Feel better about your workout by wearing sustainable workout gear! We found some great stuff, no matter which sport you love
By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
Sure, working out is beneficial for your body and spirit. But have you ever considered whether what you’re wearing is beneficial to your body – and the planet?
Why most workout gear is far from green
Most clothing made for exercising is really bad for the Earth. It’s often made from polyester and elastic, neither of which biodegrade. Considering that they shed microfibres of plastic every time we wash them makes these garments even more harmful. After all, apart from undies, which clothing do we wash more than gym clothes?
That’s also true for so-called ‘green’ workout wear that’s made from upcycled plastics. Sure, that may take bottles and fishing nets out of the oceans. But we’re basically just sending that plastic back, in tiny particles, over time. Wash after wash.
Recycled plastics are fine for things like jackets, backpacks and shoes, which we rarely, if ever wash. But for gym clothes we wash after almost every use? Not so much.
But let’s also talk about our health.
If you’re working out, you’re probably at least a little bit health-conscious. But did you know that the dyes used in the clothes you wear to exercise can be toxic? According to FROM Clothing’s informational video, these dyes can cause everything from skin allergies and irritations to cancer, over the long term.
What to look for in sustainable exercise clothing
So, what should you look for in sustainable exercise clothing?
Fortunately, there are several sustainable brands that provide eco-friendly outfits for every activity from yoga to swimming.
The best sustainable workout gear will be made of materials such as:
- Breathable, organic cotton
- TENCEL or Lyocell
All of the fibres mentioned above come from plants that are grown sustainably, and which don’t need toxic chemicals to transform them into threads. If they’re naturally dyed, all the better!
Some, such as hemp, are naturally anti-bacterial. That means that despite their lack of moisture wicking technology (as used with many synthetics), you won’t end up smelling bad after a workout.
Not sure where to shop? Here, we’ve picked what we think is some of the best sustainable workout gear for a variety of sports, no matter what you’re into.
Sustainable Workout Clothing for Every Sport
Never heard of Primeblue before? This is a high-performance yarn made with 50% Parley ocean plastic. In other words, it’s upcycled plastic waste intercepted on shorelines and coastal areas, preventing it from polluting our oceans.
This material uses fewer resources and cleans up ocean plastic. That’s great – IF you wash your clothing infrequently, using a microplastic filter, that is!
Benefits: Primeblue wicks sweat, meaning you’re going to stay dry and warm, no matter what the weather.
This brand has been active since 2014, but it was in 2018 that it received major exposure through Leo DiCaprio’s thumbs up. These vegan running shoes include TENCEL, algae, recycled PET bottles, natural rubber and even castor oil in their eco-friendly makeup. This is the kind of innovation that’s crucial for creating a more sustainable future!
But that’s not all. Allbirds is one of the few vegan sneaker brands that actually makes specialised shoes for all kinds of sports and occasions.
Prices: Less than $160
Benefits: They can be water-repellent too, allowing you to use them in any kind of weather
One piece of sustainable workout gear that’s truly essential for walking and hiking is a backpack.
A hike wouldn’t be complete without a place to put your water bottle, sunscreen, mobile phone (just in case!) and other stuff. Luckily, Lo & Sons creates stylish, comfortable backpacks from recycled materials. They’re just big enough to carry all your stuff, and they’re super-durable, too!
Prices: Around $270
Benefits: This brand earnestly provides a better way to travel.
One of the most essential pieces of sustainable workout gear for most sports is a good shoe.
Puma’s classic running shoes have looked slick for decades. But now? They’ve had a vegan makeover! Sure, Puma isn’t a fully vegan brand. But the label is so committed to sustainability (they’re aiming to make 90% of everything they use totally sustainable), so we just had to include them.
Their “Re-Suede” styles are made of 100% recycled materials. And compared with virgin materials, the synthetic textiles used for the Ultrasuede reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions by a whopping 80 percent.
Prices: From around $80
Benefits: Puma has been a sports shoe specialist for decades. They really know where your foot needs support for running!
Traditional leggings get and upgrade…and a revamp! TLC Sport has come up with high-rise leggings made from sustainable viscose fibres. Not only are they super soft against your skin, but they’re also exceptionally functional, since they come with really useful side pockets.
Prices: Around $50
Benefits: They can fit all bodies, from the XS petite to the curvy XXL. In fact, there’s even an option on their site to ‘shop by your shape’!
No matter what sport you love, one piece of sustainable workout gear you will need is a good sustainable sports bra! This bra collection, a collaboration between adidas & Stella McCartney, is both athletic and aspirational. No matter what your size, it keeps all of your bits from wobbling while you work out. That’s thanks to the use of recycled elastane and ocean plastic fabric, which retains its form and compresses the chest.
Prices: From $100
Benefits: The AEROREADY technology in these bras absorbs moisture and makes you feel dry.
