There’s no shortage of inexpensive, fast fashion out there, but is it really a bargain if a cheap pair of pants costs the Earth? Fast fashion tends to mean little regard for sustainable sourcing and eco-friendly manufacturing. These garments also suffer from poor construction and low-quality materials. This means you’ll barely get a few months’ wear out of some items before having to replace them.
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Break the cycle and treat yourself and the planet to a pair of well-made, durable, and sustainable men’s pants. Below, you’ll find my top picks plus a few tips on how to choose eco-friendly materials when buying clothes.
Best sustainable men’s cargo pants
Eco-friendly materials for durable and sustainable men’s pants
It’s not hard to find a decent pair of pants at the thrift store. But what if you’re in need of something specific, such as durable work pants, comfy day pants for hikes, or dressier pants for an after-work function or date?
In general, you’ll want to skip synthetic fabrics if your aim is to be chic and sustainable. However, some technical materials offer real advantages for certain types of pants. The best bet, then, is to choose pants made with a mix of natural materials and recycled synthetics. That way, you can get things like water and wind resistance, breathability, and stretch without compromising your eco-values.
Some of the best materials for durable and sustainable pants include:
- Organic cotton
- Recycled polyester.
Organic cotton still comprises just 1% of all cotton used for clothing, but companies like Patagonia are increasing the use of organic cotton, which will help push the fashion industry as a whole. Similarly, Patagonia, PACT, and others are using more recycled synthetic fabrics, helping to keep virgin resource use to a minimum and diverting waste from landfills.
Let’s take a closer look at hemp, though, as this natural fiber isn’t as well understood as cotton and polyester.
Hemp is an amazing plant that can be grown with very few inputs and with an outsize regenerative effect on the soil and wider environment. It needs little water, meaning no grand irrigation infrastructure, and requires no synthetic fertilizers and far less organic fertilizer (if any) than many other crops.
Hemp grows from a central taproot which helps prevent soil erosion and fixes nutrients back into the soil. This makes hemp a great choice for land that has been stripped of nutrients through standard monoculture or otherwise needs remediating. Hemp also grows very quickly – faster than most trees in temperate climates. An acre of hemp can also yield two to three times as much fiber as an acre of cotton.
Because of the association with marijuana, hemp farming was criminalized in the United States up until 2018. This was when the Farm Bill legalized the cultivation, sale, and transfer of industrial hemp across state lines. After years of relying on overseas hemp manufacturing, the US is now in a position to become a world leader in hemp cultivation. This opens the door for huge gains in sustainability across fashion, construction, and other industries.
As a textile, hemp is soft, breathable, lightweight, and durable. It is also biodegradable and can be machine washed. It’s best to dry hemp garments flat, however. You should also expect a little linting initially.
Some manufacturers try to homogenize hemp by boiling fibers with acids to allow them to be spun in cotton machines. This weakens the structure of the fibers, making the final product less durable. A truly sustainable item of hemp clothing will have natural naps and idiosyncrasies and will last a lot longer than most cotton and synthetic clothing.
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12 durable and sustainable pants to add to your wardrobe
Highlights: Carbon Neutral-shipped, Fair Trade, sustainably-made durable men’s pants from a Canadian B Corp.
Tentree’s Destination Stretch Pant comprises 90% recycled polyester from water bottles and 10% elastane for stretch. It has a slim-fit with an elastic waistband and drawcord, crotch gusset, front pockets, back zip pocket, and zippered cell phone pocket.
This pair of pants saves an estimated 3.01 liters of water, 0.77 kg of CO2, and 0.02 g of plastic waste. Available in grey in S, M, L, XL, and XXL.
Tentree is a Climate Neutral-Certified Canadian Benefit Corporation (B Corp). It offers a good range of sustainably made clothing and accessories for people of all genders, including men’s pants and sweatpants.
Tentree designs its products in Canada and makes them in Bangladesh, China, and elsewhere, under fair working conditions. It chooses sustainable materials, including organic cotton, recycled polyester, and cork, and strives to be part of the circular economy creating products with a small environmental footprint. For example, it takes 75% less water on average to make a Tentree sweatshirt.
Tentree has an impressive B Corp score that has improved over the years and puts it in the top 10% of B Corps. As its name suggests, Tentree plants 10 trees with every order. This amounts to more than 73 million trees planted, with a goal of 1 billion trees by 2030.
Tentree offers a cool visualization tool where registered customers get their own virtual forest island that has more trees added with every order. It also tells you how much CO2 this offsets and even tells you where the trees are in real life, with information about the planting projects. Tentree partners with legitimate organizations including Eden Projects, Trees for the Future, and One Tree Planted for these projects.
I’ve bought quite a few things from Tentree and am impressed with the quality and durability as well as the minimal packaging and speed of delivery.
The company offers free shipping on all orders over $85 CAD and free exchanges and $10 returns within 30 days of purchase.
Highlights: Certified organic and guaranteed for life hardwearing work pants with a hammer loop and reinforced knees – made in Vancouver!
