Skivvies for the Planet


We know the best way to green your wardrobe is to buy less and wash less. But what about your underwear?

Let’s be honest, few of us are willing to consider upcycled or secondhand solutions or ever stretching out time between undie washes as with other garments (shiver).

Take into consideration that underwear is a highly consumed product – every year, the average American man buys seven to 10 pairs, and the average American woman buys 10 to 14. Unfortunately, most of these are made from conventionally grown cotton.

Conventional cotton alone is responsible for one fourth of the worldwide insecticides and pesticides used globally, so it’s time to start mentioning our unmentionables! In fact, it’s ironic that with all the discussion of eco fabric, the items using the least of it are actually responsible for the most damage. Perhaps you’ve always known that your underwear is where you can make an impact (you naughty thing, you) but happily you won’t have to take the hardcore solution and go commando. A healthy handful of talented designers are finding sustainable solutions for intimates.

Inspired by a gap in the market, Tiffany Phipps designed T-Luxe Eco-lingerie, a slinky and silky line of organic underwear. “I try to live an eco-conscious lifestyle but when it comes to intimates, no one was doing anything in the eco department. I decided it was time to do a line of my own!” said the designer.

Another designer creating beautiful pieces is Manuka Sanyal of Manu lingerie. With bamboo, organic cotton, French lace and other eco-friendly fabrics she created “out of desperation, an underwear that made me feel sexy, yet covered.”

Utilizing an ecologically sound bamboo viscose, Sanyal created pieces that are stretchy, unbelievably soft, and enhanced with gorgeous hand-block prints designed by Manuka’s mom in the 1970s. They’re perfectly flattering and suit all body types.

With intimates, fabric selection is the key to the design. If there is any place to avoid a granola aesthetic, it’s underwear.

Jeff Denby, founder of the PACT organic underwear brand, which incorporates beautiful designs by Yves Behar, wanted PACT underwear to hold their shape and last a long time. “We founded PACT on the basic tenet that sustainability can be sexy and fun. It does not have to equate to a crunchy design aesthetic.”

Joining many underwear designers that are paying attention to their packaging, Denby recently enthused, “Each pair of underwear is packed in its own reusable fabric bag produced from off-cuts (excess fabric), so PACT eliminates tens of thousands of plastic bags. Finally, each order is shipped in bright green sleeves made from a special material that is 100 percent compostable.”

Just knowing your underwear is a little more eco than others is a secret green thrill you can keep to yourself.

Image: PACT organic

Rowena Ritchie

Rowena is EcoSalon’s West Coast Fashion Editor and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.