Wondering where to buy the best sustainable and ethical leggings for sport or for leisure? Read on for the Moral Fibres top recommendations – from leggings made from natural materials or recycled plastic bottles to eco-friendly leggings with pockets!
I’ve written a whole guide to women’s sustainable clothing brands, but what about when you are looking for something specific, such as leggings?
Good news – I’ve got you covered. Whether you are looking for something sustainable to wear to the gym, or just want something soft and stretchy to wear on a daily basis, then I have got heaps of ethical leggings recommendations for you.
Conventional leggings tend to be made from virgin polyester – a plastic-based fabric that is described as having one of the worst impacts on the environment.
Polyester is derived from oil, so is entirely dependent on fossil fuel extraction. This brings with it a host of environmental problems, not least carbon and methane emissions, which drive climate change. It makes sense to look for planet-friendly alternatives where possible.
Where to Buy Ethical Leggings
Whether you are in search of comfy clothes for lounging in or clothes for getting active in, let me show you some of my favourite places to buy ethical leggings. I’ve taken into account sizing, so I’ve found brands offering inclusive sizing. I’ve also catered to a range of price points. As such you’ll see a price key for each brand.
The price range key for this guide is £ = Under £50 | ££ = £50 – 100 | £££ = £100+
I’m mindful that everyone has different ethics when it comes to clothing. As such, this guide has been designed to be a starting point for you to research the most sustainable option for your own particular set of ethics.
On to the brands! Use these quick links to jump to info about each brand, or keep scrolling for the full post:
Caters for: size 6 – 16
Price range: ££
Ruby Moon’s range of leggings are made ethically and sustainably with ECONYL®. This is a technical fabric, made with recycled nylon from rescued ocean plastic and plastic waste. The fabric has been tested for its durability against chlorine, sunlight, and saltwater – and it stands up to all the elements.
The leggings are also PETA-Approved Vegan, and Oeko-Tex certified. What this means is that every component of this article, including the thread, any buttons, and other accessories, have been tested for harmful substances, and that the garment is therefore harmless to our health.
Ruby Moon also gives back. Each purchase makes a loan to a women entrepreneur through lendwithcare.org. This provides a dignified and sustainable way to help people work their way out of poverty with dignity.
Caters for: sizes XXS – 6XL
Price range: ££
US-based Girlfriend Collective (available in the UK at John Lewis) sells the most inclusive ethical leggings I’ve found, offering up to a 6XL size.
Its activewear is made in Asia from recycled plastic bottles, in a factory that guarantees fair wages, safe and healthy conditions and zero forced or child labour.
Girlfriend Collective’s factory is also SA8000 certified. This is a social accountability standard and certificate developed by Social Accountability International (SAI), which helps and protects workers worldwide by providing a standardized guideline to protect the integrity of workers’ conditions and wages. SA8000 overlaps with Fair Trade certification, but while Fair Trade is predominantly used for farming, SA8000 is a certification used in factory conditions.
What’s more, Girlfriend Collective has embraced circularity. Through its ReGirlfriend Scheme, Girlfriend takes back your old Girlfriend pieces to turn them into brand new Girlfriend pieces, rather than being downcycled into insulation.
Caters for: sizes 8 – 16
Price range: £ – ££
BAM’s range of consciously made leggings is the widest I’ve found.
You can shop for:
- Full-length leggings
- 7/8 length leggings
- 3/4 length leggings
- Capri leggings
- Skirt leggings
- Ethical leggings with pockets
- High waisted leggings
- Deep waist leggings
All of these options come in a wide range of colourways and patterns (including plain black), that remain non-see-through no matter what exercise you are doing.
BAM’s leggings are made from bamboo, rather than recycled plastic. Clothing made from bamboo isn’t always the environmental panacea it sounds, due to the use of harsh chemicals and the resultant impacts on workers and the environment.
However, I’ve taken a look at BAM’s practices and the brand only works with bamboo fibre producers who use safe and responsible chemistry and waste treatment practices. BAM also only works with producers who are committed to investing in the technology needed to further improve their practices, processes, and chemistry where necessary.
