Image credit: Organic Basics
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When crafting a sustainable wardrobe, make sure you don’t overlook your socks. It’s a daily basic that can have a big impact on the health of both the environment and your feet.
Whether you want loungey socks or performance ones, there are ethical and sustainable brands offering several options for you to choose from. There’s no need to compromise durability over sustainability. We got you(r toes) covered.
What to look for in ethical and sustainable socks
Mostly natural fiber: Socks made out of natural fibers aren’t only better for the environment but better for the feet, with better odor absorption. The brands below use natural, low-impact fabrics like organic cotton and closed-loop bamboo. These natural fibers don’t wreak as much havoc on the environment when they’re washed or thrown out at the end of their life.
Recycled synthetics: Brands utilize synthetic fabrics for their stretch and durability. Make sure they are using recycled materials, which saves on all kinds of resources extracted to make virgin materials. A drawback is that when we wash synthetic fabric (recycled or virgin), microscopic pieces break off and lead to our huge microplastic problem. Scroll to the bottom to find out about three great resources for helping to reduce the amount of microplastics that get washed down the drain.
Environmentally-conscious manufacturing: The processes involved in creating textiles, especially high-performing ones, are often pretty harsh on the environment, using lots of water, chemicals, and energy, and leaving behind waste. Look for brands that are using more earth-friendly processes that reduce their impact.
Non-Mulesed wool: Although wool is a natural and biodegradable material, it has some unethical practices. Mulesing is a technique that strips off the skin around the rear end of lambs to reduce the risk of fly infestation. You can look out for Textile Exchange’s Responsible Wool Standard, which was designed to be a global standard that protects animal welfare. It influences best practices, ensures traceability, and gives consumers clear information.
Organic cotton: Make sure to favor organic cotton when shopping — it doesn’t require pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, and so preserves the health of the soil, the health of farmers, and the biodiversity of farming communities.
Fair labor and transparency: As with everything you buy, check for fair labor practices. Look for brands that prioritize transparency and third-party certifications like Fair Trade and SA8000.
Made in the USA: Although made in the U.S. doesn’t always mean your product is 100% ethical, several sock brands featured here contract with well-respected manufacturers with good labor standards that are easily verified with traceable supply chains. Plus the US has strong environmental regulations.
Sustainable Packaging: Search for items that come wrapped in paper-based packaging instead of plastic. There are multiple options of brands using recyclable packaging made from recycled content.
To help you find socks you can feel good about wearing, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite sustainable and ethical sock brands:
Founded in 2012, Harvest and Mill’s socks are made from organic cotton and completely undyed—the color of the sock is the color of the plant fiber! By growing and utilizing different colors of cotton, the brand and its customers are supporting biodiversity, which is essential for ensuring healthy ecosystems and keeping our planet resilient in the face of climate change. Dye-free socks don’t use dye chemicals, which can be toxic to our bodies and ecosystems. All of its organic cotton is grown and sewn in the US, which means these socks support U.S. organic farmers, American heritage mills and their local sewing community. Plus, Harvest & Mill’s signature supply chain has a low-carbon impact as its materials don’t travel as far as most supply chains. All of its packaging is plastic-free and compostable.
PACT’s socks are made out of mostly certified organic and Fair Trade materials and low-impact dyes. It carries a wide variety of patterned and solid-colored socks for men, women, and kids, with a focus on affordability. It uses processes that cut down on water usage too. Pact uses paper envelopes made from 100% post-consumer recycled paperboard and cardboard boxes made with 98% post-consumer recycled materials; both are 100% recyclable.
Organic Basics uses eco-friendly materials like GOTS certified organic cotton and Tencel, as well as recycled wool and nylon. Everything is made transparently in certified factory partners around the world, where workers are ensured safe conditions and are paid a living wage with benefits. It also has an impact index, which measures the amount of waste, chemicals, energy, emissions, and water that are utilized in its production process.
Urbankissed is a carefully curated online destination to shop for conscious fashion favorites and innovative upcoming brands. It stocks 100+ conscious brands that are shipped by its creators directly to your home, with no extra stop. This way, it creates the least waste and CO2 emissions. It also avoids a warehouse full of unsold goods and offers you the latest collections from a large selection of curated and mindful brands. You can find socks in solid colors or fun prints.
Headquartered in Vermont, Darn Tough uses 100% Responsible Wool Standard (RWS)-certified merino wool to create its premium and durable socks. Backed by a lifetime warranty, its socks are suitable for several outdoor activities, including hiking, backpacking, running, cycling, and hunting. Each sock is designed, crafted, and created in the U.S. and packaged in recycled FSC-certified paper that’s printed with water-soluble glues and vegetable-based inks.
Nudie Jeans creates socks for men that are made out of organic cotton and come in many different colors. On each product page, you can check out the factory where the socks were made for full transparency. We love Nudie’s brand mission and its commitment to sustainability and circularity throughout its entire supply chain.
If you’re looking for compression socks, which can help promote circulation, prevent muscle soreness, prevent inflammation, speed up recovery, and provide all-day comfort, Comrad is the brand you want. Its socks are made with recycled materials and are third-party certified by Swisslastic lab-tested graduated compression. Eighty percent of all water used to dye its yarns is recycled using reverse osmosis.
A sustainable fashion pioneer, People Tree has been partnering with Fair Trade producers, garment workers, artisans and farmers in the developing world to produce ethical and eco-fashion collections for over 25 years. People Tree’s socks are made from mostly organic cotton and come in solid and fun designs.
Taylor Stitch’s men’s socks are made from Mercerized Merino. The mercerization process strengthens the Merino fibers and makes them even softer to the touch, which means you get all the natural performance benefits of Merino with none of the itch. These socks are made in Italy out of mostly deadstock materials.
B Corp certified Allbirds makes socks from a material they call Trino, which is a combination of ZQ Merino wool and eucalyptus from sustainably managed forests. It’s soft, moisture-wicking, and odor-minimizing. You can find no-show, low-rise and high-rise socks.
A leader in sustainability for the past four decades, Patagonia carries performance and everyday socks for men and women that are made of sustainable and Fair Trade components.
Conscious Step socks are made out of GOTS certified organic cotton that’s sourced from small farmers in India. Its products are made in Fair Trade-certified factories, which means they’re sewn by people who are being paid a fair wage and working in safe conditions. Each pair of Conscious Step’s socks supports a different cause. Your purchase might benefit anything from ocean conservation to disaster relief to LGBTQ rights. Use the code ECOCULT for 15% off your order of $30 or more.
Maggie’s Organics believes in creating Fair Trade, sustainable socks by crafting an ethical, traceable supply chain. It works directly with organic cotton and wool farmers, guaranteeing a stable price and high quality. Its socks are dyed and knit in the United States.
Komodo’s socks are made out of 90% GOTS-certified organic cotton and produced at factories that ensure safe and fair labor conditions. Its socks come in a wide variety of colors and prints for you to choose from.
BONUS: Catch those Microplastics!
Many of these brands use recycled plastic to make their socks, which is amazing because it means less virgin plastic is introduced into the world. However, it doesn’t keep microplastics from gradually breaking off and getting into our waterways. Washing your socks (or any of your synthetic clothing) in a Guppyfriend filter bag, with a Cora Ball, or in a Microfiber Filter washing machine attachment helps to decrease the amount of microplastic shedding from your socks and polluting the water.