Have you ever thought about the origins of your activewear? This is the moment to take a closer look. Your yoga trousers or HIIT outfit are most likely made of synthetic fibers that may be comfortable to wear but which conceal some less comfortable truths. Synthetic fibers such as polyester, spandex, acrylic or nylon are derived from oil, a non-renewable resource and so they consume a great deal of energy. Hazardous chemicals are also required in the manufacturing process. On top of this, ‘micro-plastics’ that are inherent to synthetic fibers are released into waterways and oceans where they are digested by aquatic organisms with potentially toxic results. Studies indicate that these particles can travel back through the food chain, eventually ending up on our plates.
The future for our exercise outfits are alternative fibers. Tencel, like polyester, is man-made but from renewable cellulose. It is super gentle to the skin, breathable and thanks to its high water absorption, prevents bacterial growth and thus bad odor.
In Europe, hemp is slowly coming back. Hemp is extremely robust, grows fast and has great moisture absorption abilities. Vivienne Westwood is a fan. And historically, all sportswear was done from wool and also this is slowly making a comeback.
The question is how to replace the stretchy fibers which do not recycle well but are sort of essential when working out? A kinder fiber today is Sorona stretch; it is partly derived from corn, a renewable source, though it still contains polyester. In swimwear, Econyl is a new nylon fiber made from recycled fishnets that can be regenerated over and over again without any loss of quality.
Bamboo is another great alternative fiber that grows naturally and super-fast, with yields of up to 10 x higher than cotton without the need for pesticides. BAM Bamboo Clothing makes colorful and comfortable outerwear made from sustainably sourced bamboo. They’ve launched their AW2020 collection and the colours are great! Another great brand is Planet Warrior: they use recycled plastic in their items.
People Tree offers alternatives made from organic cotton which are also a great option if you want to play it safe and save the planet whilst working out.
Activewear is often treated with extras as “anti-microbial” or “water-repellent” coatings. These often involve hazardous substances, so it is important to look for safer alternatives.
As a consumer, you can push the brands that you like for answers on how their products are made. For more sustainable active wear, look here.