Last Updated on April 11, 2023 by The Filtery
Written by Alana C.
When the heat comes, the sweaty afternoons leave us searching for clothes to keep us cool and comfortable in the summer heat.
And considering you landed on this page, I’m assuming that you’re specifically looking for shorts that are not only comfortable and breathable but also healthy for you and for the planet.
So in this article, we’re breaking down what to look for in sustainable and non-toxic shorts, and then giving you our favorite brands for each category. This will include shorts made out of natural materials like linen, hemp, and organic cotton, as well as non-toxic dyes and other eco-friendly initiatives.
P.S. Here are some other non-toxic articles for spring and summer that you might find helpful:
- For more warm weather clothing, check out these tees & tanks, sandals, linen brands, and summer dresses
- These are the least toxic swimwear brands
- Here’s where to find the least toxic kiddie pools
- Non-toxic popsicle molds
This guide contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase. As always, we only make recommendations that are genuine and meet our standards for safety and quality.
Featured Image Credit: Harvest & Mill
Materials to Look for in Organic & Sustainable Shorts
If you want to skip straight to our brand recommendations, feel free to just scroll down. But if you first want to learn a little bit more about what to look for in non-toxic and eco-friendly shorts, here are some of the best materials:
Linen is a light, breathable fabric that works well for summer because it makes the hottest days feel cool. Linen is made from flax, making it plant-based and eco-friendly. Not only is it a natural resource, but it also doesn’t need fertilizer or pesticides to grow, and it’s not water-intensive either.
Linen is also naturally hypoallergenic, antibacterial, can help prevent excess sweating, and is quite durable. Linen shorts work well as a summer fabric due to their lightweight and skin-healthy properties.
Regenerative & Organic Cotton
Conventionally-grown cotton regularly uses pesticides and fertilizers that get dumped into local waterways, polluting the environment and wildlife, and ultimately—humans.
Organic cotton is a better buy because it doesn’t use harmful pesticides. It uses less water and fewer carbon emissions during production and it also doesn’t strip the soil of vital nutrients that are needed to continue growing crops in the future.
Regenerative cotton goes even further than organic by actually restoring the soil of those nutrients in the way it’s grown and harvested for a truly sustainable and reciprocal relationship.
Organic and regenerative cotton are also breathable, hypoallergenic fabrics that are soft on the skin. When looking for eco-friendly shorts, organic cotton is a great fabric to wear for summer.
Hemp is a very eco-friendly fabric that’s similar to linen in that it can grow on different types of soil and climate. It also doesn’t need herbicides because it’s naturally resistant to weeds. Hemp is a renewable resource that benefits the planet by creating oxygen and creating a useful and strong everyday fabric.
Hemp has been used since 8,000 B.C., known for its strength and durability. It’s naturally anti-microbial, lightweight, and breathable, making it a great summer fabric. It is natural and easy on the skin.
TENCEL is woven using eucalyptus wood. The eucalyptus is grown in forests and can grow fast like hemp. It doesn’t need too much water to grow, making it environmentally friendly. The finished fiber is man-made, making it less of a 100% “natural” fiber and instead considered a “semi-synthetic.”
Although it’s a bit of a complicated subject, TENCEL is considered a type of rayon fabric. Most rayon fabrics are processed using toxic chemicals, but TENCEL is a much healthier option because it is manufactured using safer chemicals using a closed-loop process. You can take a deep dive into this subject right here if you want.
TENCEL is a great fabric for summertime because it can help control moisture and regulate temperature. It’s literally cool to the touch—even after you’ve been wearing it for several hours! The fabric itself is breathable and very durable.
Other Things to Look for in Shorts That Are Good for People & Planet
In addition to the materials used, here are a few other things to consider when shopping for non-toxic and organic shorts for summer:
Ethical & Fair Trade Manufacturing Processes
Are the people involved in making the shorts paid living wages and working in safe conditions? We always look for brands that prioritize transparency in their supply chains, whether that’s through Fair Trade certifications, regular visits to the factories where their clothing is made, or other third-party audits.
Non-Toxic Dyes & Minimal Finishes
Of course, the material used is only one part of the story when it comes to non-toxic clothing. We also wonder how the fabrics are dyed and processed. Are they using natural, plant-based, and/or azo-free dyes? Are there any additives that make the fabric “wrinkle-free,” “moisture-resistant,” or “stain-resistant”? These marketing terms are usually red flags and could indicate that toxic PFAS or formaldehyde has been added to the fabrics.
Although third-party certifications are not always necessary, they can help to provide consumers and brands with a certain level of accountability that a brand is actually doing what they say they’re doing when it comes to safe and eco-friendly materials.
Look for certifications such as GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), OEKO-TEX, FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), MADE SAFE, and Fair Trade.
Style & Function
And last but certainly not least, what style of shorts are you looking for? Something you can dress up and wear to a baby shower or dinner out? Something you can work out in? Something to throw on over your suit on the way to the pool or beach? Something solid-colored and timeless, or something that has a fun pattern?
Although many of the brands below carry a variety of styles and designs, we’ve indicated which ones are our favorite for various categories in order to help with your shopping endeavors.
Where Can You Buy The Best Organic Shorts?
Each company has a different aesthetic to suit your needs and closet. So, we’ve gathered up multiple brands of organic shorts, so you don’t have to!
Pact (Best Organic Shorts for Kids)
Pact is a Fair Trade brand that creates super comfortable clothing for men, women, and children that is made from 100% organic cotton.
