Wondering where to buy the best sustainable and ethical leggings for sport or for working from home? Read on for the Moral Fibres top recommendations – from leggings made from natural materials to leggings made from recycled plastic bottles to leggings with pockets!
I’ve written a whole guide to women’s ethical clothing brands, but what about when you are looking for something specific, such as leggings?
With the pandemic requiring many people to work from home, smart officewear has been abandoned, and comfort is king. Many of us are working in our more comfortable, stretchy, and forgiving clothing. What’s more, we have even pushed aside our jeans in favour of elasticated waists. What’s taken their place? Step forward leggings.
Of course, comfort isn’t the only explanation for the rise in the popularity of leggings. Cycling, walking, and running levels are all on the up due to the pandemic.
Where to Buy Ethical Leggings
Let me show you some of my favourite places to buy ethical leggings. I’ve taken into account sizing, so tried to find brands offering inclusive sizing, and I’ve tried to cater 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-off point for you to research the most sustainable option for your own particular set of ethics.
In order to help support the running costs of Moral Fibres, this post contains affiliate links, denoted by *. Moral Fibres may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to readers, on items that have been purchased through those links. This income helps keep this site running.
On to the brands!
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 to work their way out of poverty with dignity.
Caters for: sizes 8 – 16
Price range: £ – ££
Bam: Bamboo’s range of ethical 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.
Their 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: Bamboo’s practices and they only work with bamboo fibre producers who use safe and responsible chemistry and waste treatment practices, and 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 – 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 their leggings from bamboo, however, they have a closed-loop system for turning the 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 their processes, ethics, and, accreditations here*.
Girlfriend Collective’s Ethical Leggings
Caters for: sizes XXS – 6XL
Price range: ££
US-based Girlfriend Collective sells the most inclusive ethical leggings I’ve found, offering up to a 6XL size.
Their leggings for activewear are made in Asia from recycled plastic bottles, in a factory that guarantees fair wages, safe and healthy conditions and zero forced or child labour.
Their 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 their ReGirlfriend Scheme, Girlfriend takes back your old Girlfriend pieces to turn them into brand new Girlfriend pieces, rather than being downcycled into insulation. And if the warm glow of doing something good wasn’t enough, then by way of thanks, you receive $15 USD towards a future Girlfriend purchase. Win!
Buy Girlfriend Collective leggings in the UK via Exeter-based ethical retailer Wow Sancho, which stocks up to 6XL sizes.
Organic Basics Ethical Leggings
Caters for: sizes XS – XXL
Price range: ££
Danish-based Organic Basics pride themselves on selling, well, sustainable basics fairly made in Europe from GOTS certified organic cotton or recycled materials. They offer basic colours, timeless styles, and no seasonal collections to minimise wastage. As such, they have a small but perfectly formed range of full-length ethical leggings* in five colourways.
Their leggings are made from recycled nylon, and their active leggings have a pocket for your phone and keys.
I have a pair of their leggings and what I especially love is that their leggings are sewn together in a way that creates no seams. This means you don’t get any irritation when you are working out, and it increases durability because there are no weak points in the garment.
Organics Basics leggings do run at the more expensive end of the spectrum, however, I’ve had mine for 5 years now. I’ve worn mine daily and I can confirm that they are still in pristine condition. No holes that I’ve had to repair yet!
Use discount code WENDYOBC to take 10% off your order.
Caters for: sizes 8 – 16
Price range: £
If you are looking for leggings to compliment your work from home wardrobe, rather than to be active in, then try People Tree’s range of leggings*, which start from £25.
Their super soft leggings are made from 95% GOTS certified organic cotton with 5% elastane for comfort and movement. Their organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment, with systems in place to replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilisers, and build biologically diverse agriculture.
They also offer yoga leggings, again made from 95% GOTS and Fair Trade certified organic cotton and 5% elastane. These leggings come with a pocket for your phone. In case you hadn’t guessed, I am all about the pockets, so this detail genuinely makes me happy!
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, and they’ve continued to do great things by bringing sustainability to the high street, whilst catering for the widest range of sizes.
I have a pair of their Sea Dance ethical leggings, which I bought earlier this year. They are lovely and thick, and incredibly comfortable. They come in a wide range of solid colours – they’re not patterned though, and they don’t have pockets.
Caters for: sizes 6 – 18
Price range: £
Thought’s range of reasonably priced sustainable leggings* is pretty wide. From leggings in a variety of colours, prints, you can also choose between GOTS certified organic cotton or bamboo, or leggings with a mix of organic cotton and bamboo. There is something for everyone.
As well as producing their clothes ethically, what I like about Thought is that they turn their scrap fabrics into headbands and leftover yarns into socks. They use also 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 ok with the notion of secondhand clothing and/or activewear then here are several ideas on where to buy secondhand clothes online. And specifically for secondhand activewear, try ReRun Clothing. Their mission is to prolong the life of running clothes, so they focus solely on activewear. Their preloved leggings start from just £3 and include activewear brands such as Adidas, Superdry, Karrimor, and more.
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 on to the end-user (i.e. us).
Recycle 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, it happens, 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.