Our Guide to Ethical & Sustainable Activewear

It's safe to say our approach to working out has changed during 2020. From our daily hour of exercise to fitness influencers going extra heavy on Zoom workouts, lockdown has revolutionised the way we exercise. Whether you loved or loathed WOFH (working out from home), one thing is certain: fitness has looked very different during the past year.

By Sascha Camilli: writer, speaker, activist and vegan fashion expert.

As we step into 2021, the old and trite “get fit” resolution might feel dusty – but if you still want to feel amped up about working out, how about resolving to discover activewear that does the world good? If you're conscious about the impact of fashion on your wardrobe, it might be time to extend that to what you wear when exercising.
Many of us, though aware of the detrimental impact of fashion on the environment, might not have taken activewear into consideration. After all, is activewear even fashion? And how can it be harmful? The answer is a dire one: a large part of mainstream activewear has the potential to be a serious environmental hazard.

What's wrong with traditional activewear?

Most workout clothing is made from petroleum-derived synthetics such as polyester, nylon or acrylic. The production of these oil-derived materials is very damaging to the planet. Toxic chemicals are required for the production of these fabrics, and they use a great deal of resources, causing a great strain on the environment. These synthetics also don't biodegrade and continue to emit toxic substances in landfill for years.
If this wasn't enough, your leggings and tops are probably releasing microplastics into the ocean when washed. Another harmful characteristic of synthetic garments is the fact that when they are tossed in a washing machine, they shed micro-particles of plastic that end up in the waterways. There, these micro-particles are eaten by marine life, potentially poisoning them. People who eat fish also then end up consuming the plastics – yet another reason to leave fish off your plate. To minimise this issue, invest in a laundry bag (such as GuppyFriends) to put in the washing machine with your synthetics. These bags capture most – not all – of the microplastics and minimise the problem.
If you're on the lookout for new exercise gear, how can you ensure that your workout wardrobe is treading as lightly on the planet as possible? To minimise the waste of resources and the use of harmful materials, several ethical and sustainable activewear brands are experimenting with fabrics that are much kinder to the environment.

Ethical activewear and yogawear – how?

One of the basic components of a sustainable wardrobe is often organic cotton. Using much less water and pesticides than traditional cotton, organic cotton is a brilliant choice of material, and commonly used in sustainable activewear tops and long-sleeved basics that are perfect for working out. This one by Pure by Luce is perfect for layering when exercising outside on a cold day.
Recycled materials are another great choice – you might have seen them showing up in clothing over the past few seasons. Plastic bottles, for example, feature commonly. They make up so much of plastic pollution, and can be reworked into parts of garments in a very efficient way. ReflexOne offers leggings, tops, cycling shorts and other ethical activewear that uses a yarn crafted from post-consumer plastic bottles – their products also have the advantage of being made using certified manufacturers that can offer fair trading conditions. Recycled polyester, like in the ethical yogawear collection by Besonnen, is another good choice, as it uses resources that already exist – its production does not require the use of new fossil fuels, and it therefore generates 70% less carbon dioxide in its manufacture.
A surprising discovery for many is that one of the biggest villains of plastic pollution is... fishing. That's right, giving up eating fish is helpful to marine life from more than one perspective. Lost and abandoned fishing gear comprises 10% of all litter in the oceans, although this proportion is much higher in some parts of the world. With all of the conversation and outrage around plastic straws in recent times, we tend to forget that fishing is a much bigger polluter. Fashion has a solution to this, in the form of ECONYL, a sustainable fabric that uses regenerated fishing nets and other gear. Resulting in a soft, strong and comfortable material, the process is a great way to minimise plastic pollution while creating beautiful sustainable activewear, like this style from Pure by Luce.
Your exercise routine might have changed this year – and it may be time for your workout wardrobe to change, too. To avoid waste, don't rush to get rid of any of your current clothing, including workout gear – if what you have still works, keep using it. But if you're staring at that stained t-shirt and holey leggings and feeling the need for a new beginning, then it might be time for a mindful shopping spree that will make your next home workout as beneficial for the planet as it is for your health.

By Sascha Camilli

For stylish, sustainable and 100% vegan activewear and yogawear, shop our Activewear & Yogawear collection at Immaculate.

About Sascha

Sascha Camilli is a vegan fashion writer, speaker and activist. Her book Vegan Style is out now on Murdoch Books. For more about Sascha, you can read our interview with her. You can also follow her on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Image by pure by luce

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