The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

December 22, 2011

Buying Clothes Without Plastic. We Ask. Companies Listen.

Clothing is fraught with plastic. From the synthetic fibers that the majority of clothing is made from nowadays to the hidden plastic packaging most of us never see, the world of fashion is a plastic-free gal’s nightmare. But I do what I can. And now some companies are listening.

Organic Cotton Clothing

A couple of years ago, I was thrilled to find prAna brand 100% organic cotton clothing (with zero synthetic fibers) at a local Oakland woman’s clothing shop (See Jane Run).  (I’m not a high fashionista.  I’d live all day in a cotton hoodie and pajama bottoms if I didn’t have a real job.)

prAna organic cotton clothing

The prAna clothes had zero plastic. The zipper was metal. Even the tags were made of fabric and attached with twine instead of plastic.

prAna organic cotton clothing

Avoiding the plastic wrappers

What I didn’t know was that most of prAna’s clothing (like almost all brands of clothing these days) was delivered to the store and to mail-order customers individually wrapped in plastic baggies. When you buy off the rack, you don’t see the plastic that has been removed by store staff.  But after pressure from prAna staff and customers, the company has now begun to phase out the polybags and sell some of their clothes simply rolled up and tied with raffia. Check out this video explaining why and how prAna made the switch:

A Poly Bag Tale from Prana Living on Vimeo.

Of course, after watching a video like that, I had questions. How can we as customers know which prAna clothing comes in polybags and what doesn’t? Can we request no plastic when placing an order? If we do request no plastic, what happens to plastic that is removed before shipping? And what kind of mailer does the company use to ship clothing ordered online? So I posed my questions to Nicole Bassett, prAna’s Director of Sustainability, who told me the following:

  • Right now, there is no indication on the website of which clothing comes in polybags and which doesn’t, but the company is setting up a “polybag task force” next year and Nicole will share that idea with them. I would love to know in advance which clothes come packaged in plastic and which ones don’t. Wouldn’t you?
  • Right now, there is no way to indicate when placing an online order that you want your clothing delivered without plastic, so the best way to ensure there is no plastic in your package is to either CALL to place your order and let the customer service person know you don’t want any plastic OR place your order online and then immediately CALL and give customer service your order number and let them know you don’t want plastic.
  • If the clothing you ordered is something that still comes pre-packaged in a polybag, and if you have called and requested no plastic in advance, the company will remove the plastic and take it to a local recycler located near prAna’s warehouse. While avoiding the plastic in the first place is better than recycling, I’m glad to know that prAna makes an attempt to recycle what waste they do generate rather than throwing it away.

Personally, I would call and ask which clothes are plastic-free to begin with and only order those clothes.

Demanding organic clothing

Unfortunately, scanning prAna’s web site, I don’t see as many organic offerings as they once had. Much of the activewear is synthetic, albeit more and more made from recycled bottles. Nicole said that they have just not seen the demand for organic cotton, which is more expensive. So that means it is up to us as consumers to ask for it. Conventional cotton is disastrous for the environment. Personally, I’d like to see hemp added to prAna’s offerings. And recently, I’ve started asking at every clothing store I visit for organic clothing. Nicole said that prAna is working on adding back more organic clothing to the line. We need to let them know we want it and will support it if they do bring it back.

Aventura has more organic clothing and will skip the plastic IF YOU ASK

Recently, I discovered another clothing company called Aventura that sells lots of organic cotton clothing, and it’s the kind I like: comfy hoodies, pants, etc. So before placing my order, I emailed the company and asked about the packaging and how I could make sure my order came plastic-free. The customer service rep was very accommodating and made sure my order was shipped out in a plain paper mailer with only a little tissue paper around the clothes.

Aventura organic cotton clothing

Aventura organic cotton clothing

I don’t know what Aventura does with the original plastic they may have had to remove.  But after seeing prAna’s efforts, I will ask. I will encourage Aventura to follow prAna’s example and do away with unnecessary polybags. And I’ll ask prAna to follow the example of Aventura and add back more organic clothing.

Then, we can all have a little karaoke party in our non-toxic plastic-free hoodies.

The Bottom Line: ASK ASK ASK

Before placing an online order EVER, I avoid the plastic packaging up front by sending a message directly to customer service and requesting no plastic packaging or plastic tape. Even if they can’t comply completely (the tape seems to be the thing that hangs up a lot of companies) the more they hear from us, the more they will get the message. Let’s SPEAK UP!

