Your Guide to Ethical and Sustainable Leggings

Three pairs of leggings
credit: Satva, Om Shanti, PACT

Leggings are a wardrobe staple for many, whether we’re keeping our legs warm in the winter, pairing them with tunics when it’s warmer, or staying comfy at yoga all year long. For many eco-conscious people, the best way to shop for clothes is to head to the second hand store. But second-hand leggings, like socks and underwear, may make some squeamish. Even if you’re brave, finding a basic pair in the right size can be a challenge. So, buying new from ethical and eco-minded companies is often the best bet, and happily there are now a number of good options to choose from. I am well aware that you can go to any number of shops and purchase tights and leggings for less than $10.00. However, before anyone starts ranting about the high prices of the items recommended here, I’d like to present two arguments for spending more. 1. Cost per wear Leggings can be flimsy. If you can only wear your $5.00 leggings twice before they stretch out or tear, you’ll actually spend more money than if you wear your $50.00 leggings more than 20 times. In other words, spending more up front usually gets you a better cost per wear, and you cut down on the tons of fabric that ends up in landfills every year. Also, if you hand-wash your leggings and keep them out of the dryer, you can further extend the life of any elastic fabric. 2. Cost of labor Leggings are not magically extruded out of a machine fully formed. Actual humans sit at sewing machines and finish them. Those humans deserve a decent living. Some of the options listed here are made in the U.S., where companies must comply with our minimum wage requirements, while others are members of Fair Trade associations. These represent two approaches to avoiding the most exploitative labor practices.

Everyday leggings by PACT

credit: PACT

These staple leggings from PACT are made with organic cotton and are certified Fair Trade. They have a wide, comfortable waistband that stays in place comfortably while you’re exercising. They could also be worn with a skirt or dress without looking like you’re halfway through a quick-change on the way to the gym. PACT is a B-Corp, which means they have a third-party certification to ensure that they meet social and sustainability standards. $29.99 on wearpact.com. Available in additional colors.

Printed leggings from Om Shanti

credit: Om Shanti

These bold printed leggings are made with a blend that contains 85 percent recycled content—using plastic from old bottles. The fabric is milled in Canada, and the leggings are made in Florida. Om Shanti says they’ve designed the fit of the leg to avoid bunching at the knee. The print on the left is called “Chakra Diamonds” and the print on the right is called “Retro Rose.”

Lalita lattice leggings from Satva

credit: Satva

For a more subtle twist on basic black, these leggings feature a subtle cut-out at the ankle. They’re made from a blend of organic cotton and lycra. The company also participates in a community investment program to help improve the lives of organic farmers in India, where Satva sources its materials. $59.00 on satvaliving.com.

Waterlilies printed leggings by PACT

credit: PACT

Ok, full disclosure: I own a pair of PACT’s fun printed leggings and I love them. I wear them for all kinds of workouts, from yoga to ice skating to running. They’re made with a blend of organic cotton and elastane. $34.00 on wearpact.com. Other patterns also available.

Ashley legging pant by prAna

credit: prAna

These leggings from prAna have a Bluesign certification, which ensures they’re made without any harmful chemicals. The company is a member of the Fair Labor Association, and although these leggings aren’t part of their Fair Trade Certified collection, prAna works to ensure that none of its garments are made in exploitative working conditions. $65.00 at prana.com. Also available in charcoal and indigo.

Centered tights by Patagonia

credit: Patagonia

Another Bluesign certified pair of leggings, you can rest assured that there won’t be any nasty chemical traces left over from the manufacturing process. They’re also made in a Fair Trade Certified facility, and feature a nylon/spandex blend that’s designed to wick moisture away from your skin while still feeling as soft as cotton. $79.00 at Patagonia. Also available in grey.

Panel leggings from Linden

credit: Linden

If you’re going for glam, these sheer-panel leggings might do the trick. You could pair these leggings with a bold solid dress or give a simple black tunic a new twist. They’re made in LA, from repurposed and recycled fabrics—including polyester from recycled water bottles. The style on the left is the “Burnout Stripe Dual-Panel” and the look on the right is the “Sheer Black Dual-Panel.” $65.00 on lindenca.com.

Marino air bottoms by Patagonia

credit: Patagonia

If you’re looking for something that can provide serious warmth or serve as a base layer, Patagonia is a good place to look. These leggings are made with a blend of Merino wool (which is sustainably produced) and Capliene fibers (which contain recycled polyester). $129.00 on patagonia.com.