Sustainable athleisure brands focus on using organic, recycled and natural materials. They also practice ethical manufacturing processes that reduce waste, greenhouse gases and pollution from textile micro-fibers into the environment.
Tierra Forte recommends trying secondhand shops and clothing swaps for your workout gear before buying new ones. Luckily, sustainable options for comfortable and stylish athletic wear are growing quickly.
A popular choice for workout gear, synthetic fabrics are durable and stretchy. However, their production requires a lot of energy and finite raw materials, which leads to environmental degradation.
Thankfully, some alternatives reduce the impact of these synthetic fibers. Recycled polyamide, or rPET or Repreve fabric, is an eco-friendly alternative to virgin polyester, usually blended with spandex and elastane. These athletic wear fabrics are made from post-consumer and industrial polyester waste, such as water bottles or old fishing nets. It reduces landfill waste, energy consumption and carbon emissions compared to conventional generic polyamide.
Squat-proof Wolven uses rPET and other recycled, sustainable, plant-based fabrics in their leggings and sports bras. They’re also a carbon-neutral company, using a combination of renewable and carbon credits to offset their footprint.
Similarly, vegan athletic apparel maker Iron Roots uses a blend of organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, recycled wool, organic linen and seaweed fiber in their yoga clothes and compression stockings. They use minimalist plastic-free packaging and offer discounts for sending worn clothing back to them for recycling.
Organic cotton is a great option for sustainable activewear because it’s soft, comfortable and breathable. It also helps regulate temperature, keeping you cool and dry in the heat and warm when it’s cold. And because it’s organic, it doesn’t harm the environment when worn or discarded.
Many sustainable brands use cotton and other natural fibers to make their workout clothing. These brands are working to help solve the environmental problems caused by synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon derived from petroleum.
Another brand that uses various core eco-friendly materials is Threads 4 Thought, which makes yoga pants, leggings and tank tops in sizes XS-L for women and S-XL for men. They also work with factories that have industrial certifications.
A sustainable luxury athleisure brand uses recycled and organic fabrics in its clothing. Their joggers, leggings and sports bras are made from a viscose blend of bamboo, Tencel and OEKO-TEX-certified rPET (recycled plastic bottles). For every piece you buy, they remove one pound of plastic waste from the oceans.
Sustainable brands strive to produce high-quality, eco-friendly clothing, from sweat-wicking leggings to athletic wear that stretches and moves with you. In the past, most activewear was made from synthetic fibers derived from petroleum. Still, many sustainable brands incorporate recycled fabrics from polyester or polyamide sourced from post-consumer waste like water bottles and plastic bags.
Sustainable workout clothes often use bamboo fabric as it offers natural anti-bacterial and moisture-wicking properties, which helps keep you dry during sweat sessions. Bamboo is a fast-growing, renewable resource combining cotton or Tencel (Lyocell) fibers to create a sustainable and comfortable workout fabric.
When shopping for sustainable workout gear, look for certified organic cotton, recycled nylon and a combination of these fabrics to reduce environmental impact. Many sustainable brands also offer fair trade certifications to ensure workers receive a safe and healthy working environment and are paid a decent wage. Other brands may even go as far as to purchase carbon credits or make climate pledges to help offset their environmental footprint.
Nylon is one of the most durable and versatile materials for athletic wear. While it can be made from recycled plastics, it’s not as environmentally friendly as organic or natural fibers. It takes a lot of water and chemicals to produce and can take up to two centuries to break down.
Some companies are turning discarded plastics into eco-friendly, sustainable nylon. For example, London-based brand Asquith uses their GOTS-certified Bamboo fabric (a bamboo and organic cotton blend) for its leggings, sports bras, and regenerated nylon called ECONYL. The brand is also working to make its operations more environmentally responsible by reducing waste, increasing efficiency and supporting local wind farms.
Patagonia is another company using regenerated nylon in their clothing. They’ve worked to ensure the energy balance of this material is better than virgin polyester and are committed to reducing their environmental impact as they grow. T
Considering the fashion industry’s colossal carbon footprint and its insurmountable levels of waste — one garbage truck full of textiles is landfilled or burned every second recycled materials make perfect sense for athleisure. These fabrics have all the functionality of synthetic fibers, including moisture-wicking properties that keep athletes dry and comfortable during physical activity. And unlike natural fibers, they require significantly less energy and resources to produce.
For example, a brand in Australia uses organic cotton, recycled polyester and a blend of Lenzing modal, made from spinning cellulose extracted from beech wood, for its sweat-wicking workout clothes and accessories. The brand is Fair Trade certified, and its factories use conservative water and energy production methods. It also offers a wide range of sizes, from XXS-XXL to a Body Friendly Manifesto focusing on gender equity in its product imagery.
Another sustainable activewear option makes its shirts, pants and leggings out of alpaca wool, which is soft, fast-drying, temperature and antimicrobial. The fabric is also organic, fair trade and OEKO-TEX certified.