water).

Worse yet, the textile economy is vastly more linear than circular: the largest amount of resources used in clothes ended up in landfills (instead of being recycled to remake clothes). According to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation,

  • Less than 3% of materials used in the textile economy in 2015 came from recycled sources.
  • In other words, more than 97% of resources used in making clothes are newly extracted. 

When clothing items are disposed of within a short period of time—under a year in the case of half of the fast fashion clothes—the natural systems that provide raw materials for fabrics don’t have enough time to recover and regenerate, which could lead to ecological breakdown. 

Sustainable fabrics are made with less water and emissions while lasting longer:

  • Because they are durable, you don’t need to buy new clothes too often. 
  • Thus, you help reduce the pressure to extract more resources for making new items. 

Similarly, making and consuming sustainable fabrics made with recycled materials reduces the demand for virgin materials while helping tackle waste management. 

Buying Sustainable Fabrics Encourages Sustainable Management of Forests

Sustainable plant-based fabrics are made with raw materials from forests and plantations that are sustainably managed, such as complying with FSC standards

When you buy sustainable plant-based fabrics, you discourage unsustainable forestry practices like illegal logging. You can help reduce deforestation, biodiversity loss, and the effects of climate change. 

Buying Sustainable Fabrics Encourages Fairer Treatment of Animals 

The fashion industry is rife with animal mistreatment when it comes to making animal-based fabrics like wool or silk. Every year, billions of animals suffer and die for clothing and accessories.

Buying sustainable vegan alternatives can help to reduce the pressure on raising more and more animals to meet the demand for animal-based fabrics while sacrificing their well-being and lives. 

Suppose you have to buy fabrics made with, for example, wool or silk; make sure you only choose brands committed to cruelty-free products. In that case, you help advocate better treatments for animals raised within the textile industry. 

Using Sustainable Fabrics Encourages Fairer Treatment of Textile Workers 

Recent statistics from UNICEF estimated as many as 170 million child laborers worldwide, many of whom were engaged in some form of work in the textile industry. They don’t get paid minimum wages and often work long hours. 

When you buy sustainable fabrics from brands transparent about the working conditions at their factories, you discourage the use of child labor and help promote better working conditions for textile workers.

How Can You Generally Buy More Sustainable Fabrics

The key to sustainably buying fabrics is to check on relevant environmental and original certifications. 

For natural fabrics

  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): A globally recognized certification system that ensures a certain threshold of organic content has been met. It covers manufacturing, packaging, labeling, transportation, and distribution (but not what happens in the fields where crops are grown). 
  • USDA Certified Biobased Product: The USDA BioPreferred® Certification is a voluntary certification offered by the United States Department of Agriculture. The certification identifies products made from plants or other renewable materials.
  • Ecolabel: Ecolabel is the official European Union voluntary label recognized worldwide for certified products with a guaranteed, independently verified low environmental impact. The label requires high environmental standards throughout the entire life-cycle: from raw material extraction through production and distribution to disposal. It also encourages companies to develop innovative, durable, easy-to-repair, and recyclable products. 

For plant-based semi-natural/semi-synthetic fabrics:

  • Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification: PEFC’s approaches to sustainable forest management are in line with protecting the forests globally and locally and making the certificate work for everyone. Getting a PEFC certification is strict enough to ensure the sustainable management of a forest is socially just, ecologically sound, and economically viable but attainable not only by big but small forest owners.

For recycled fabrics:

  • Recycled Claim Standard (RCS): The Textile Exchange RCS was originally developed as an international, voluntary standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of Recycled input and chain of custody. 
  • The Global Recycled Standard (GRS): The Global Recycled Standard (GRS) is an international, voluntary, full product standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of Recycled Content, chain of custody, social and environmental practices, and chemical restrictions. It can be used for any product with more than 20% recycled material.

For all types of fabrics:

  • STeP by OEKO-TEX®: STeP by OEKO-TEX® is an independent certification system for brands, retailers, and manufacturers from the textile and leather industry. It communicates organizational environmental measures, including reducing carbon footprint and water usage.
  • OEKO-TEX® Standard 100: OEKO-TEX® labels aim to ensure that products pose no risk to human health (i.e., containing banned chemicals). 

Some certifications that are signaling brands’ efforts toward lowered environmental impacts and a circular economy are: 

  • B Corp Certification: The label B Corp is a certification reserved for for-profit companies. Certified holders are assessed on their social and environmental impacts. 
  • Cradle2Cradle certification: Cradle2Cradle provides a standardized approach to material circularity. It assesses whether products have been suitably designed and made with the circular economy in mind covering five critical categories: material health, material reuse, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness.

Final Thoughts

Recycled polyester fabrics are generally sustainable. Mechanically recycled polyester fabrics, in particular, are considered one of the most sustainable textile materials. 

By purchasing new or pre-loved recycled polyester clothes from brands that commit to sustainability, you support their mission to create a fairer and less harmful textile industry for all lives on Earth. 

Here is the list (again) of the most sustainable hemp clothing brands:

  • Patagonia
  • Tentree
  • Mara Hoffman 
  • Finisterre
  • Ecoalf 
  • ASKET 
  • VEJA
  • Lucy & Yak 
  • Girlfriend Collective 
  • FanFare 

While recycling plastic and textile waste to make recycled polyester lifts the pressure on resources, including nonrenewable fossil reserves, the end products still have the same usage and end-of-life challenges as virgin polyester. 

So to make it more sustainable:

  • Opt for recycled polyester fabrics if your clothing items don’t require regular washing. (Think shoes and rain jackets.) 
  • Buy second-hand when possible.
  • While using recycled polyester products, maximize the number of wear between washes, apply best practices for washing synthetic fabrics (full load in front loading washing machine with a microfiber filter or a Guppy friend bag), and keep the items as long as possible.
  • At the end of recycled polyester products, upcycle the material to extend its usage and arrange for it to be recycled or properly disposed of.

Stay impactful,



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