Available in sizes 28-36 and in Ivy, Lavender, and Hazelnut, the Ecologyst Men’s Work Pant is an investment but well worth it. These pants comprise 100% organic cotton canvas, are made in Vancouver, have a relaxed fit, and are guaranteed for life. If a zipper wears out or a snag or hole appears, Ecologyst will fix it for free or replace it with something comparable.
The Work Pant is inspired by the chore pant, with reinforced knee patches, back patch pockets, and a hammer loop. You can machine wash these pants cold and dry on low, though it’s best to handwash and line dry to reduce wear and tear.
Ecologyst makes all its apparel in North America, in part to reduce its carbon footprint, and also to ensure quality and fair working conditions. By having the factory, warehouse, and headquarters in the same place, Ecologyst significantly reduces its carbon emissions. The company also offsets its carbon emissions and is working to produce an Impact Report in 2022 to detail its environmental strategy.
For even greater sustainability, check the Ecologyst site for Second Life apparel. These are items for sale by customers at a hefty discount. They’re still guaranteed for life and at time of writing there’s a pair of Work Pants in size 28 available for half the price of a new pair (view here).
Highlights: Available long or short, these Fair Trade Certified sewn hardwearing work pants have a relaxed fit and don’t need a break-in period. Extra pockets for carrying all your tools!
Patagonia now boasts a pretty expansive Hemp Collection including this hardwearing work pant, the Iron Forge Hemp Canvas Cargo Pant, which is Fair Trade Certified sewn. According to Patagonia, this 12.9-ounce fabric is 25% more abrasion resistant than conventional cotton duck canvas. It comprises 55% industrial hemp, 27% recycled polyester, and 18% organic cotton canvas.
There’s no ‘break-in’ period where the workpants feel crunchy and stiff. Instead, the pants are immediately comfortable to wear while being durable and sustainable. These pants have a contoured waistband with seven belt loops, which adds strength and carrying capacity if you’re hanging tools off a regular belt.
There are two deep front drop-in pockets with gussets for clip-on tools and two drop-in back patch pockets as well as two bellow cargo pockets. You can tuck the cargo pocket flaps in for easy tool access.
The work pants have a heavy duty zip fly with button closure that’s easy to manage even with gloves or cold hands. The gusseted crotch makes for easier freedom of movement. The pants are available in Coriander Brown and Ink Black, in sizes 28-44 and in Short, Regular, and Long. Because the pants are made roomier than regular pants, slimmer folks might want to order a size down.
Patagonia makes these pants in Sri Lanka using manufacturing techniques that minimize waste. For instance, the company’s hemp supply chain involves working with bio-composite companies to use the ‘waste’ from its hemp crop to create building materials as alternatives to fiberglass and plastic.
Highlights: Straight-leg, standard fit organic cotton pants comfortable enough for hiking and biking and smart enough for dressier occasions. Guaranteed for life and made in North America!
The Park Pant from Ecologyst is super eco-friendly and is available in Hazelnut, Pacific, and Ivy, and in sizes 28-36,. Ecologyst makes these pants in Victoria, BC, using 100% organic cotton. The pants are guaranteed for life, with free repairs or replacement if Ecologyst can’t fix them.
The Park Pant has a built-in adjustable belt and extra room in the thighs, with a standard-fit straight leg. This means you can easily use these pants for hiking, biking, and other adventures and then dress it up for work, dates, and life in general. You can machine wash the pants cold and lay flat to dry, however it’s best to handwash the pants to reduce wear and tear.
Ecologyst also helps incentivize climate action. The company offers a generous 25% discount on its products for customers who join its partner, Carbon Neutral Club, which helps members estimate their carbon footprint, provides offset options, and partners with brands to incentivize more eco-friendly purchases and reduce consumption overall.
Highlights: 98% organic cotton corduroy pants with reinforced rivets and a little stretch, available in a wide range of sizes.
The Sustainer Cord Pant from PrAna comprises 98% organic cotton and 2% elastane for stretch and flexibility. The corduroy-style pants have reinforced rivet details for durability, a classic 5-pocket style, and a modern slim fit with tapered leg opening.
The pants are available in Peppercorn, Antique Bronze, Charcoal, and Rye Green and in sizes 28-40. You can choose between 30, 32, and 34 in-seam options.
PrAna designed these pants to be hardwearing and comfortable, and to fit a variety of occasions. You can dress them up or keep it casual. There’s a herringbone stripe at the interior waistband and a faux suede patch at the back waistband, with a prAna woven label at back right pocket
Highlights: Bluesign certified water repellent pants made with organic cotton and recycled polyester and no PFCs!
Jack Wolfskin makes a variety of sustainable menswear, including these fantastic water repellent pants. Great for hiking, life in soggy cities, and as workwear, the Tanami Pants comprise a blend of organic cotton and recycled polyester. The pants are PFC-free and Bluesign certified, meaning they have minimal environmental impact.
Jack Wolfskin makes these pants using Function 65 Ecosphere Lite. This is an extra light, breathable, wind- and water-repellent, abrasion-resistant organic cotton (61%) and recycled polyester (39%) blend. You can machine wash and dry the pants, though it’s best to handwash to minimize wear.
