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Finding construction and outdoor workwear that protects the people who make it and leaves a lower impact on the planet is tricky. A lot of the mass-produced stuff is mostly made of virgin polyester (read: plastic). Our editors have dug up some better brands worth exploring.
The challenges of finding responsible workwear
The demand for more eco-friendly workwear that protects workers while being gentle on the planet has been on the rise in recent years. However, finding workwear designed with the planet in mind can be challenging—especially since the textile industry is one of the largest polluters globally.
One of the major challenges in sustainable workwear for construction and other outdoor workers is avoiding harmful fabrics such as virgin polyester. Polyester is a popular fabric used in workwear because of its durability and affordability. But it’s made from petroleum, which is a non-renewable resource, and emits significant amounts of greenhouse gases during production.
Instead, more sustainable workwear can be made from fabrics such as organic cotton, hemp, linen, or recycled PET. These materials are often better for the planet, biodegradable, and do not require extensive chemical processing, unlike polyester.
Protecting workers is also essential in the construction industry, and more sustainable workwear must still be protective against extreme weather conditions and the use of tools and machinery. Thankfully, it is possible to design practical apparel with durability and functionality in mind while being gentle on the environment. For example, jackets can be made with organic cotton, which is strong and durable, and treated with non-toxic waterproofing to keep workers dry when needed.
But if you want to supplement your workwear wardrobe with some more sustainable options, these brands are making a good start, and we can only expect the offerings to expand in the coming years because of growing consumer demand.
The reality right now is that it is challenging to find more ethical and sustainable products and brands in this space, and we’re here to help you find better—if not perfect—options. While we usually recommend “Good” and “Great” rated brands, for some underserved categories like this one, we include some “It’s a Start” recommendations in case they better suit your needs.
The popular brands in construction workwear need to be doing more to address their environmental and worker impact, but until such time, the brands below are at least making some positive efforts in their production.