In today’s day and age, there are tons of ways to shop more sustainably. From shopping small to finding eco-friendly swaps for everyday items, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce your impact on the planet.
Fashion is no exception. However, if you’re going to shop for a new-to-you piece, the most sustainable thing you can do is buy it thrifted, vintage or secondhand. Katrina Caspelich, marketing director at Remake, explains the importance of this sentiment. “In order to lower the amount of clothing going into landfills, we need to keep garments cycling through multiple generations of wearers,” she says.
This, of course, translates to every type of clothing, including jackets. As winter wears on and the need to protect oneself from the biting cold continues, there’s nothing like giving new life to the styles of the past to keep us warm and stylish. However, secondhand clothing is not always the most accessible or inclusive option, and so if you find yourself needing a new jacket, fuss not, for we talked to experts to figure out what to look for in a sustainable winter jacket.
Elizabeth Cline, author of “The Conscious Closet,” says a sustainable jacket is tricky because it takes more resources to make than other garments. “How many seasons you wear a jacket and how long you keep it in your wardrobe is the number one indicator of how ‘green’ it is,” says Cline.
It’s important to note that by and large the fashion industry goes unregulated, says Caspelich, so there is no industry standard for sustainability. “As a result, brands are defining sustainability based on their own interpretations in order to justify accelerated growth and profit,” she says. That’s why it’s imperative to do one’s own research within the context of what brands you’re interested in.
In terms of what materials one should look for in a sustainable jacket, Cline says there are three categories to bear in mind: Recycled, durable renewable and non-toxic. Some of the recycled materials include, “recycled polyester (rPET) and nylon to recycled wool, cotton, cashmere and even recycled down feathers. There are also branded recycled fibers, like Circulose,” Cline says.
Caspelich says to avoid non-recycled polyesters if possible, “Clothes made out of fossil fuels and plastic (which is most of the clothing you own), will sit in landfills for 200+ years,” she says.
Caspelich also cautions against vegan leather being sustainable, “Just because something is kind to animals doesn’t mean it’s kind to the earth. Most vegan leather is made from materials like PVC, PU and acrylic, which are plastics; they don’t last long, aren’t easily repairable and will never biodegrade.”
Lastly, Cline warns, “Be cautious about performance jackets, which can be coated with PFAs and other forever chemicals. Look for companies that commit to non-toxic, PFA-free water-repellent features, for example.”
On top of materials, searching for a sustainable jacket is also about how sustainable the brand is towards its garment workers. “Buy a product that’s made paying fair wages,” Cline says.
“Typically companies that pay fair wages aren’t overproducing clothing (as it’s exploitative wages that enable overproduction), and then workers in fashion supply chains will use that income to invest in protecting their own environments. This is a more equitable and bottom-up approach to sustainability,” Cline explains.
Lastly, Caspelich leaves us with a golden piece of advice to follow when purchasing a new jacket: “Do your research on the brand to ensure they’re truly walking the walk,” she says. “Finally, one thing I do before I buy anything new, including a jacket, is to ask myself if I’d wear it at least 30 times before I buy it. If not, I walk away.”
Below are 10 brands with sustainable winter jackets that will help keep you warm, workers safe and the planet cool.
With robust programs that focus on fair labor practices, Patagonia shines a bright light on a piece of the garment puzzle that is usually in the shadows. From its Living Wage program to its Migrant Worker program and more. Patagonia ensures laborers are included in the arc of sustainability and note products as “Fair Trade Certified sewn.” For jackets, Patagonia employs clickable labels such as “traceable down,” “recycled,” and “fair trade sewn,” while also giving the option to shop for used pieces and trade on its Worn Wear site.
This famous jacket from Patagonia uses recycled, lightweight insulation to keep you warm on the go. Its shell and lining are made from 100% recycled polyester and the jacket is even water-resistant so you won’t get drenched in a surprise rainstorm.
This waterproof, insulated parka is the perfect protection from winter storms on your commute. The jacket is Fair Trade Certified sewn, with a 100% recycled polyester plain-weave shell and a Thermogreen 100% recycled polyester insulation.
Committed to “radical transparency,” Everlane has its practices front and center in the “about” page on its site. “Everlane excels when it comes to fabric innovation, moving beyond investments in pilot programs and research to actually offer its customer base alternatives to virgin materials, such as up-cycled wool and GRS-certified recycled polyester and nylon,” Caspelich says. Each jacket is listed with clickable tags for the consumer to understand what went into the jacket, such as, “organic cotton,” “reduced water waste” and “ever-better factory.”
The Long Mac Coat is a relaxed waterproof macintosh jacket, made using renewed materials like recycled polyester for its lining.