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lucy a menard

Life is good mails in paper.

Doris Jeanette

Great article. I cannot believe we cannot get real clothes to wear anymore. I am signing up to get any updates you have about natural clothes to wear.

Amanda Reed

I use a cellulose bags (they are made from the stringy bits of celery) I make catnip toys so they need to be bagged or everything around you would be covered in cats. Although that’s my idea of heaven we are not all the same. Anyway they breakdown in 12 days. So you can pop them into your bin and in 12 days it will look like rotten vegetables. Bizarrely they are no more expensive for me to buy than the cellophane bags. I hope that more people start using them. They are quite common here in Europe, I’m not… Read more »

Rose Phillips

We offer hemp and organic cotton athletic wear with only 4% Lycra. Check us out!


Thank you for the article. It’s a good idea to ask for the packing of your order in a paper bag. I like. I buy clothes for yoga in this store . In addition to 100% organic materials (by the way from Eucalyptus and Birch Tree fibers) they wrapped my order in … a paper bag from the used parcel (they apparently got something in it). Does not look modern? But I liked this kind of concern for the surrounding nature. In addition, they do everything in the US! And yes, the clothes I buy do not contain plastic.

Kimberly Wood

I read this post and got excited thinking I had found sources for new clothes. Looked at the websites and found I can’t afford anything and went on eBay. After finding reasonable prices on gently used items I discovered something very disappointing. It seems both companies have sold out on their original mission as I discovered most of the items listed in both brands contained some amount of synthetic fibers including polyester and spandex or Lycra. What good is it to have something 80% organic cotton when it also has polyester, still plastic. Where do I turn for actually safe… Read more »


I stumbled onto this site by accident and I quite like it… I feel more inspired and less oppressed than when I read many other “mission” blogs. Here’s my 5 cents on the great clothing debate: If you’re broke and can’t afford organic cotton, if you are mostly concerned with biodegradability of your clothing, consider cellulose-based synthetics, like rayon, tencel and viscose. If you have a compost heap, these things will breakdown (or be eaten by silverfish). Yes, they are processed with chemicals that sound (and are) quite nasty, but almost all textile production involves using chemicals. Even organically grown… Read more »


@kanishka The Prius/Public Trans./Bike analogy was spot on. I didn’t mean to sound snappy. But your first comment came off somewhat “bootstraps-ish” aka “you’re not trying”. But it’s fine. If you are in a similar situation I suppose I can expect you to understand where I’m coming from. But I was never privileged. Average/comfortable, but not privileged. Horrible economy, people in debt and some things in life take priority. However, I do need new clothes as I’ve worn out my current ones and they’re unsuitable to wear (holes). Still there are many people who are passionate about doing their part… Read more »

Sharyn Dimmick

I’ve been following the clothing discussion with interest. Mahatma Gandhi encouraged people to spin and weave their own cloth to get out from under certain influences. This is impractical for us. I think many of us who want to live greener lives pick something to start with that is important to us — for me, it is supporting a farm, but I grew up in a household where we composted, conserved water, recycled things: my Mom used to tear up box springs and bury parts of them in the backyard! If we could get away with only one set of… Read more »


Thanks for the link to the video Beth!


@minimalistcat sorry ):. we really are the same person, i was just trying to be a little challenging (as i would be to myself) i struggle a lot with thinking about privilege and doing good. i grew up in upper middle class immigrant family, but have been dirt broke for the last 5 years between taking pre reqs and being in grad school, so i am a product of privilege, but pretty much slightly above poverty right now. a great example of this issue is someone who buys and drives a prius versus someone who really roles up their sleeves,… Read more »


@kanishka Excuse me, but I did not say “cheap” I said “affordable”. To me, affordable means, reasonably priced. I have no problem paying a little extra for things that I can be sure are quality made and will last a good while. I also don’t remember saying I wanted many pairs of clothes. As my name suggests I am a budding minimalist, which means that I only want to enhance my life with the essentials and only the things that bring me happiness. Being environmentally conscious is one of those things. I’m aware of what goes into conventional, run of… Read more »


