It’s officially fall, and that means it’s time to cozy up your house with pumpkin spice for everything. You might be wrapped in a sweater while you’re picking apples or reading your favorite book. If you’re looking to complement your wardrobe this season with cozy hoodies, cardigans, and turtlenecks, now’s the perfect time to stock up on some sustainable sweaters to replace your old ones.
It’s no secret that fast fashion is bad for the planet, but finding truly sustainable fashion brands can be difficult. That’s why we spoke with sustainability experts to help you find the best low-impact sweaters to keep you comfortable this fall.
It’s not hard to find a sweater made from eco-friendly or recycled materials, as most brands big and small lean towards sustainability.Where Do It gets difficult when you look at the sustainability of your sweater more holistically. “A sustainable sweater is made with its impact on people and the planet in mind,” said Katrina Kasperic, marketing director of Remake, a nonprofit working to end fast fashion. “It means companies that make sweaters treat their workers fairly and use eco-friendly materials – not one or the other. To be truly sustainable, companies must support the well-being of their employees and the environment.”
However, figuring out whether a brand embodies these values can be difficult, which is why Caspelich says research is key. In addition to figuring out what material the sweater is made of, she encourages shoppers to ask the following questions: “Is their supply chain traceable? If so, have they disclosed where their suppliers are located? Not just Countries, and addresses? Do they pay living wages and ensure safe conditions for garment workers? What volume do they generate? How do they address waste? Do they have an effective extended producer responsibility policy? What is it? (Finance, Physics, or both?)”
To explore the expansive world of sustainable sweaters, we asked Caspelich and Elizabeth Cline, authors of The Mindful Wardrobe: A Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good, for some shopping tips. First, look for cashmere, wool or alpaca sweaters, as they last longer than cotton and synthetic sweaters, says Cline.
“There are more and more options in sustainable sweaters. Of course, you can also choose to buy a cashmere, wool or alpaca sweater that will last (or find one in a second-hand store),” says Cline. “There are also more and more brands using regenerative farming practices that store carbon in the soil to produce wool, cotton or cashmere sweaters in a more sustainable way. So look for that word, ‘recycled’.”
If you don’t want to spend that much on a sweater, Klein says opting for cotton sweaters with certified organic cotton is a good option, while recycled polyester sweaters are often made from plastic bottles that keep waste out of landfills transfer. However, Klein said to be wary of these recycled polyester sweaters, as they release microplastics.
To help narrow it down, Klein says keep an eye out for certifications that can help you identify sustainable brands. “In terms of certification, you might be looking for climate-friendly wool or certified organic cotton like GOTS certified,” she said. “Some of the certifications that deal with animal welfare include the Responsible Wool Standard and the Responsible Alpaca Standard. Likewise, for recycled content, you may look for recycled [Claim] standard. ”
However, Klein cautions that these certifications, while helpful, are not perfect. “Third-party certification is not foolproof because the textile supply chain is complex and full visibility is challenging,” Cline said. “In general, though, there is a correlation between companies using third-party certified products and those trying to adhere to sustainable practices across their business, so I still think third-party certification is a way to give you more confidence when shopping the yellow light.”
This fall, Caspelich offers some tips to help you buy and wear sweaters sustainably:
- • Limit your shopping: The most sustainable shopping you can do is not to shop. Think of fun new ways to style sweaters you already own, and consider swapping clothes with friends if you need a fall wardrobe update.
- • Shop Your Favorite Pieces: Start by picking up used clothing on sites like ThredUp or The RealReal, then buy it in person at your local thrift store. There’s also a cool new browser extension called Beni that makes it super easy to find used alternatives to your favorite items when shopping online.
- • Remember #WearYourValues: Support brands whose values align with yours – recognize your purchasing power!
- • Learn about greenwashing: With the popularity of the word “sustainable”, some brands use marketing techniques to appear eco-friendly and trendy, but don’t actually stick to those practices. Make an informed decision by doing your research before buying.
If you need more help finding sustainable sweaters at a great value, check out sites like Remake and Good on You, which research sustainability and impact for you. You can browse approved brands on their website or search for your favorite.
Caspelich also says that while sustainable sweaters are more expensive than fast-fashion alternatives, they can last for years, especially if you take good care of them. “If we could limit the amount of clothing we buy each year and invest in long-lasting, well-made clothing, rather than fast-fashion clothing that quickly shows off what it’s wearing, more of us might be able to buy higher-quality clothing even if We have a limited budget, and so is sustainable branded merchandise,” she said. To make your sweaters last as long as possible, Caspelich and Cline emphasize the importance of washing them correctly and sustainably. Only wash sweaters when you really need them, and consider hand washing and laying them flat to dry to reduce energy and water consumption, Klein said.
All of these tips can help you find sweaters that are more sustainable than the ones in your wardrobe, but Cline emphasizes that no sweater is completely sustainable. “Remember, there is no perfect green product,” Klein said. “Everything we buy has an impact on the environment, and every material has trade-offs. You still need to think about what’s most important to you and choose from that.”
Caspelich recommends this cashmere sweater from Reformation and says, “It’s super comfortable and stretchy, and it always looks great in a sweater.” It’s made from 90% recycled and 10% virgin cashmere, according to Reformation claims that the cashmere reduces carbon emissions by 87 percent compared to traditional cashmere sweaters.
If you’ve started drinking from reusable water bottles, you’ll love this sweater, which is made from recycled polyester from 32 plastic bottles.
Essential’s $75 Cashmere Sweater is one of the most affordable cashmere sweaters on the market, made from 100% Mongolian cashmere. You can read more about Naadam’s cashmere and sustainability work here.
Marla Hoffman $425
An oversized silhouette, this Mara Hoffman sweater is one of Caspelich’s favorites. “[Its] The collared, button-down neckline and oversized rouge body add a classic yet modern look to any outfit,” she says. The sweater is made from 100 percent American climate-friendly wool, which means the wool production is actually carbon positive .
“I love this cardigan because it’s super flattering,” says Caspelich. “Not to mention it doesn’t sting, doesn’t pill…truly a hallmark of a long-lasting closet staple.” Made from a blend of alpaca yarn, regenerated nylon and merino wool, this sweater gives you The benefits of durable materials like alpaca and wool, while a recycled nylon blend helps keep the price down.
Made from 100% recycled polyester, this Patagonia sweater fleece is a timeless staple that will look great no matter where you are on the road or at the brewery.
Erin Fisher $298
Another sweater from Caspelich, this Eileen Fisher piece is made from a blend of recycled cashmere and organic cotton.
This cardigan is made with 100% GOTS certified organic cotton and fair trade certified cotton. Additionally, it is produced in a factory that recycles 90% of its wastewater.
Naadam’s recycled cashmere pieces are made from recycled cashmere in a 70/30 ratio to virgin cashmere and recycled waste from its own factory. In addition, recycled materials are certified to global recycling standards.
Christie Dawn $378
Caspelich is made from alpaca yarn, and she says she loves the softness and timelessness of this Christy Dawn jacket.
Caspelich recommends looking for a versatile sweater you can wear all the time, noting that this cashmere suit from Reformation is made from super-soft materials. It is made from 90% recycled cashmere and 10% virgin cashmere and is available in three colors.
Made from 100% GOTS certified organic cotton, this sweatshirt is a simple everyday outerwear perfect for any fall event. Also, it comes in four colors and sizes from XXS to XXXL.
Girlfriend Collective $92
Caspelich loves this hoodie for its versatile cropped look, which can be worn year-round. Plus, it’s made from recycled microfleece that can be sent back to Girlfriend Collective for recycling at the end of its useful life.