These pants have two large front pockets and two back pockets. You can adjust the ankles using a hidden drawstring toggle. This gives you more protection or more breathability, as you like, while the elasticated waistband means greater flexibility and comfort.
Available in Night Blue and Sand Dune.
Highlights: Durable hemp and organic cotton blend lightweight pants made in a Fair Trade factory with water-saving processes.
The Everyday Pant from Pact is a lightweight but durable blend of GOTS organic cotton (70%) and hemp (30%). PACT makes these pants in a Fair Trade factory in India without any toxic chemicals. Each pair of pants requires around 81% less water (64.6 gallons) than an equivalent pair made with conventional cotton.
You can machine wash these pants cold and dry on low. They have a classic design with two front and two back pockets, a drawstring waistband and a rollable hem.
Available in sizes Small to XL.
Highlights: Slim, straight-cut jeans in a variety of sizes made sweatshop-free from 100% organically grown hemp.
Rawganique Saint Germain Hemp Jeans are a slim, straight-cut, low-rise design made from 100% European hemp dyed indigo blue. They’re available hemmed and unhemmed, from a 30-inch waist to a 40-inch waist, with several inseam options up to 36 inches.
The hemp jeans have a zippered fly with metal buttons and rivets. Rawganique makes these in-house from 100% organically grown hemp and they are chemical-free, heavy metal-free, and sweatshop-free.
Take note, though, that this style has been discontinued. So, get a pair while you can!
Highlights: Low-rise, slim, straight, semi-boot cut style of jeans made from 100% organically grown European hemp.
Rawganique’s Prague Hemp Jeans are a low-rise, slim, straight, semi boot cut style with a slight flare. They’re designed to fit waists 26-40 inches, up to a 36-inch inseam. This style has a brass button fly instead of a zipper and is available in Indigo Blue and Natural.
The material comprises 100% organically grown European hemp, which is durable but not overly thick, making for breathable, lightweight pants perfect for spring and fall.
Rawganique is offering these jeans at a discount because it has discontinued the line to make way for a new line of jeans. Also, some of the buttons haven’t been properly snapped in, so Rawganique suggests using a rubber mallet to pop them back in if they do pop out! As such, you can not only get a bargain by buying these jeans, you’ll also save a pair being wasted
Highlights: Fair Trade Certified sewn pants made of durable corduroy and cotton canvas that’s 100% organic and dyed using low-impact methods.
Patagonia’s Organic Cotton Gi Pant is available in New Navy or Mojave Khaki, in sizes XXS to XXL. These pants are multifunctional and perfect for everyday wear, workwear, and for adventuring. They comprise durable organic cotton canvas and corduroy and are Fair Trade Certified sewn in Sri Lanka.
Patagonia uses 100% organically grown virgin cotton and a low-impact dyeing method that uses much less water than traditional reactive dyeing. These pants have an elasticated waistband and button front with an integrated buckle belt and zipper fly. They have two slanted, side-entry front handwarmer pockets, a right-side zippered pocket, and two rear welted pockets.
The gusseted crotch allows for a full range of motion, and the inseam length is 32 inches. The corduroy is 9.4-oz 100% organic cotton 14-wale corduroy while the canvas is 8.1-oz 100% organic cotton duck canvas.
Highlights: Dressy and durable, sustainable, 100% organically grown hemp jeans.
Rawganique’s Eco-Couture Flat Front Hemp Dress Pants have a flattering tailored flat front, standard rise, and straight cut style with fuller hips, thigh, and leg. They’re a great choice for dressier occasions when you want to pair sustainability with designer looks, such as at a wedding or business function.
The pants comprise 100% organically grown European hemp which feels like heritage linen at a fraction of the price and with much greater durability.
These pants are sweatshop-free and free of heavy metals and any harsh chemicals. There’s a hidden inside button to keep the brass zipper up and the front flat.
Rawganique’s Eco-Couture Flat Front Hemp Dress Pants are available in waist sizes 28-44 inches with an inseam up to 36 inches. Choose from Natural, Navy, Earth Brown, or Black. Note that the Navy is cut a little bigger than the rest.
Rawganique is offering these organic hemp pants at a discount because it is getting ready to launch a new collection.
Highlights: Organic men’s riding pants in cotton corduroy with extra room in the thighs and hips. Straddle a horse in sustainable style!
Searching for organic riding pants? Here they are! Courtesy of Rawganique, these Exeter Riding Pants are made with 100% organic cotton cord and have an elegant, structured fit.
Made at the Rawganique Atelier in Europe, these sweatshop-free, harsh chemical-free pants are available in waist sizes 26-38-inch and with inseams from 30-36-inches. They have an Earth Brown color and are cut flat and slim like chinos. There’s extra room in the hips and thighs and a slight taper to the bottom.
These pants are made with soft, cozy corduroy for supreme comfort when riding (or lounging around). Rawganique won’t be able to make these for much longer as the specialty material is running low.