I have a cute linen skirt from Nordstrom’s. It’s not organic but it is a natural fabric & stylish. At $60 I don’t think it was outrageously priced. I think they do carry some organic stuff. If its too expensive you can do what a friend of mine does and look on eBay.



i think you could find whatever style you desire, if you looked hard enough. yes, it will be expensive, but realistically, we don’t need that many pairs of clothes. but more importantly, i would really look at what cheap clothes mean – are they artificially cheap because they are taking advantage of low worker wages in countries with few labor unions? are they artificially cheap because they are using materials that are cheap to grow/produce because society doesn’t make producers pay for the pesticide pollution or excess water they use? etc etc


That’s all well and good but there’s no way more people will buy these products if they’re not affordable. I suppose if one is used to buying expensive clothing items that’s one thing. But I can’t see paying over $50 for a shirt, especially one that looks super casual…some almost look like lounge wear. I do want to be organic and plastic free when it comes to clothes (or anything really) but the reality is it’s not affordable. :( And honestly a lot of the organic clothing lines don’t have style I’m attracted to. I’m actually a really simple person… Read more »


I had no idea that all my store-bought clothes came individually wrapped in plastic! I guess I pictured them bagged together with a pile of like garments. Sheesh.


@ora if you mean dressier, but sustainable fabrics: -nau . interesting company mission. still made in china i believe. hempest – though made in china. of course, patagonia but made in china except a few of their products. rei has some limited products made in usa. efforts industries has part of their collection made in canada (look for maple leaf on product page) -if you are into bike commuting to work – outlier, swrve. beta brand actually made in usa. pedaler might be made in usa i would also google around for products made in germany, canada, that use hemp.… Read more »


Does anyone know of any clothing companies that are environmentally friendly but don’t LOOK it, if you know what I mean? As in, not yoga or boho style, and not frumpy? There’s only so many incarnations of organic cotton jersey one wardrobe can take. I’m young and looking to find affordable things that I can wear out or to work without buying horrible stuff from China, and it’s hard, especially when everyone else my age seems to have giant walk-in closets full of trendy stuff and I just have a measly collection of half-hearted purchases from Goodwill. I buy secondhand… Read more »


Check website aimed at Kids but all knitwear also comes in adult sizes. Some other styles up to 16 years which is similar to adult S.


This Company sells undies that are made out of 100 % (often organic) cotton. i’ve got some by them and they’ve already lasted ages and frequent washing circles at 60 C. They’re also pretty good about sending things without plastic, the clothes are mostly only wrapped in tissue or so and the box is always only paper and a string to hold it all together. They’re not cheap, but good value. Everything I have by them is real good quality!

George E.

Beth–Since our product is a wool felt iPad case, it doesn’t require padding. I haven’t looked into requesting plastic-free packaging from Amazon.


I’ve found SOS Organic clothing in Texas is good too, and you can call and ask for no plastic.

George E.

At Gone Studio, we solve the plastic packaging bag dilemma by shipping our plastic-free iPad cases through Amazon, which offers plastic-free packaging. We protect our bulk shipments to Amazon by recycling the plastic our German wool felt is shipped to us in.

Laura A

Cotton is important and I’m not trying to avoid it but I also recognize that it is resource intensive crop even when grown organically.
I am a big fan of wool and I’m slowly adding it into my wardrobe as money permits. But, organic wool is not necessarily cruelty free wool. Look for companies that don’t use mulesed sheep (be careful when you google that, there are some pretty nasty graphics accompanying the explanations). Both Ibex and Patagonia use non-mulesed sheep.


I’m with the second hand, freecycle and freebies group, I havent bought “new” clothes in decades….except for hanes panties.

We waste so many clothes here in the USA. I have alot of my grandmothers “made in america” shirts, sweaters and tee’s that are up to 50 years old. But I dont work in an office or need to get “dressed up” very often.
I also wear alot of my grandkids second hands……….they are getting so big now.


Oh and I forgot to say that while I’m not too sure about silk (do they make organic silk?) you should stick to organic wool if you want to avoid artificial pesticides or fertilizers, antibiotics and bad treatment for the sheep.


