Here we with yet another year of the hottest temperatures on record. When summer comes, the sweaty afternoons leave us searching for clothes to keep us cool and comfortable in the summer heat.
And considering that you landed yourself 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 (like the best for men, women, and kids; the best for working out; the best denim; etc). 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. While we have you, here are some other non-toxic articles for summer that you might find helpful:
- These are the least toxic swimwear brands
- Here’s where to find the least toxic kiddie pools
- The best organic and non-toxic sandals & flip flops
- The comfiest & flowiest organic summer dresses
- 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 Non-Toxic & 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 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
Ordinary cotton regularly uses pesticides and fertilizers that can run into local waterways, polluting the environment and wildlife, and ultimately, us.
Organic cotton is a better buy because it doesn’t use harmful pesticides and fertilizers. 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 really 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, light, 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 really great fabric for summertime because it can 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 something else.
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 have 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!
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 don’t change.
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 Short comes in a variety of colors, whether you’re looking for something solid & simple, something bright & fun, or even tie-dye! Their Organic Thermal Short has a ribbed texture and are available in four different colors: Sedona, Pistachio, Jet Black, and Bone. Both of these styles are made out of organic cotton and come with a drawstring on the waist for easy wearing and adjusting.
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.
Most of these 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.
Afends (Best Organic Shorts for Women)
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 nad sustainable shorts for women:
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:
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. Their Softie Shorts are more like sweat-shorts for playing, running, and lounging around, and their Half-Pint Woven Shorts can be more easily dressed up or down depending on the occasion.
Pact makes buying ethical and eco-friendly shorts for your children easy with their affordable prices and easy-to-wear piece.
And for some more brands that carry non-toxic and eco-friendly shorts for kids:
Nudie (Best Organic Cotton Denim Shorts)
Denim shorts that are made out of organic cotton are not always easy to find, but Nudie has several pairs that come in that perfect fit. Available in class blue denim, white, black, checkered, or twill, these timeless shorts are made from 100% organic cotton—and even the thread is organic!
Nudie is serious about their transparency, too. On each product page, you can click around to find the nitty-gritty details about the entire supply chain, from where the raw materials are sourced from, to the route of transportation the product takes to get to you, and much more.
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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