You can check out my full review of BAM: Bamboo here.
Caters for: sizes 6 – 28
Price range: £
Offering inclusive sizing at a lower price point (leggings start from £18.95), Seasalt’s leggings are made from 95% GOTS-certified organic.
In fact, Seasalt was the very first fashion company to achieve Soil Association GOTS certification in 2005. The brand has continued to do great things by bringing sustainability to the high street, whilst catering for the widest range of sizes.
I have bought a couple of pairs of Sea Dance ethical leggings over the last couple of years. These leggings, which come in a wide range of solid colours, are lovely and thick, incredibly comfortable, and crucially have lasted. They’re not patterned though and don’t have pockets, which could be a dealbreaker for some.
Caters for: sizes 6 – 16
Price range: £
Overwhelmed by choice and just want plain black leggings that are ethical? Boody’s black bamboo leggings come in three lengths – three-quarter, crop, and full length. You can also choose between leggings for everyday wear or activewear leggings. The only thing you can’t choose is the colour – they all come in black! Great if you are suffering from decision fatigue!
Again, Boody manufactures its leggings from bamboo. However, Boody has a closed-loop system for turning raw bamboo into a soft, silky fabric. Here, all the solvents are captured and removed safely, and all the liquid is recycled. You can find out more about Boody’s processes, ethics and accreditations here.
Get 15% off your first purchase when you sign up for the Boody newsletter.
Caters for: sizes 6 – 18
Price range: £
Thought’s range of reasonably priced sustainable leggings (available at John Lewis) is wide. You can find leggings in a variety of colours, and prints. You can also choose between GOTS-certified organic cotton or bamboo. Or if you can’t decide, you can pick leggings made from a blend of organic cotton and bamboo! There is something for everyone.
As well as producing its clothes ethically, what I like about Thought is that it turns scrap fabrics into headbands and leftover yarns into socks. Thought also uses zero-plastic packaging, which is a great additional touch.
Where to Buy Secondhand Ethical Leggings
As with any aspect of ethical clothing, the single most sustainable option is always to buy secondhand ethical leggings. Some people have qualms about secondhand clothing (particularly activewear), and others don’t. I personally don’t – a hot wash quickly dissolves any concerns.
If you are similarly okay with the notion of secondhand clothing and/or activewear then here are several ideas on where to buy secondhand clothes online.
Tell Me More About Recycled Polyester
Recycled polyester sounds amazing, doesn’t it? I mean, what’s not to love? Clothing that’s made from recycled plastic, and in some cases, recycled ocean plastic is surely the way forward. Well, it’s not that simple I’m afraid.
It’s important to know that recycled polyester isn’t a silver bullet. For regular leggings that you put on for everyday wear – for example, if you wear leggings instead of tights, or for working from home – then I would always choose natural fibres for this use, where possible. Look for natural materials such as organic cotton.
For ethical leggings for sportswear, the main market is recycled polyester. This is because it’s simply not possible to make leggings for sport from 100% natural fabrics, and still have the properties that we expect performance sportswear to have.
The problem is that when you wash a synthetic garment, such as recycled polyester, then it sheds plastic microfibres. These end up in our oceans, rivers, and soils, which in turn end up in our marine life, in our drinking water, in the foods we eat, and ultimately in our bodies.
You can wash your clothes in a microplastic catcher, such as a Guppyfriend. Ultimately, however, I think the responsibility should lie with the Government, clothing manufacturers, and washing machine manufacturers to come up with a solution that doesn’t shoulder the responsibility and cost to the end-user (i.e. us).
Recycled Polyester Is Not Recyclable
The other issue is that recycled polyester is recycled but it is not recyclable. At the end of your product’s life, it will probably end up in landfill, unless you shop with a brand that offers a circular recycling system.
For this reason, it’s important to look after your clothes, follow the correct washing instructions, repair any tears when they appear, and wear your clothes until they wear out and are unrepairable. People change size, so in this instance, selling your clothes or passing them on to others to keep them in active use is vital.
If you want to know more, you can read deeper into the problems with clothing made from recycled plastic, in my article on are clothes made from recycled plastic eco-friendly.