Unsustainable underwear is filling up our drawers. Here's how to buy better while still loving your lower half.View all products
- Cheap ten-packs of pants or knickers have become a staple at the high street chain queue. Unfortunately many of these are not built to last, and studies show underwear is destined to stay in drawers for just one to two years. While on average three out of five garments globally end up in landfill, you can bet that figure is higher for underwear, which is less likely to be considered recyclable, and is very unlikely to be passed on secondhand.
- Cheap synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon and acrylic are made from petrochemicals, driving demand for fossil-fuels. These plastic-fibres can shed up to 700,000 microplastics whenever they're washed and will take hundreds of years to fully break down
- The fashion industry is rife with workers' rights issues, with garment workers in countries like China and Indonesia working in poor conditions and receiving very little pay for their work. Brands like Fashion Nova, SHEIN, Revolve, and Romwe all score less than 10% on Fashion Revolution's Fashion Transparency Index
Your outfit may look eco-friendly, but what about underneath? Underwear is the first thing many of us put on in the morning, but it's not always the first thing we think about when it comes to sustainable materials. Choosing a breathable natural fabric is a great idea, as is opting for a strong, durable fabric that won't go misshapen in the wash – the last thing you want is for your pants to become ill-fitting!
There are some great recycled materials which, while not always plastic-free, reduce existing waste and can help give garments like underwear breathability. ECONYL® is made entirely from ocean and landfill waste, such as industrial plastic, clothes manufacturing, old carpets and even 'ghost nets', while lyocell (sometimes known as Tencel®) is made from wood pulp. Lyocell has the potential to use up to 50% less water than cotton and utilises a closed-loop system which reuses nearly 100% of the chemicals used in the solvent-spinning process.
Natural fibres like cotton, linen, hemp and bamboo have various pros and cons – they break down quicker when disposed of and don't create demand for synthetic oil-derived plastics. Cotton biodegrades easily and can be spun into a durable fabric without requiring a complex chemical process, but is a very thirsty crop. Linen can be more efficient in land and water use, but takes a lot of time to process and is quite a delicate fabric. Hemp can be most efficient when it comes to land and water use, but can take more time to wear in. Bamboo grows quickly and without the need for pesticides, creating a hard wearing fabric but requiring a very intense chemical process to produce.
Organic natural fibres (look out for our organic accreditation) like organic cotton are grown without the use of harmful pesticides and chemical fertiliser. Organic products have to meet a high standard, with accreditations like Soil Association and Global Organic Textiles Standard (GOTS) looking at every part of the growing and manufacturing process.