Keep sustainably cool this summer, with this guide to the best ethical and sustainable shorts for men, women, and kids.
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When the sun is riding high in the sky, there are a few things most of us want to do. Firstly, you’ll probably want to slap on some eco-friendly sunscreen to avoid sunburn. And then you will probably want to want to slip into a pair of shorts, to help keep you cool.
Of course, the shorts you wore last summer are the most sustainable shorts you could wear today. But if you are in the market for a new pair of ethical and sustainable shorts, then here are my top recommendations for you.
The Best Ethical & Sustainable Shorts For Men and Women
From Fairtrade organic cotton to hemp, Tencel, bamboo or recycled polyester there are a host of sustainable shorts brands, in a wide range of styles, that will help keep you cool this summer.
I’ve categorised these brands by size range and by budget, to help you find the pieces that fit your preferences with ease.
The price range key for this guide is:
£ = Under £50 | ££ = £50 – 100 | £££ = £100+
Use these quick links to jump to information about each clothing brand, or keep scrolling for the full post:
BAM: Bamboo Clothing
Budget: £ – ££
Caters for: Men (sizes S – XXL) and Women (UK sizes 6 – 18)
Available from: BAM
Looking for sustainable shorts made from bamboo? As you may have deduced from the name, BAM specialises in bamboo activewear. This includes a wide range of sustainable and ethical shorts for men and women.
And when I say wide range, I mean wide. You’ll find yoga shorts, running shorts, sports skorts, sports shorts, cargo shorts, bamboo linen shorts, and even denim shorts made from organic cotton and recycled cotton. There’s a pair of shorts for almost every occasion.
As well as selling seriously soft and comfortable activewear, BAM takes sustainability seriously. It has set ambitious goals that it wants to achieve by 2030 across every element of its supply chain. This includes zero waste to landfill, zero pollution, and zero water waste.
BAM also values transparency and shares information about both its factories and supply chain. The brand is also a member of the Fair Wear Foundation. This independent third-party assessor ensures that workers’ rights are protected and ensure that the factories used are safe and empowering places to work.
Get 10% off your first order when you sign up for the BAM newsletter.
Caters for: Women (UK sizes 8 – 16)
Available from: John Lewis
British outdoors brand Passenger makes eco-conscious clothing for all of life’s adventures.
Its sustainable shorts range is made from responsible materials. In the case of its jog shorts, these are made from hemp and organic cotton. And its Carisso shorts (pictured) and made from organic cotton.
In fact, over 80% of Passenger’s range is made using responsible materials. This includes recycled cotton, recycled polyester, hemp and organic cotton. And by using water-based inks, even the prints are kind to the environment.
What’s also to love is that Passenger plants a tree with every order placed. Passenger additionally donates each month to The Rainforest Trust, to protect existing trees and soils all over the world. Each month Passenger protects a minimum of 65 acres with each donation.
Caters for: Men (size 28 – 40)
Available from: Brothers We Stand
When it comes to organic cotton shorts for men, Barcelona-based Brava Fabrics (available in the UK from Brothers We Stand) is a great sustainable choice.
This brand embeds sustainability in everything it does.
Brava combines design and sustainability to create quality clothing that is durable and timeless. It also opts for natural fibres, renewable resources and recycled materials in all of its designs. This includes organic cotton, recycled wool, Ecovero Viscose and even vegan-friendly buttons.
Brava is also committed to fairness and transparency along its entire supply chain. As such, Brava design and produce every single piece of its collections in Spain and Portugal, so that it can maintain a close relationship with its garment professionals.
This close working relationship means Brava can ensure that all staff have fair working conditions, adequate working hours, a safe working environment, a legally binding employment relationship and fair wages.
Caters for: Women (UK sizes 6 – 16)
Available from: Boody
Looking for eco-friendly shorts on a budget? Boody’s bamboo women’s sweat shorts will give you ample change from £25.