“are there any companies out there making organic undies?” I also agree with you, EcoCatLady, and while I know many companies that sell organic cotton undies, they are not plastic free so I feel bad about putting the links here. It’s very easy to find with Google though… @ Melissa, I also agree with you that linen and hemp are nice alternatives to organic cotton, but I think that we must start by encouraging companies that sell organic cotton clothing first for them to see there is a demand for green clothing, and then maybe they will start making hemp… Read more »


@meliissa i missed your post when i scanned through this before. i definitely vote for hemp as a priority as well, which is why i mentioned circle creations (add trust hemp cooperation to that list). i have seen a few things at prana using hemp in the past (yoga pants i think). i too look for athletic wear. i have gone through recycled synthetic, to merino wool, and now trying to use hemp for my athletic wear too. staying away from wool, after thinking and reading a bit more about it. the breeding sheep to have extra infectable layers of… Read more »


How timely! I hadn’t heard of prAna until yesterday when I saw something by them at REI. And it was wool! And adorable! And a shirt/jacket thing which I something I need as my normal daily sweater was on its last legs! I think it wasn’t quite all wool — there was some soft synthetic-looking liner on the inside. It seems that natural fibers are pretty expensive, so it’s still a purchase I’m thinking about, but I’ve followed their link to look at more of their clothes and will definitely try calling to ask for no plastic if I purchase… Read more »


circle creations. she also did an awesome job of shipping in reused packing material


Beth, this is great. I admire how you take a step beyond the personal and strive to make changes to the system. I also wholeheartedly agree with EcoCatLady about the importance of buying used clothes. I wonder what the average lifetime of an article of clothing is. I am always amazed at the abundance of fashionable, great quality clothes at 2nd hand shops. Another solution to the problem of plastic clothes is participating in regional fiber markets where they exist, or starting them where they don’t. The non-profit Fibershed movement is a great example. If you haven’t heard of it,… Read more »


Nice article. I too have noticed that Prana stopped carrying organic cotton. I loved their organic products and simple packaging and have been upset. Thanks for the reminder to remind Prana that I like organic.

Melissa B

Might be off topic a bit, but wouldn’t it be better to request more linen & hemp as they are more sustainable than organic cotton? Linen is great in the summer. Wish I could find more. I’m looking into silk & wool for “athletic” wear. Icebreaker is supposed to be sheep friendly.
I read a good post on fabrics at Pollinators on the brain.

Nancy Warfield

Beth, I don’t know why we never thought of contacting online vendors and asking for no plastic! Will do from now on. Those hoodies are super cute!!


Thanks for sharing! I love organic cotton clothing. It’s great to see companies taking these steps. I actually find a lot of organic clothing for my daughter at thrift stores. eBay is another great place to find used organic clothing for those who don’t want to buy new. :)

Sharyn Dimmick

Good idea, Beth. I wear mostly natural fibers (including conventional cotton). I shop at thrift stores when I shop, but I also order things from catalogs maybe once a year and some of the items are always packed in plastic. I’ll start asking if it is possible to avoid it. For now, I re-use any bags I get in the mail.


This link will take you to the english site


Recently here in Canada I learnt ( through Ten Thousand Villages) of a company selling organic fair trade cotton.
I was looking at sheet and towel sets they also have some clothing and a sale section on line.
Very accomodating, I asked for single sheet sets , they asked about sizing and I said I like the new deeper sets since mattresses are being made with a “pillow top”


I’m so glad you are covering this issue with clothing because most of the clothes right now are made of plastic or mix.


Hmmm… well, I’m glad that there are companies out there doing this sort of thing, but I think I could count on one hand the items of new clothing that I have purchased in my adult life… I just don’t see the point in spending the money when there’s such an abundance of cheap, quality used clothing available. Actually, I get most of my clothes on FreeCycle or swapping with friends these days, so it’s actually free. I suppose those of us who “live off of the fat of the land” do depend on the wastefulness of others… but I’m… Read more »

Sudha Sundareswaran

loved their idea and i was thrilled when i found that some companies were trying to make a diff..yes as u say..we need to ASK…and spread awareness that we can ASK


It’s always the unavailability of my size that prevents me from buying organic clothing. Most clothing websites offer an XL that is more like a M. I’m not terribly big, just tall and proportionate to my height, but most clothing retailers can’t afford to cater to my size demographic.

Tiffany (NatureMom)

Great reminder. I almost always forget to do that. :( I should write it on my memo board above my desk, “Ask for no plastic!” Thanks Beth and happy holidays!