It can be easy to overlook the basics when you’re on your sustainable style journey — we tend to focus on clothes, bags, shoes, and maybe jewelry. But it’s easy to either not give something as simple as socks a second thought or to underestimate their impact.
These everyday essentials, though, are not exempt from the issues that pervade the textile and garment industries.
So let’s go back to the basics and talk about sustainable socks.
I’ve partnered with eco sock company Conscious Step to break down what to look for when shopping for socks and some of the relevant issues in the industry (i.e. why these elements are so important!)
- Organic or recycled fibers
- Ethically sourced
- High quality
Spoiler alert: Conscious Step‘s socks meet all of these criteria! But this post is still essential reading because as conscious citizens and shoppers, it’s more important than ever to educate ourselves as much as possible on exactly what constitutes “sustainable” or what to look for to ensure responsible production so that we can feel confident deciphering the green from the greenwashing and support brands that truly meet our values.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when shopping for socks:
1. Organic or Recycled Fibers
I tend to prioritize natural fibers as much as possible in my wardrobe, and socks are no exception! While some synthetics are usually required for a comfortable stretch in socks, I like to see that the majority of the fabric is composed of natural fibers!
But not just any natural fibers. Conventional cotton, for instance, is natural and renewable, but the process of growing cotton fibers is hard on the environment and on farmers. Growing conventional cotton uses 16% of the world’s insecticides for global food and fiber production and 7% of pesticides while making up just 2.5% of the world’s arable land. The impact on farmers, as you can imagine, is just as severe. Three of the 10 most hazardous insecticides are actually commonly used chemicals to grow conventional cotton and Soil Association estimates that up to 77 million cotton workers suffer from poisoning from pesticides annually.
Organic cotton, on the other hand, is not genetically modified and is not treated with synthetic herbicides, pesticides, or insecticides. Organically-grown cotton is lighter on the environment — compared with conventional cotton, it reduces water pollution by 98%, reduces water and land acidification by 70%, and consumes 91% less blue water (i.e. surface and groundwater).
With Conscious Step‘s socks, you can rest easy as all of the cotton they source for their socks is GOTS organic certified!
2. Ethically Made
Simply put, cotton production involves a lot of people — in fact, Fairtrade estimates that 100 million households are directly involved in cotton production. And unfortunately, many of these cotton farmers face significant hardship as cotton prices have gone done while production prices have increased over the years.
Fairtrade works to ease this burden and provide farmers with more opportunities through their Fairtrade minimum price and Fairtrade premiums, which can be used to invest in projects that the community chooses.
Many large brands aren’t even able to trace where their raw materials are sourced — let alone verify that they’re sustainably or ethically sourced. This is why looking for the Fairtrade seal when it comes to cotton is super important! Brands, like Conscious Step, that work with Fairtrade cotton are able to verify that the farmers growing their cotton
Again, you can feel confident that your cotton was produced responsibly with Conscious Step, as all of their cotton is Fairtrade certified, in addition to being organic.
3. High Quality
Socks are something we’ve become accustomed to purchasing in big packs at cheap prices — they’ve become somewhat of a commodity. And I’ve been guilty of doing this as well in the past. Even once I started my ethical fashion journey, I purchased cheap socks by the 10-pack. Turns out those cheap socks not only didn’t match my values, but they also were terribly uncomfortable and would start to thin out or rip after just a few months.
Conscious Step‘s socks, on the other hand, are super comfy when you put them on (ever had crew-length socks that dug into your skin and left red marks? Yeah, that doesn’t happen with these!!) and stay comfortable all day long (some of their socks feature a cushioned insole and arch support!) These socks also have the right weight and thickness where you can tell they’re sturdy but your feet don’t get overheated.
Perhaps one of the reasons you’ve hesitated to invest in socks is the fear you’ll lose a sock in the wash. My tip is to use a microfiber catching bag, like the Guppyfriend Bag, which will stop any microfibers and microplastics from ending up in our waterways and keep your socks all in one place, and to air-dry your socks on a collapsible drying rack.
Bonus: Look for other efforts from a brand!
Whenever possible, I try to look for brands that are going a bit above and beyond. What other initiatives or give-back programs do they have?
Conscious Step has a unique give-back program — each and every sock design is inspired by a cause and $1 from each pair of socks goes to a nonprofit organization associated with that cause! These leaf-printed socks, for example, are “Socks that Protect Rainforests” and the money goes to Conservation International, helping the organization protect 10 trees in the rainforest. Pretty neat, right?!
To shop for socks that meet all of these values (+ are super cute), check out Conscious Step here! And be sure to use code ELIZABETH20 for 20% off your order.
Note: This post was made in partnership with Conscious Step — as always I only feature brands I believe in and which strict high standards for responsibility and sustainability!