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In fashion the word “sustainable” means many things, and sometimes nothing. Depending on the company, a more sustainable sweater could mean it’s made with more delicate care to the animals supplying the fibers, or by hand in the mountains with all proceeds benefiting an underserved group, or could simply mean the production process included less waste than previous methods. Thrifting is a start, but can also be destructive, and let’s not discount the fact that many believe fast fashion is the only affordable option. It’s really hard to understand what’s best when you’re trying to make smart clothing choices that can help the earth.

The best thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong way to start to make your closet more sustainable. What’s going to work for you? What’s your goal? Do you want fewer man-made fabrics that might impact skin itchiness? Do you want to understand clothing recycling programs? Identify one place in your wardrobe to begin and tackle from there.

And when you’ve cleaned out your closet for donations, or hand-me-down groups, or gotten everything you needed to tweak tailored, here are some options to refill your closet with staples you’ll have forever.

Best Organic and Sustainable Fabric Sweaters


J. Press Shaggy Dog Sweater, $245

Rather than replace a discounted sweater every few years, you will have this hand-brushed Shetland wool sweater forever.


Everlane Alpaca Crew, $100

Everlane is dedicated to the humane treatment of the animals it takes fibers from, like for this alpaca sweater.

Best Organic and Sustainable Denim, Pants and Bottoms


Frank and Oak High Rise Slim Denim, $48

This company has perfected a hydro-less production flow that saves 95% more water than traditional production methods.


Warp + Weft High Rise Jeans, $58

A combination of plant-friendly materials and fibers, as well as a production process that includes solar panels, not to mention inclusive-sizing, makes Warp + Weft a great shop to fill your denim closet.


Reformation Gia Linen Skirt, $178

For every item on Reformation’s website, they’ll explain the environmental impact, including the amount of water and carbon dioxide used in production. This skirt, for example, is made of flax, which emits ¼ the carbon per pound of cotton.


Pact Purefit Legging, $20

Pact also explains the environmental impact of each item of clothing as you purchase, including basic stats about the factory where the garment was produced.

To come full circle, don’t forget that Madewell has a recyclable denim program. For each pair of jeans you send, you’ll get $20 off new ones from Madewell. You can print a shipping label right from their website.

Best Organic Tees and Casual Shirts


Outdoor Voices Everyday Shortsleeve, $15

A standard, breathable cotton favorite.


Richer Poorer Easy Muscle Tank, $36

You can scan through Richer Poorer’s fabric library to learn about all of their fibers, both natural biodegradable and tech-made.


Quince Long-sleeve Lounge Tee, $35

Quince has pledged to only partner with factories that pay their workers a fair living wage. They have dozens of standard styles to fill your capsule collection.


Unbound Merino Long Sleeve Shirt, $88

A personal favorite for the absolute ease of wear. These shirts go with everything, don’t wrinkle and come in inclusive-sizing. And Unbound Merino offers travel bundles.

Other Organic and Sustainable Accessories


Bloomingdale’s Men’s Handkerchiefs, $30 for a pack of 5

Sustainability doesn’t stop with what’s on your body. Consider the amount of tissues you find when you take that winter coat out of the closet each year. Try substituting handkerchiefs you can wash and reuse. You can even buy vintage versions on Etsy.


Pact Maternity Foldover Undies, $60 for a pack of 4

There are multiple options for natural fiber underwear, but fewer options for moms-to-be. Pact offers the same environmental impact info on their maternity wear as they do on all other clothes.

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Unbound Merino Beanie and Scarf Bundle, $95

Starting small? Consider a winter bundle that will last you a long time, rather than a plastic version you’ll have to replace in a few years.

This story was originally published February 16, 2023, 12:00 AM.

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