Made nearly entirely from recycled materials, this puffer from Everlane is filled with ultra-warm, recycled PrimaLoft insulation to keep you toasty even on the coldest days.
From the classic khaki trenchcoat to nylon down-filled coats and more, Burberry is setting a new classic standard by using 100% renewable electricity to produce its garments with goals of becoming “climate positive” by 2040.
This iconic coat is made with a 100% cotton outer, which includes some organic cotton, with a cotton and viscose lining.
Climate Neutral certified (meaning 100% carbon neutral), Cotopaxi’s garments are made from 94% repurposed, recycled and responsible materials, while also partnering with factories that adhere to fair labor practices. Known for its bright colors, Cotopaxi’s jackets reflect this motif too, as well as specifics on sustainability and factory practices.
Filled with responsibly sourced, 800-fill down, Cotopaxi’s Fuego jacket is one of the most reliable and stylish ways to stay toasty warm in the winter.
Made using recycled and repurposed polyester, this stylish jacket is the perfect spring and fall layer to wear around town.
Transforming recycled water bottles into butter-smooth activewear that ranges from XXS to 6XL, Girlfriend Collective has sustainability built into the core of its brand. Using “materials that would otherwise clog landfills and pollute the earth” the brand crushes them to specs, sanitizes them, then turns that material into yarn to create its textiles. Girlfriend Collective’s factories are also SA8000 certified, which means its workers are paid fairly and work in a healthy environment.
Made from recycled plastic bottles, this fleece is super cozy and the perfect way to bundle up on cold days. Plus, if you’re ready to break up, you can recycle it through Girlfriend Collective’s ReGirlfriend program.
Whether you’re going for a hike or just get cold at the office, this super-packable puffer is lightweight and can keep you warm when the temperature drops.
Touting a “great” environmental rating from Good On You, Reformation uses recycled materials, Tencel fabrics (harvested from wood and compostable and biodegradable) and is Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified (“one of the world’s best-known labels for textiles tested for harmful substances” reads the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 site). Recommended by both Cline and Caspelich, Reformation has been carbon-neutral since 2015, and some of its jackets come with a “sustainability impact” viewable online.
Made with a recycled wool, this jacket from Reformation can layer on top of all sorts of outfits while keeping you warm and cozy.
Big Bud Press
This unisex Los Angeles-based clothing brand blossoms with ’70’s flower-child-California vibes and has emerged on the scene with quality pieces that are as much about style as they are about functionality. Notorious for its iconic jumpsuits, Big Bud Press also boasts denim work jackets that are defined by its quality, structure and boxy silhouette; come in block colors, stripes, ’70’s daydream patterns; and are softened using an eco-friendly process that saves water and is nearly zero-waste.
Available in tons of different sizes and colors, this Big Bud Press work jacket is made from 100% cotton non-stretch denim.
Christy Dawn focuses on sustainability through regenerative farming practices that care for the land through its “farm-to-closet” collection and Land Stewardship program and the hands that work through its harvest from thread to garment. The brand’s site offers transparency in its practices and materials used for its jackets and coats with a vintage sensibility, from deadstock to organic cotton and superfine alpaca, for jackets that are made to last. “Our goal [at Christy Dawn] is to create timeless pieces that you can wear endlessly and even pass down to loved ones,” production manager, Valeria Trujillo says.
Made from deadstock fabric and excess alpaca wool, the Eleanor coat, with its long oversized silhouette and bell-shaped sleeves, embodies Christy Dawn’s mission beautifully.
Ethically made by partnering with factories paying living wages and using deadstock fabric, the Marlow trench is a timeless jacket with a classic silhouette to last and last through the seasons.
Known for its outdoor wear and yoga apparel, Prana has also made a name for itself by upholding sustainability practices. From transparent supply chain details — with fair trade status for each factory, commitment to animal welfare and certification by Responsible Down Standard — to climate action and beyond, Prana exudes the marker of a sustainable clothing brand living up to today’s standards.
Filled with RDS-certified 650-fill down, this puffy jacket can keep you warm and stylish throughout the winter.
Made with Bluesign-approved materials, this jacket features 100% recycled insulation, 88% recycled lining and a 85% recycled shell to keep you warm and dry in a lightweight package.
Using slow shipping methods and natural fabrics, this London-based brand uses organic cotton, carbon-free lining and recycled polyester to deliver sleek and stylish waterproof coats and jackets. Its “commitments” to sustainability include ethical factories, high standards for environmental impact and the prioritization of animal welfare when using animal byproduct. Thought also places importance on garment care to elongate the life of its pieces.
Made with 100% organic cotton, this cotton jacket is a closet staple that you’ll be layering with for years.
This coat is made of recycled wool and polyester and has a beautifully elegant style that you’ll reach for day after day.