Perhaps no other piece of clothing is as essential as the basic cotton tee or tank. Cotton t-shirts have been around since the late 19th century and were even standard-issued by the U.S. Navy around 1913. Although cotton has been the norm for t-shirt production, there are a variety of reasons why you might want to consider investing in organic cotton tank tops and t-shirts instead.
In this article, we’ll talk briefly about why organic and regenerative cotton is superior to conventional cotton when it comes to environmental and human health, and then we’ll give you our TOP brands for non-toxic tees and tanks for the whole family.
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- Best Natural & Organic Sandals and Flip Flops
- 6 Organic Linen Clothing Brands That Are Made in the USA
- The Best Organic Dresses for Spring & Summer
- Does Plastic-Free, Organic Swimwear Even Exist?!
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Featured Image Credit: Harvest & Mill
Organic Cotton vs. Conventional Cotton
Depending on how it’s done, cotton can have quite a large impact on the humans involved as well as our surrounding environment.
From cotton cultivation to manufacturing, distribution, and disposal, conventional cotton t-shirts not only require quite a lot of water to grow and manufacture, but they also have a tendency to produce a large amount of wastewater. Sadly, the World Wildlife Foundation considers cotton cultivation environmentally unsustainable, with runoff from cotton cultivation fields contaminating rivers, lakes, and wetlands with dangerous pesticides, fertilizers, and minerals.
Organic cotton, however, is not only better for the environment but it’s also much safer for the farmers that produce and cultivate it. This is due to the fact that organic cotton is grown without pesticides, chemical fertilizers, defoliants, or genetically modified (GMO) seeds.
Not only is organic cotton production associated with an increase in healthy soil, but it’s also one of the healthiest fabrics for people with sensitive skin.
It’s best to look for organic cotton that has been certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard, also known as GOTS. Having a GOTS certification means your organic cotton t-shirt brand not only has a proven organic origin but has also been deemed as environmentally and socially responsible in its manufacturing practices.
In addition to having a GOTS certificate, it’s also worth choosing shirts that have been produced in accordance with fair labor laws and with farmers’ and workers’ health in mind. A Fair Trade certification ensures that your product has been produced using ethical methods and workers are paid a living wage for their work. There are a handful of different fair trade certifications and organizations, including Fairtrade International, Fair Trade USA, Fair Wear International, and more.
Our Favorite Brands for Organic Cotton T-Shirts and Tank Tops for Everyone
There’s no shortage of organic cotton t-shirt brands out there, but there’s quite a wide range in terms of quality. We’ve done the research and testing, so here are the brands we think are the best in terms of ethical and sustainable sourcing and manufacturing; comfort and fit; durability; and availability of sizes, colors, and styles.
Pact (Best for the Whole Family)
Pact is an American clothing company based in Boulder, Colorado. They are on a mission to become the “Earth’s favorite clothing,” and they might just achieve that feat. (They’re definitely one of our favorites; you’ll see them in a lot of our organic clothing guides!)
Pact partners with only Fairtrade certified factories in an effort to reduce poor working conditions throughout the globe. These factories provide living wages to their workers, as well as ensure there are no safety risks during the production or manufacturing of their clothing.
Pact uses only GOTS certified organic fabrics for all of their clothes for men, women, and children. Sizes range from XS to 2XL and their organic tees and tanks are available in a variety of different styles and colors. This is one of the most affordable brands, starting at $30 for an adult t-shirt.
Pact also makes an effort to reduce waste everywhere they can and offer a carbon offset shipping program.
MATE (Best for Women)
MATE’s tees and tanks are produced in the very heart of Los Angeles. This is a brand that’s dedicated to sustainability, fair trade practices, and clothing that just feels good. They use only non-toxic, natural, and organic materials for all of their clothing.
MATE’s t-shirts are super soft, timeless, and perfect for pairing with any gender-neutral outfit time and time again. Although most of their products are produced by women by women, they also have a men’s line and a “Mini MATE” collection for little ones as well. They also have an Extended Sizing collection which goes up to 3XL.
In addition to their basic tank tops and t-shirts, MATE also offers sweatshirts and sweatpants, activewear, underwear, jumpsuits, linen, and more.
Other sustainability initiatives include a recycling program dedicated to reusing and repurposing old clothes, a Climate Neutral Certification (which means they offset their carbon footprint and reduce emissions), and plastic-free packaging.
Organic Basics (Best for Men & Women)
Organic Basics carries all your eco-friendly basics: underwear, activewear, and other essentials that come in beautiful neutral solid colors.
Based in Copenhagen, Denmark, this sustainable brand produces clothing using natural, renewable, recycled, biodegradable, and low-impact textiles for all of its products. To source their GOTS certified organic cotton, they’ve partnered with farmers in Germencik, Turkey to help restore the natural beauty of the soil.
And like the others on this list, Organic Basics also prides itself on using fibers produced in factories free from child labor or slave labor, offering a fair wage to all of its producers.
Their tees and tanks are a little on the expensive side, but you’ll notice the difference in how soft they are and how long they last. And to save some coin, you can purchase clothing in “packs” and take an additional 20% off your final price tag.
Sizes range from XS to XL.
Harvest & Mill (Best Gender Neutral)
Even though Harvest & Mill technically offers men’s and women’s collections for sizing purposes, all of their pieces are beautifully simple and non-binary in their design.
This is a U.S.-based company that offers regenerative cotton clothing and is on a mission to use only sustainable, low-carbon supply chains. Harvest & Mill uses 70% less greenhouse gas emissions than traditional clothing brands as well as 50% less water consumption. Therefore they’ve been able to produce 100% carbon-neutral clothing (thanks in part its support of the Garcia River Forest reforestation project and the Capricorn Ridge Wind Farm).
Perhaps their biggest accomplishment is their all-American supply chain, which is five times smaller than traditional supply chains. They use regenerative cotton that’s grown in the United States, work with textile and sewing factories in America, and support local farmers, all helping to sustain and rebuild local communities.
In addition, Harvest & Mill produces clothing with all-natural and non-toxic dyes. This gives their clothes a natural, unique look that is as healthy for the environment as it is beautiful. Shop from tees, tanks, sweatshirts, sweatpants, socks, and more.
Colored Organics (Best for Babies & Kids)
Colored Organics makes organic clothing exclusively for babies and small children in sizes from 3M to 6Y. This is a great clothing brand for parents of little ones that want to provide them with the softest non-toxic clothing for their sensitive skin.
Colored Organics is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They produce clothing, toys, rompers, and a variety of other products for children that parents everywhere can feel safe using. They pride themselves on their hypoallergenic, organic cotton that is super cozy for children.
Colored Organics also caps their work hours for factory workers, provides living wages, and ensures no slave labor is ever used during the production of their clothing.
They’re also part of the Newborns in Need initiative, donating to newborns in lower-income communities. They donated 100 bodysuits so far, and are continuing to donate more. In addition, Colored Organics also has partnerships with the Save the Children Foundation and Children’s Minnesota.
The next time you and your family need to stock up on basic t-shirts and tank tops, either for layering or for wearing during the warm season, consider purchasing organic cotton instead of conventional! You can feel confident shopping from the brands above.
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Written by Veronica H.
All product images belong to respective brands.