Staying active may mean wearing high-performance, moisture-wicking, odor-fighting fabrics. But that doesn’t have to come with a high environmental cost.
Many sustainable brands use organic, recycled, and natural materials and focus on fair and ethical working conditions. Here are some of the best eco-friendly athletic wear fabrics that are both good for your workout and the planet:
Recycled polyester fabric is an excellent alternative to virgin polyester and offers similar properties such as moisture-wicking and durability. It is usually blended with elastane or spandex for elasticity and can be made from various sources, including discarded plastic bottles and industrial waste. It requires less energy and resources to manufacture than natural fibers, such as cotton and does not contribute to microplastic pollution like synthetic fabrics do.
Technology has come a long way in transforming recycled plastic into fabrics nearly identical to those created with virgin materials, allowing for a wide range of sustainable textiles that don’t sacrifice quality or performance. The fabric is also water-resistant, crease-resistant, and dyes well, meaning that colors won’t fade over time.
It is also hypoallergenic and can be a good choice for people with skin sensitivities, especially those who react to certain natural fibers. However, it’s essential to look for products that use transparent and traceable production methods and prioritize ethical working conditions in their domestic and international manufacturing partners.
Some eco-conscious activewear companies prioritize these standards. Their products are knitted in Italy, printed with nontoxic ink, and sewn by their team of women paid above the minimum wage. All their products are also carbon neutral and shipped in compostable mailers.
Regarding sustainable natural fabrics for workout wear, there are a few better options than organic cotton. The fabric is breathable and soft, making it a popular choice for sportswear, but the benefits of using this material go far beyond just being good for your skin.
Organic cotton doesn’t use harmful pesticides and artificial fertilizers, which keeps you safe from potential allergic reactions and helps reduce water and soil pollution. Organic farming methods are also good for the local ecosystem, keeping pollinators like bees and butterflies safe and reducing greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change.
Another benefit of choosing an organic cotton option is that it supports the farmers who grow it. It gives them fair wages and working conditions, eradicating the common problem of forced or child labor that can be found in other cotton-producing countries. The sustainable activewear brand uses organic cotton and only works with factories that meet stringent third-party certification standards.
If you’re shopping for eco-friendly athletic wear fabrics made from organic cotton, look for brands that use a traceable supply chain and only use nontoxic, skin-safe dyes in their clothing production process. Choosing brands that plant one tree for every product sold is also a great idea, as this will help further reduce their clothes’ environmental impact.
Bamboo is known for being incredibly soft and moisture-wicking, but it’s important to note that it’s often used in combination with other fabrics in activewear. Because of this, we recommend looking for transparent brands about where their bamboo is sourced from and how it’s processed — ideally using a closed-loop process that avoids harmful chemicals (or at least captures and reuses them).
Bamboo fabric is a regenerated cellulosic textile made from natural cellulose extracted from the Phyllostachys edulis plant. The fabric is typically used in place of cotton because it’s more environmentally friendly. It’s also softer and more stretchy, making it ideal for activewear.
The bamboo plant is very sustainable, requiring less water and pesticides than cotton. It can also produce 35% more oxygen and absorb five times more carbon than trees. Additionally, it replants itself and can survive without fertilizers or irrigation, meaning it doesn’t use up the land other crops need to grow and thrive.
Many brands use bamboo in their activewear because it’s an eco-friendly option offering performance benefits like odor resistance and temperature regulation. For example, some offer a large assortment of women’s and men’s underwear and activewear out of their unique fabric, a blend of bamboo viscose and organic cotton. Their material is created in a factory that runs on renewable energy, and 95% of the water used during the cloth dyeing stage is caught, cleaned, and reused.
Cotton is a versatile fabric mixed with other fiber types to produce various blends. The ratio of cotton to different materials can influence the fabric’s properties, such as durability, elasticity, and breathability. The most common combinations include cotton/polyester, cotton/linen, and cotton/spandex. These blends offer the benefits of each material, making them suitable for a wide range of applications.
Choosing the fabric for your activewear is essential to determine how comfortable and durable your workout gear is. It’s also vital that you select a sustainable and eco-friendly material, as this will reduce the impact that your clothing has on the environment.
Various fabrics are available for athletes, but some are more sustainable. For example, bamboo fibers are an excellent choice for athletic wear because they’re soft breathable while also being lightweight and anti-bacterial. These are ideal for many activities, including high-intensity training and yoga.
Another eco-friendly option for athletic wear is linen, made from a natural plant fiber grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers. Unlike synthetic fabrics, which can cause abrasions and irritation to the skin, linen is smooth and comfortable. Additionally, it’s durable and moisture-wicking, meaning that it can withstand heavy use without losing its shape or becoming pilling.