It’s the weekend and you’re on your way to the farmer’s market or yoga class, regardless you throw on yoga pants…right? I do, and it’s important to me to make sure I’m supporting and wearing the most sustainable athletic brands possible. I cringe to think about all the years I flushed microplastics down the drain (more on this below) while thinking I was helping protect the Earth in other areas of my life.
Traditional athletic gear is bad for the environment
We are lucky to live in a day and age where new socially responsible brands are emerging each day. But it’s important to first ground ourselves in the issues with athletic gear.
Our weekly laundry is contributing to plastic in our oceans, lakes and waterways, in large part due to synthetic microfibers being released during the washing process. It may seem crazy that small plastic fibers from your wash would have a significant impact on the environment, but the scientific evidence is damning. Since we cannot see the microfibers, it’s hard to appreciate in aggregate how our waterways are being polluted.
The treatments and dyes used to create our clothing have an impact on water as well, mostly through the actual production of the clothing. While this may not impact the quality of the water in your backyard, it has negative consequences for many vulnerable populations across the globe. As you can see here, often times the dying of textiles can completely change the color of rivers nearby factories.
This is another reason I do my best to support brands who make and produce their clothing in North America (hard to find BTW).
Fast fashion has come under scrutiny for human rights and labor abuses, and athletic gear is not immune. Factories across the global south, many of which who are concentrated in Southeast Asia, have issues paying living wages, forced labor, harassment and assault of female workers, and more.
My Favorite Sustainable Athletic Brands
One of the smartest companies in the athletic and performance gear industry, they take a sophisticated approach to both environmental and human rights and labor issues. They use recycled fabrics, treat and pay workers well, do right by their corporate staff, all the while donating to endless local environmental charities. This company is worthy of your dollars.
Made from recycled water bottles (25 per pair approximately), Girlfriend has a great assortment of flattering and colorful clothes. Inclusive sizing and advertising and some maternity options are an extra bonus. I am a personal fan of their High-Rise Pocket Legging (the compression tops were too much for me!).
Plus they have a minimalist approach to packaging and shipping materials, including a nice cloth pouches that the leggings come in. I repurpose those pouches for packing!
This company gets it. They focus on using bamboo and organic cotton, two of the best materials out there, while avoiding plastic shedding materials. They know that we have become dependent on “smart clothing” that wicks moisture, controls odor, and protects us from the sun. They have managed to make performance gear that still does all of this, without using plastic. Plus they are family owned in New Orleans, treating their factory workers in India with living wages and benefits.
A Certified B Corporation, this company has a strong focus on giving back including a company foundation focused on alleviating global poverty. They use TENCEL in their products, a newer sustainable fabric sourced from wood (don’t worry, it’s not scratchy!).
Share this article with a friend you know who cares about the environment, but still hasn’t been able to break up with Lululemon! :)