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If you live in a location where winter exists, you know that a good coat is an investment you just have to make. Unless you want to end up freezing and seriously regretting your decision every time you go outside, it’s not something you can or should buy cheap. It might cost you a bit more up front, but if you choose wisely, purchasing a sustainable, high-quality winter coat can last you a really long time. I would even say it’s a key to happiness in cold weather!
[PS: Click here if you’re also in need of some warm boots for the season.]
Here’s what to look for:
The Outer Layer
In order to make them waterproof, many coats are made out of synthetic materials like polyester or nylon, which are essentially plastic, and harmful for our environment. Of course, water resistance is really great—even a necessity—when it’s snowy outside, so look for recycled synthetics instead.
When water resistance isn’t needed, though, wool is usually the warmest of all of the natural fabrics. All of the brands below either use natural, biodegradable fibers or recycled synthetic fabrics.
What’s inside puffy winter coats is actually what keeps you the warmest. Whenever possible, you want to look for either recycled and/or ethically-sourced down filling. The down that geese and ducks produce is made to keep them super warm while they’re outside during the winter, and there isn’t a synthetic available that beats it when it comes to warmth.
The brands below are our favorite when it comes to ethical, sustainable winter coats for both men and women. They all prioritize transparency in their production and they all use mostly eco-friendly recycled and/or natural materials. You’ll find a wide variety of coats, from ultra-warm puffy coats that you can take skiing or camping, to sleek and classy wool coats that you can wear to the office or out on the town.
Committed to sustainability, innovation, transparency, and timeless design, ECOALF uses mostly recycled materials like plastic bottles, fishing nets, tires, cotton, and wool in all their products. When using virgin materials, they use natural cotton, Tencel, hemp, and linen. All of ECOALF’s suppliers have at least one of the Bluesign and/or OEKO-TEX certifications, meaning they meet strict third party standards when it comes to materials and manufacturing processes used. ECOALF is also a certified B Corp and is committed to the social rights and protections of its workers and suppliers’ workers as well.
Prices: $150 – $375
Every brand that REI carries meets a minimum standard of ethical and sustainable operation. Although not every single item is made out of recycled and/or natural materials, they have a really wide variety of coats for men, women, and kids that are not only made in a conscious way, but are incredibly warm, durable and made to last a really long time. Or, you can shop from their Used Gear section, which is perhaps the most sustainable (and affordable!) option. For more about REI’s sustainability initiatives in depth, read this.
Prices: $40 (used) – $900
A leader in sustainability for the past four decades, Patagonia carries a wide variety of winter coats for men and women, whether you’re looking to go on a winter mountain climbing expedition or walk to work in the city. Many of Patagonia’s coats are made with fully or partially recycled and fair trade inner and outer materials. All of the virgin insulation used in their natural down coats is fully traceable and certified to the Advanced Traceable Down Standard by NSF International, meaning there was no live-plucking and that broader humane animal welfare standards were observed throughout the supply chain.
Prices: $200 – $900
Thought’s coats are made primarily out of natural wool, viscose, and organic cotton. They are careful to source their fabrics consciously, use only slow shipping for the lowest carbon footprint, and adhere to a strict ethical code of conduct for employment.
Prices: $99 – $180
Stella McCartney’s coats are all made with either recycled materials or natural, eco-friendly materials like cotton, wool, or sustainably-sourced viscose. In everything, the brand is committed to continual environmental and social responsibility as well as circular solutions.
Prices: $800 – $2,500
Reformation carries a wide variety of styles of coats — from puffer jackets to trench coats with fun prints to faux fur made from surplus fabric. They use both recycled and natural materials, and you can find out about the amount of CO2, water, and waste that was saved during the manufacturing process of each item.
Prices: $200 – $350
Askov Finlayson is one of the few climate positive companies—they offset 110% of the emissions used to create their products and operate their business. Their coats are ethically made in Bac Giang, Vietnam out of recycled material for both the outer shell and inner lining. Plus, they have an awesome One Winter Guarantee, so if you don’t love your coat after your first winter with it, you can return it, no questions asked. After that, it’s warrantied for life, because to be as sustainable as possible, they believe gear should last for many winters to come.
Most of G-Star’s coats are made from either natural materials like durable cotton canvas or recycled materials like polyester or wool. They work closely with their supply chain to ensure socially responsible manufacturing and work to decrease their environmental footprint throughout their operations—from warehouses to offices to stores.
Prices: $200 – $330
Everlane has been committed to radical transparency from the start, but they have recently taken it a step further by using material made completely out of recycled plastic bottles and committing to no new plastic (synthetic fabric, plastic packaging, and single-use plastic in offices) in their entire supply chain by 2021. As with every Everlane product, you can also check out the specific factory where your coat was made.
Prices: $88 – $175
The majority of Eileen Fisher’s coats and jackets are made from natural and biodegradable materials like organic cotton or wool, as well as recycled synthetics like polyester. The brand is committed to increasing responsibility throughout every step of the process of making their clothing, from how the raw materials are grown and processed, to using only safe and nontoxic dyes, to ensuring that no humans or animals were harmed in the making of their products.
Prices: $370 – $500
Frank and Oak didn’t start out as a sustainable company, but they have gradually been implementing more eco-conscious practices and materials into their process over the last several years. Now, at least 50% of their materials are lower impact (so make sure to double check materials before you buy!), such as recycled polyester, wool, hemp, natural cotton, cruelty-free insulation, and non-toxic dyes. They’re a certified B Corp, they use recycled and recyclable packaging, and they use processes at their stores to minimize waste whenever possible.
Prices: $129 – $499
Raeburn’s gender neutral parkas and jackets are made in their studio in London, England out of recycled and surplus materials. They’re also made to order to reduce potential waste.
Prices: $600 – $650
As a brand, nau set out to make clothing that was both high-tech and eco-friendly. For their winter coats, they use recycled 700-fill power down, recycled polyester for the outer shell, and PFC-free DWR for water repellence. Plus, 2% of every dollar you spend goes directly to grassroots environmentalist causes.
Prices: $280 – 395
REI carries a lot of bigger brands that may not make only eco-conscious or ethically made products, but who are moving in a more environmentally conscious direction. Brands like The North Face, Fjallraven, and REI’s own brand have a few eco-options and REI’s website allows you to sort by things like “recycled,” “organic,” and “bluesign certified.”
Prices: $50 – $800
Since it requires almost no resources to produce and saves material from the landfill, purchasing secondhand is one of the most sustainable ways to shop—and can provide some more affordable options too. Shopping secondhand online can save you a ton of time and effort in the searching process versus going to your local thrift stores and consignment shops.
thredUP is the largest online consignment store and they check their clothing for quality and functionality before shipping them to you. You can expect to find a wide variety of jackets and coats, but they have a lot of filter options to make shopping easier.
Prices: $20 – $3,700
You will find more vintage luxury piece on Vestaire Collection, which is more heavily curated based on brand. You can shop designer coats for both men and women.
Prices: $25 – $33,000