As part of Boody’s new athleisure collection, these shorts (available in black or grey marl) are ethically made from a breathable blend of organically-grown bamboo and organic cotton. Made to warm up, cool down and lounge around in, these shorts are soft, comfy and sustainable.
In fact, every item in Boody’s small but perfectly formed clothing range is ethically made from organically grown bamboo. These are then produced by adhering to the highest standards for both the planet and its workers.
For extra peace of mind, Boody is certified as both Ecocert Approved – which guarantees Boody meets the best environmentally friendly and socially conscious practices – and is PETA-approved vegan.
What’s more, Boody is also a certified B-Corp. This means the brand has been independently verified as meeting high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.
Take 15% off your first order when you sign up for Boody’s mailing list.
Caters for: Women (UK sizes 6 – 14)
Available from: Kind Clothing
Kind Clothing makes vegan-friendly leisure and casual wear for women, and plants one tree for every order placed.
When it comes to its sustainable shorts, these are made from 85% organic cotton and 15% recycled polyester.
What’s to love is that all of Kind Clothing’s apparel is ethically made in GOTS-certified and Fair Wear Foundation-approved facilities. This means that garment professionals are guaranteed safe and dignified working conditions, a fair living wage and a legally binding contract.
And to help stop waste from the fashion industry, every Kind Clothing item is printed to order. As such, Kind Clothing needs 3 to 5 days to freshly print your item, then it will arrive at your door in plastic-free packaging.
Not Perfect Linen
Caters for: Women (UK sizes 6 – 18, but custom sizing also available)
Available from: Etsy
For sustainable linen shorts, then look no further than Not Perfect Linen.
Not Perfect Linen, as the name suggests, makes all of its clothing to order from sustainable, recyclable and biodegradable linen.
As it makes your clothing to order, this means that Not Perfect Linen only produces exactly what is needed. This approach helps Not Perfect Linen to avoid overproduction and eliminate textile waste.
Not Perfect Linen exclusively uses linen that has been produced entirely in Europe – from the fields to the fabric. It only sources linen from suppliers who meet its strict social and environmental criteria or have adopted sustainable practices.
What’s more, the linen used is OEKO – TEX® Standard 100 certified linen. This certification means that the linen has been tested for harmful substances, and guarantees that only low–impact dyes were used.
Not Perfect Linen also keeps its supply chain local to minimise its environmental footprint. This means the design, cutting, sewing, labelling, packing and shipping is done exclusively in its studio. This approach cuts out middlemen, significantly reduces air miles and helps to keep the supply chain small and easily examinable.
Caters for: Men (XS – 2XL) and Women (XS – XL)
Available from: Colorful Standard
For sustainable twill shorts and sweat shorts in a very specific colour, head straight to Colorful Standard. This sustainable essentials brand specialises in high-quality 100% organic cotton clothing in almost every colour you could ever imagine.
It’s no word of a lie. I’ve counted, and Colorful Standard’s organic cotton sweat shorts come in an amazing 45 different colours. These range from muted neutral shades to bold and vibrant tones.
I’ve come to conclude that if you can’t find the colour of shorts you want at Colorful Standard then it probably doesn’t exist!
The best part is that you don’t have to compromise your ethics. All of its shorts are ethically made in Portugal using 100% organic cotton. Colorful Standard also plants one tree for every order placed.
And whilst you might be worried about the environmental impact of all these dyes, you can breathe easily. Colorful Standard says all of the dyes it uses to develop its various shades are all Oeko-Tex Certified. This is an independent verification scheme where its dyes have been thoroughly tested for harmful chemicals.
What’s more, Colorful Standard garment dyes its shorts. This means that the shorts are first produced, and then dyed according to demand only. This way, Colorful Standard can produce its products without wasting large quantities of dye.
Caters for: Women (UK sizes 8 – 16)
Available from: People Tree
People Tree is a regular in my ethical clothing shopping guides and for good reason. All of this brand’s clothing is ethically crafted from organic and fairtrade certified cotton or other eco-friendly fabrics.
