What is sustainable underwear and why does it matter?
At Our Remedy we are always trying to find more ways to be part of a greener and cleaner world. We have spent decades as vegetarians, we are advocates for reusable carrier bags, recycle warriors and we purchase sustainable clothes.
However, one thing we hadn’t given too much thought about until recently is our underwear drawer. They might be our smalls, but we think they can make a huge impact.
Our usual thought when it comes to shopping greener is to buy second hand if not from new, sustainable brands. We love Depop, eBay and charity shop finds. However, we aren’t about buying second hand knickers.
What is sustainable underwear?
Sustainable underwear brands choose responsibly sourced textiles, elastics, wires, eyelets and other materials. They are made using eco-friendly dyes and organic certified fabrics. There’s no sweatshop labour and workers are treated and paid fairly.
Living in a throwaway world | Why sustainable matters
If your £1 knickers from Primark get a hole in them or you have a bad period leak, do you repair/deep clean or throw them? My guess is that you throw them, I probably would too.
Back in the days of our grandparents, they probably would have repaired the knickers or soaked them for hours in a cold bucket. Just like they would have darned socks with holes at the heel.
The mass availability of underwear (and all clothes in fact) at prices cheaper than ever, has made us lose the art of repair. We are not going to sit by a lamp sewing up our smalls when we can have a brand new pair of knickers delivered to us the very next day at very little cost.
Or does it come at a large cost? The cost of our oceans, the cost of the sweatshop workers, the cost of our planet.
Here are some quick facts.
- Clothes made of synthetic fibers don’t break down — adding to our landfills
- A 2016 McKinsey report revealed that three-fifths of all clothing items will end up in an incinerator or landfill within a year after being produced.
- According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the fashion industry produces 20 percent of global wastewater.
Fast fashion brands use open-loop production cycles that pollute water and land
The fashion industry is responsible for 8% of carbon emissions” (UN Environment, 2019)
How can we help?
Low paid workers in sweatshops are what keep the manufactures prices down, which are then passed on to us. Only thing is these £2 pack of undies are likely to last 10 washes before they fray or start to fall apart. So, we are back buying another pack of the £2 underwear. And it goes on. This is fast fashion.
We’re very unlikely to repair a £2 pack of underwear. It would cost us almost that for a new sewing kit (unless you can dig out the one you got in the Christmas cracker…)
So, we are thinking it is worth buying high quality, sustainable underwear that lasts. Then, when it does start to show signs of wear, we invest in fixing it ourselves, or hiring a professional to do it for us.
This is the route we are going down. Quality over quantity. Do you really need 56 pairs of cheap knickers, half of which you never wear because they’re right at the back of your drawer? Or do you just need 7 quality pairs of knickers and 3 or 4 bras (black, white, tan). Investing that little extra in sustainable underwear that lasts will encourage you to look after it well and have anything fixed if it breaks.
We don’t need quantity. We need quality.
So, how do you find sustainable underwear?
We have our favourite brands here at Our Remedy, which we will share with you at the end. Here are our tips for what to look for when on the hunt for sustainable underwear.
- Materials – Sustainable underwear should be made of responsibly sourced materials.
- Zero waste – Textile waste is a big problem for the environment. Often leftover fabrics and dead stock would go to the landfill. However sustainable underwear brands use this material to create new items.
- Sustainable dyes and chemicals – Toxic dyes used in clothes can end up in the water. Make sure you shop for sustainable underwear which hasn’t used toxic dyes and chemicals in their making.
- Organic textiles – These textiles need to be certified by an organic organisation.
- No sweatshops – The fact that sustainable underwear wouldn’t use sweatshops and unfairly paid labor does mean that it costs a little more. However, knowing that you have supported a business who pays their workers fairly and offers safe working conditions is worth it.
Our favorite sustainable underwear businesses