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  • Writer's pictureCharlotte Garbutt

Affordable Sustainable Underwear

Struggling to find ethical undies? That’s pants!

You may be one of an increasing number of consumers concerned about the impact of so-called fast fashion with its damage to the environment, its throw-away business model and dubious ethics. Instead, you choose vintage, buying second-hand from your local charity shops or perhaps you’re hooked on the Vinted app. You love that in contrast to fast fashion, this slower fashion model allows you to develop your own individual style, not dependent on seasonal changes or the latest trends from the catwalk. Whilst most of your wardrobe is preloved, you understandably get your knickers in a twist at the very thought of second-hand undies…


Lasting Lingerie: A Question of Cost Per Wear

One alternative is considering the quality and durability of your smalls and making sure you get good ‘cost per wear’ out of yours. My own pants are all pre-pandemic purchases! Over-demand and over-purchasing are part of problem in the fashion industry. How we take care of our underwear is a consideration, with the following all being more environmentally friendly choices:

o   washing at low temperatures;

o   using eco detergents such as laundry sheets;

o   air rather than tumble drying

o   avoiding fabric softeners and bleach which can reduce the lifespan of your underwear.


A Few Fabulous Fabrics


If you’ve not yet cottoned on to the damage that standard cotton growing can have, you might be interested to learn that whilst cotton is a wearable, natural, biodegradable fabric, it can take 10 000 litres of water to produce just one kilo of cotton, along with the use of pesticides and other pollutants and then there's the environmental impact that can be a consequence of monocropping with a loss of biodiversity caused for example by deforestation. Fortunately, there are lower-impact alternatives, so look out for recycled cotton, or organic cotton especially cotton with global certification such as GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard). Organic cotton is a comfortable and sustainable choice for underwear.


Unlike traditional cotton, bamboo grows quickly, needs minimal water in the process, can be grown without pesticides. And with its antibacterial and moisture-wicking properties, it's a sustainable choice - perfect for down under!



Whilst modal has been around since the fifties, it is gaining in popularity as responsible brands are introducing incremental sustainable changes. Modal comes from beech tree pulp, so is natural and biodegradable. It has a comfortable, almost silky feel – great for our intimate areas!



Another natural choice is hemp which is stronger than cotton. Growing hemp doesn’t require pesticides, as it’s naturally resistant to pests and it’s biodegradable and hypoallergenic.


Buying from Sustainable Brands – the Bottom Line


So let’s take a cheeky look at some sustainable yet affordable brands.


Organic Basics

Known for their commitment to sustainability, Organic Basics uses GOTS-certified organic cotton and recycled materials. In their current summer sale, you can snap up a pair of briefs for as little as £6 in the UK.



You’ve got to love this brand name! Pantee use surplus fabrics from the fashion industry, reducing waste and using materials that would otherwise end up in landfills. From the bottom up, prices for bikinis, thongs and briefs start at around £16.



Rapanui is a UK brand rated Great on the Good on You app / website for sustainability categories ‘planet’ and ‘animals’. It uses a high proportion of lower-impact materials such as organic cotton, and a closed-loop system to reduce water use in its supply chain.



Sustainable brand Thought sells underwear alongside its full clothing range. Currently, they have some rather snazzy bamboo and organic cotton undies in the sale starting from just £4.95.

After Use

You might also be interested to know that a number of charities collect and repurpose discarded bras, such as the Against Breast Cancer charity’s recycling scheme. The Bra Recyclers collect old bras and promote sustainability to help women and girls escaping domestic violence, human trafficking and those living in shelters. And Smalls for All accept new and gently worn bras and new knickers which are distributed to women and children in Africa.

Or follow my mother’s example ….and use the hubby’s old  Y-fronts as dusters!

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1 Comment

Gail Hanlon
Gail Hanlon
5 days ago

Thanks for this, I try to buy sustainably all the time.

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