The Ultimate Guide to Sustainable Activewear Fit for the Planet!
Are you looking for a snazzy outfit for this year’s ski trip? Are you searching for comfortable shorts for a race this fall? Do you simply have a goal to hit the gym this winter? As an active fighter of climate change, you’re pretty in tune with the basics of a carbon-free lifestyle. However, sustainability feels somewhat limited when it comes to your athletic wardrobe. After all, most activewear comes from petroleum-based materials (like spandex and nylon), and opting for second-hand gym clothes seems a little unhygienic.
But what exactly defines sustainable activewear? In truth, there are several factors you could consider. First, seek companies that use recycled materials in their fabrics. Recycled polyester textiles rely on discarded materials (like plastic bottles, fishing nets, and carpet flooring) to make a durable, more environmentally-conscious product. Recycled fabrics help reduce overall waste and fossil fuel demand.
Second, choose natural fibers instead. Look for renewable materials like organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo. These textiles don’t contain any plastics, which means less risk of toxins for you and the environment. Finding 100% plastic-free activewear can be challenging (most brands employ some form of spandex), but the more natural fibers, the better.
Third, opt for companies that prioritize their employees’ health and their consumers’ well-being. Labor rights violations and toxic marketing campaigns riddle the clothing industry. Choose brands that emphasize equity and equality.
And finally, stay close to home. Shipping clothing around the world generates a massive transportation footprint. Seek out US-based companies with a transparent supply chain whenever you can.
Sustainable products can have a higher price tag than their fast-fashion alternatives. However, eco-minded brands are healthier for your body, textile workers, and the planet. Plus, they’re often more durable, meaning you won’t have to re-up your wardrobe each season.
From jackets and joggers to swimsuits and sneakers, these are our (lucky) seven favorite sustainable activewear brands.
While Cotopaxi offers all kinds of apparel options, you’re probably most familiar with their super colorful, one-of-a-kind backpacks and cross-body bags. Certified climate-neutral and a member of the 1% for the Planet coalition, this company is a leader in sustainable fashion. Most of their products are made from repurposed, recycled, or responsibly sourced materials; plus, the brand facilitates easy exchanges and product repairs. These folks are seriously committed to reducing their global footprint. They do rely on manufacturing partners throughout Asia, but Cotopaxi vets every factory and ensures they uphold the UN’s Global Compact and Principles of Responsible Business.
Girlfriend Collective is one of the top choices for eco-friendly activewear. With a range of products and styles (seriously, you can find everything from leggings to dresses to cropped fleece bomber jackets), you can feel good about any purchase you make from this site. Girlfriend Collective practices transparency and ethical decision-making throughout its production process. Using reclaimed materials like plastic water bottles, they create trendy, comfortable options for any body size and shape. While most of their production does occur overseas, the Girlfriend Collective team only aligns itself with international partners who practice fair labor standards.
In the world of eco-friendly companies, Patagonia is one of the original trendsetters. Company leaders even went so far as to restructure their profits to invest further in environmental protection. Patagonia offers everything to the activewear enthusiast, so you can always find the gear you need for whatever adventure awaits. With 50 years of experience in the industry, this California-based brand has served as a reliable leader in planet-friendly business practices and a meaningful member of 1% for the Planet. We will note that the company’s size demands an extensive manufacturing network, but Patagonia leaders are constantly pushing their goals further and promising transparency throughout their supply chain.
We love a comfortable pant, and Tentree’s line of recycled polyester joggers is at the top of our wish list. Tentree is a Canada-based company promising an “Earth-first” approach. Ten years ago, the company founders pledged to plant ten trees for every garment purchased; 100 million trees later, they continue to push the boundaries of a sustainable business. Tentree holds its manufacturing partners to a strict code of ethical conduct, ensuring all workers are paid fairly and feel safe. The company has its own climate action plan, sustainable materials guide, and strategy for keeping Tentree products out of landfills. Who knew a sweatpant could have so much potential?
You can’t talk about activewear without addressing the shoes. The Allbirds collection is not only a running enthusiast’s top choice, but the brand’s sustainability strategy, known as the Allbirds Flight Plan, has real momentum. Using all-natural, renewable materials, regenerative agricultural practices, and carbon offset initiatives, Allbirds strives to minimize its carbon footprint and achieve significant carbon neutrality. They’re committed to accountability and transparency, actively sharing a sustainability report and staying honest about their metrics. Allbirds can be a little pricier than a traditional activewear shoe, but you can feel infinitely better about every dollar spent towards the company’s efforts.
A lesser-known athleisure brand, Boody is an Australia-based clothing line specializing in super comfortable underwear and activewear made from bamboo. With a range of sizes perfect for all bodies, Boody relies on simple, classic designs and prioritizes breathable, organic, and vegan-friendly products. The company founders subscribe to an extensive list of sustainability and social justice certifications, and they’ve even partnered with a global clothing upcycling initiative to give your unwanted clothes a second chance.
Okay, Athleta may be part of the mega-retail conglomerate Gap, Inc., but for a major brand, there’s a lot that we like. For one, it’s a super accessible, body-positive brand. While their yoga clothes are a little pricey, the company commits millions of dollars toward female athletes and women’s rights campaigns. They stand behind trans-athletes and have spoken out on a number of social issues. Athleta employees are even trained in using body-positive language and making all shoppers feel welcome and comfortable. Athleta uses recycled materials and packaging, and they have set meaningful climate goals. While it’s not at the top of our list for eco-friendly practices, Athleta does receive an honorable mention for its inclusivity and social justice efforts.
Whether you’re a regular at the gym or setting a health goal for a New Year’s resolution, get fit in style. Skip the “luxury” brands that rely on cheap labor and petroleum-based materials. Don’t fall for greenwashing campaigns and misleading ads. Take some time to browse each company’s site for their mission statement and any FAQs. Be an informed and conscientious shopper, and put your hard-earned dollars into brands that actually care about their consumers and their environmental footprint.
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