The children’s line has a few different shorts to pick from, ranging from ~$10 to $40. They have many different patterns and colors to fit with your child’s preferences. It’s all certified GOTS organic and Fair Trade.
PLUS, they also have organic shorts for women and men too, so you can pick up some summer clothes for the whole family at once.
Shop Pact and use the code THEFILTERY15 for 15% off full-priced items.
And for some more brands that carry non-toxic and eco-friendly shorts for kids:
Sézane (Best Organic Shorts for Women)
Sézane has a collection that includes dressier shorts that can be worn to things like spring bridal showers, cooler linen shorts for the hottest summer days, and more casual shorts for lounging around.
Many of Sézane’s shorts are made primarily of organic cotton, but they do have a little bit of conventional cotton, elastane, and polyester mixed in. They also offer chrome-free leather shorts, too, if that’s your thing! Most of them come with a third-party certification or two, like GOTS organic cotton or OEKO-TEX.
Here are some more brands that carry various styles of organic shorts for women:
- For Days
- Amour Vert
- Pact (code: THEFILTERY15)
- Toad & Co.
- Knowledge Cotton Apparel
- Passion Lilie
Taylor Stitch (Best Organic Shorts for Men)
Taylor Stitch is a great brand for high-quality sustainable menswear, shorts included. Their Aprés Short is stitched together with 100% organic cotton and is available in several different colors, whether you want something neutral or a piece that is more eyecatching with vibrant color.
The Morse Short is made out of a blend of organic cotton and natural linen and has a casual style that can be dressed up or down. This one comes in more natural and dark colors.
Both styles have pockets in the back and front. They are lightweight and breathable, making them perfect for summer.
A few of our other favorite brands for organic and eco-friendly shorts for men include:
- Toad & Co.
- Pact (code: THEFILTERY15)
- Knowledge Cotton Apparel
Harvest & Mill (Best Gender-Neutral Shorts)
Harvest & Mill is one of our favorite brands for super-comfortable loungewear made from regenerative cotton. Their gender-neutral shorts have a minimalist aesthetic and come in black or natural color. They have women’s and men’s sizes but the styles are the same.
These organic shorts are made of organic cotton with a drawcord to have them fitted to your waist. Harvest & Mill manufactures their clothes and grows their cotton in the USA, so the whole supply chain stays within the states. The website shows the amount of energy, water, and soil the garment has used.
Even though these have a rather simple style, the shorts can easily go with any shirt or top, making them versatile for any summer occasion.
MATE (Best Organic Activewear & Loungewear Shorts)
MATE has several different styles of women’s shorts to choose from. Each style of organic shorts has slightly different aesthetics, colors, and prices.
The Organic Terry Lounge Drawstring Short comes in a few different neutral colors and is great for everyday wearing.
If you’re looking for something that’s more specifically made for being active, check out their Organic Biker Short, which is made from organic cotton and available in a variety of colors and sizes.
They also carry linen shorts, which have a bit of a dressier feel to them, as well as super soft TENCEL sleep shorts.
Most of MATE’s shorts have a minimalist look and can be worn for all kinds of occasions. They can easily become your organic short staple for the whole summer, great for lounging around, running errands, gardening, or working out.
Their website shows how much water and carbon the garment uses, so you feel confident with your sustainable purchase. All their garments are sewn and dyed in Los Angeles, California.
P.S. If you’re looking for more organic activewear suggestions, check out this article.
Afends (Best Organic Shorts for Teens)
Afends has a variety of different styles of shorts (and skirts) that are made out of non-toxic and eco-friendly materials like OCS certified organic cotton and hemp.
They have classic denim, corduroy, checkered, camo, floral patterns, solid colors, and more. They also have a collection of shorts for men.
Throughout their entire supply chain, Afends is committed to ethical and sustainable practices, from their use of the most earth-friendly fabrics possible, to making sure their clothing is made under safe working conditions, all the way down to their use of compostable packaging.
And if none of the Afends styles suit you, here are some more of our favorite places to find organic and sustainable shorts for younger folks:
ÉTICA (Best Organic Cotton Denim Shorts)
Organic denim shorts are not always easy to find, but ÉTICA has several great pairs that are unique but versatile. A few of their shorts are made completely out of organic cotton, while others are blended with TENCEL and some are made with conventional cotton.
ÉTICA’s denim is all made ethically by a family-owned and operated factory and washhouse in Puebla, Mexico. Their textile mills are OEKO-TEX, WRAP, Cradle to Cradle™ and GOTS certified.
A few other brands that carry organic denim shorts (for all genders) are:
Colorful Standard (Best Relaxed Fit Organic Shorts)
Colorful Standard has the ideal eco-friendly shorts that are suitable for every day. They can be used for a workout, for hauling kids around, or pretty much doing anything else throughout your spring and summer.
They come in various colors, some that are vibrant and some that have more neutral tones. They’re made ethically in Portugal out of organic cotton and environmentally friendly dyes.
Colorful Standard also plants a tree for every order that is placed, creating a more positive impact on the environment.
Linen Handmade Studio (Best Linen Shorts)
Are these linen shorts not gorgeous?! They come in a wide range of different styles and colors, whether you’re looking for something longer or shorter, dressy or more casual, flowy or tighter.
Each pair is handmade in Lithuania out of OEKO-TEX certified natural and breathable linen.
So there you have it: our favorite brands for cool and comfortable summer shorts made out of healthy and eco-friendly materials like certified organic cotton, linen, and hemp.
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