Sustainable Underwear: Nurturing Nature with Every Layer

Sustainable Underwear: Introduction

Welcome to your weekly tip, which this week focuses on Sustainable Underwear! Embracing eco-friendly options in our daily essentials, like underwear, plays a vital role in our journey towards sustainable living. Often overlooked, the underwear we choose can have a significant impact on the environment.

Today, we’ll delve into the fascinating world of sustainable underwear, uncovering its history and environmental impacts. By understanding these aspects, we can make informed choices that contribute to a larger movement for ecological responsibility. Let’s explore how our underwear choices can lead to substantial global change.

Read on to learn how you can join this important journey towards a greener, more sustainable future!

Underwear: A History

Underwear, an essential part of our wardrobe, boasts a history as intriguing as its varied styles. The concept of undergarments dates back to at least 7,000 years ago, as evidenced by the discovery of loincloth-wearing figurines from the Neolithic period.

In ancient Rome, people wore a form of underwear known as the ‘subligaculum‘, a simple garment that laid the foundation for modern underwear design. The Middle Ages saw the rise of ‘braies’, loose-fitting linen shorts that mark the evolution of underwear styles.

The Victorian era introduced more complex designs, with women’s corsets and men’s ‘union suits’ reflecting the fashion and societal norms of the time. These garments were often made from linen and wool, materials widely available then.

Fast forward to the 1930s, and the underwear industry saw a revolution with the introduction of synthetic fabrics, radically changing the comfort, style, and production methods of undergarments. This era marked the beginning of the mass-produced underwear that dominates the market today.

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Sustainable Underwear - The Roman Subligaculum was the precursor for modern underwear
The Roman Subligaculum was the precursor for modern underwear

Interested in how these historical developments impact today’s choices? Read on to learn about the environmental impact of traditional underwear as opposed to sustainable underwear.

Non Sustainable Underwear: Environmental Impact

Traditional underwear production presents several environmental challenges. For example, it takes about 2,700 litres of water to produce the cotton needed for just one conventional cotton vest. When scaled up to global production levels, the water footprint is staggering.

Synthetic fibres, like polyester, are another concern. These materials are derived from petroleum, and their production is energy-intensive. Polyester underwear also contributes to microplastic pollution, as each wash releases tiny plastic fibres into water systems.

The greenhouse gas emissions associated with underwear production are notable as well. The textile industry as a whole contributes approximately 10% of global carbon emissions, with underwear manufacturing being a significant part of this sector.

Furthermore, the use of harmful dyes and chemicals in underwear production poses risks to both environmental and human health, leading to water and soil contamination in manufacturing areas.

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Sustainable Underwear - Polyester based underwear releases microplastics which end up in the oceans when washed
Polyester based underwear releases microplastics which end up in the oceans when washed

Curious about how you can make a positive change? Continue reading to discover what to look for in sustainable underwear.

Sustainable Underwear: What to Look For

In choosing sustainable underwear, opt for materials like organic cotton, which uses 88% less water and 62% fewer energy resources compared to conventional cotton. Brands using bamboo or Tencel also offer eco-friendly options, as these materials have lower water and pesticide requirements. Not only that, but bamboo is a renewable resource.

Ethical manufacturing practices are crucial. Look for brands that provide fair wages and safe working conditions, ensuring that your clothing choices support not just the environment but also the people behind the products.

Look for locally produced brands as these will have a lower shipping footprint and will support the local economy.

Quality and durability are also key. Sustainable brands often focus on creating long-lasting products, reducing the need for frequent replacements and lessening waste.

Eco-friendly packaging is another aspect to consider. Brands committed to sustainability often use recyclable or biodegradable materials to reduce plastic waste.

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Sustainable Underwear made from bamboo is breathable, healthy and comes from a renewable resource
Underwear made from bamboo is breathable, healthy and comes from a renewable resource

Eager to learn about specific brands that embody these values? Read on for our top picks in sustainable underwear brands.

Sustainable Underwear: Three of Our Favourite Brands

Organic Basics

Your first brand, Organic Basics shines with its use of organic cotton and recycled materials, drastically reducing water use and avoiding harmful pesticides. They emphasise energy efficiency in production, reducing carbon emissions, and uphold high labour standards, ensuring fair wages and safe working conditions. This holistic approach to environmental and social sustainability makes them a leading choice for those seeking responsible underwear options.

Sustainable Underwear - Organic Basics organic cotton Core Rib Shorty
Organic Basics organic cotton Core Rib Shorty


Your second brand, Boody specialises in bamboo-based underwear, utilising this fast-growing, low-impact material known for needing no fertilisers and minimal water. Their closed-loop manufacturing process recycles water and solvents, minimising environmental impact. Committed to ethical practices, Boody ensures sustainability from bamboo cultivation to the final product, positioning them as a frontrunner in eco-friendly underwear. Boody is also a B Corp. Sign up to their mailing list for 15% off your first purchase.

Sustainable Underwear - Boody's bamboo original long boxers in black
Boody's bamboo original long boxers in black


Your final brand, Thought, is renowned for its use of sustainable materials like organic cotton, bamboo, and recycled polyester. They focus on environmentally friendly practices, such as using non-toxic dyes and ensuring their products are durable and long-lasting. Thought is also committed to ethical production, supporting fair wages and safe working conditions in their supply chain. Their dedication to both eco-friendly materials and responsible manufacturing makes them an ideal choice for those seeking sustainable underwear options. Sign up to Thought’s mailing list for 20% off your first order!

Sustainable Underwear - Thought's EcoVero floral bralette in pine green
Thought's EcoVero floral bralette in pine green

Sustainable Underwear: Wrap Up

In this week’s exploration, we’ve uncovered the rich history of underwear and the significant environmental impacts of traditional production methods. By choosing sustainable underwear, we not only make a personal health choice but also contribute to a larger ecological movement. These choices, amplified by our collective efforts, can lead to remarkable environmental improvements.

As Play It Green members, your commitment to sustainable choices, even in the most intimate aspects of life, is shaping a more responsible and greener future. Together, let’s continue to make every layer of our wardrobe count towards a more sustainable world!

Play It Green: Empowering Your Sustainability Journey

Ready to take your commitment to sustainability to the next level? Play It Green stands as your partner in creating positive environmental change. From educational resources on sustainable practices and signposting to sustainable services to initiatives like tree planting and social giving, Play It Green offers a holistic approach to environmental stewardship. 

Join us in the journey toward sustainability—embrace eco-conscious practices and be a force for positive change in our world. All whilst staying relevant, meeting legislation and aligning with the values of today’s consumers and employees.

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