And with its use of GOTS-approved dyes and striking patterns that are anything but dull, it’s no wonder that I’ve been turning to this brand for almost 20 years now.
In fact, People Tree was the first fashion brand to be GOTS certified. This fairtrade pioneer was also the first fashion brand to be awarded the World Fair Trade Organisation product label.
These certifications guarantee People Tree’s work in adhering to the principles of fair trade, paying fair wages, and providing good working conditions, whilst upholding the values of gender equality, transparency, and environmental best practice.
Its sustainable shorts collection is small, but find organic cotton cycling shorts with handy pockets for under £30 (pictured), dressy shorts for more formal occasions, and denim shorts made from 100% organic cotton.
Budget: £ – ££
Caters for: Men and Women (sizes XS – 4XL)
Available from: Alpinetrek
Patagonia – the ethical outdoor clothing stalwarts – makes inclusively-sized and responsibly-made clothing that is designed to last and be repairable.
If you don’t know your way around a sewing box, then don’t worry. Its website advises on how to repair all Patagonia items, which is very useful.
And for any clothing that can’t be repaired then you can drop it off at a Patagonia store for recycling or repurposing.
Patagonia uses many sustainable, recycled, and vegan-friendly fabrics and materials in its collection. Plus all of its clothing is finished with PVC-free inks, toxin-free dyes, and environmentally-friendly waterproof finishes for extra peace of mind.
In particular, its sustainable shorts selection is immense. From bike shorts to running shorts, as well as walking shorts and volleyball shorts and everything in between, the choice is mind-boggling.
Caters for: Men (XS – 3XL) and Women (6 – 24)
Available from: Thought
Thought’s approach to ethical fashion is one to be commended. The brand uses only certified natural and recycled fibres and fabrics and makes its clothes ethically.
Thought also makes its clothes from start to finish in the same country. This prevents them from being shipped from country to country, for example, to add buttons or zips, which is a common practice within the fashion industry.
Thought’s sustainable shorts collection is solid. With choices including recycled polyester cycle shorts, organic cotton cycle shorts, Tencel jogger shorts, organic cotton Chambray shorts, and Fairtrade organic cotton men’s shorts (pictured), there’s an eco-friendly choice for every occasion.
Budget: £ – ££
Caters for: Men (sizes 30″ – 40″) and Women (XS – XL)
Available from: WildBounds
TenTree is a Canadian ethical clothing company, available in the UK via Wildbounds, that makes stylish ethically and sustainably produced outdoor and casual wear.
TenTree also plants 10 trees for every item you purchase – hence the name!
Trees are planted in partnership with various charities that plant trees, such as Trees for the Future, to ensure meaningful and sustainable replanting.
Of course, it’s not just about the trees. As a certified B-Corp, tree planting is just one part of TenTree’s commitment to sustainability. Every TenTree item is also ethically made using only sustainable and responsibly sourced fabrics such as cork, coconut and hemp.
Its women’s shorts are made from sustainable Tencel, whilst its men’s range of shorts is available in hemp or organic cotton.
Caters for: XXS – 6XL
Available from: John Lewis
If you are looking for inclusively sized and ethically made activewear, then look no further than Girlfriend Collective (available in the UK at John Lewis).
Catering for up to a UK size 26, its sustainable shorts and skorts are made from recycled plastic.
Additionally, all of its clothing is made in SA8000-certified factories. What this certification means is that it guarantees fair wages, safe and healthy conditions, and zero forced labour or child labour.
And there’s more to love. Through its ReGirlfriend Scheme, Girlfriend Collective takes back your old Girlfriend Collective pieces. Here they are recycled and turned into brand-new Girlfriend Collective pieces, rather than being downcycled into insulation products.
As you can see, there’s a whole host of choice when it comes to ethical shorts. So let your legs breathe in sustainable style this summer.