Prefer the freedom of running in shorts over longer, hotter pants? These True Pace running shorts offer so much. They’re made from a high-performance yarn made with 50% ocean plastic. These weld high-technology with sustainable elegance. Simple and timeless, they provide breathability and movement to the most relentless of athletes. Plus, there’s a pocket, so you can store your cash, cards and keys on your run!
Benefits: We love how the HEAT.RDY technology in these shorts keeps you cool and dry, and provides the best breathability.
Your pedalling power is diminished if your socks are bunching in your shoes or your feet feel hot and sweaty, so thank goodness for these Teko Socks! The brand sources their organic, chlorine-free tekoMERINO wool from environmentally friendly farms in Argentina, and blends this with ekoPOLY recycled polyester to create a seamless, naturally wicking product.
Prices: Less than $20
Benefits: Your feet will be pampered in the seamless toe and anatomical heel, that ensure maximum comfort without the chance of blisters.
One and done. That’s our favourite approach to sustainable workout gear, and Girlfriend Collective makes it happen! Their cycling unitard can be worn as is, or you can throw a top over it, depending on the weather.
Benefits: You will feel good and look good, physically and spiritually, knowing it’s 79% made from recycled plastic bottles.
Sun on the skin is a serious concern for many avid outdoor cyclists. To protect your face from the ageing and cancer-inducing rays of the sun, a cap is a must.
Adidas paired up with Stella McCartney to make these caps. They’re great for cycling, running, or just being outside in general. Created from a material called Primegreen, the caps use high-performance recycled materials to keep your skin and scalp protected.
Benefits: Sure, organic SPF is great. But a cap will keep your skin even more protected from harmful rays!
There are plenty of sports shoes you could use for cycling. But unless you’re really hardcore about the sport (in which case you’ll want specialised cycling shoes), almost any running shoe will do.
We love this TESS style, by Matt & Nat, for cycling, for many reasons. First of all, these slip on super easily. Secondly, there are no laces to get caught up in your bike’s mechanisms. And thirdly, they’re 100% vegan!
Prices: Around $50
Benefits: These shoes are well cushioned with Neoprene, meaning they’re comfy for walking, as well as cycling.
This isn’t just sustainable workout gear. For us, it’s part of our daily uniform! These Cabaret BioCompressive fluorescent pink yoga tights compress your derrière and most importantly the design uses technology to reduce microplastic waste in landfills and in our oceans.
Benefits: They ensure excellent performance when squatting, stretching or downward-dogging. No visible panties, either!
We couldn’t do a list of sustainable workout gear without including our favourite exercise – yoga!
Did you know most yoga mats are made of very eco-harmful PVC? Not very Zen! eKO Lite mats to the rescue! They may be a bit more pricey than toxic mats, but they’re made from non-Amazon-harvested, natural tree rubber. The result? These will leave no footprint in landfills, or toxic fumes in your lungs as you ‘remember to breathe’!
Prices: Around $60
Benefits: They are comfortably cushioned with a natural rubber grip that avoids you from slipping.
Another great non toxic yoga brand to enjoy your classes with is OM Girl Clothing.
These clothes are made from the finest materials. They’re soft and colourful, and are entirely custom-dyed with plants.
In line with the brand’s chosen name, green living is the philosophical and spiritual foundation to OM Girl. In particular, they follow the ancient principle of Ahimsa, which translates roughly as “non-harming.” This is translated in a cloth manufacturing process that is focused on minimising its impact on the environment.
And the best part? Built in bras, ladies!
Prices: From $55
Benefits: In addition to offering non-toxic clothing, OM Girl offsets its entire carbon footprint through Carbonfund.org. They also host their web server in a green data centre, avoiding the use of paper, prevent the damage of trees.
There are loads of eco-friendly swimsuits on the market. But what if you’re really into swimming? You know – more than say, sunbathing?
We love how All Sisters makes one pieces that are great for diving and swimming for exercise. And the best part? They’re constructed from recycled nylon fishing nets that would have otherwise gone to landfill! This sustainable workout gear is a must for swimmers, divers and sunbathers alike.
Prices: From $125
Benefits: All Sisters makes some seriously stylish swimsuits, with swimmers in mind. These one pieces have long sleeves and high necks, ensuring your dive won’t be embarrassing. But they’re also cut out at the back, meaning you still look HOT!
Sure, this might not come in traditional tennis white. But this sweet pleated skirt is perfect for the sport for other reasons!
First, it has built in shorts. These are made of 79% recycled plastic bottles (RPET) and 21% spandex. Secondly, when you’re tired of wearing this, you can send it back to the brand to recycle via their ReGirlfriend program. And finally, there are pockets on each side. Perfect for tennis balls, phones, etc.
Benefits: Girlfriend makes a tennis skirt for you, no matter what your size!
Keep the sun and sweat off your face with a tennis visor by TenTree!
This is made from recycled polyester and comes in two colours. It’s perfect not only for tennis, but jogging, walking, you name it.
Benefits: TenTree will plant no less than TEN trees for you with every purchase.