3 Sustainable Cornerstones to Look for When Shopping for Activewear

Shopping for your next athleisure wear can be a tedious process, especially for environmentally conscious shoppers. Here are three materials differentiating themselves from the rest.

Activewear has finally shed its long-held taboo that it was only appropriate when intensively sweating – whether on land, water, or snow. However, as each of these garments are used on average seven times before being retired to the trash bin,[1] it becomes imperative that we seek out brands with the environment at their core.


Doing you good

It’s Monday. You just got off work. Time to sweat out that stress. You pack your bag and head to your fitness temple – sometimes at home, in the park, or in a training center. The objective here is to feel good, or at least better than when you started.

Hence, you chose your activewear to make you feel a certain way, sometimes to tap into your nostalgia of your high school team, and other times to feel strong. However, the more you use your sportswear, the more it wears, and eventually deteriorates to a point it no longer fulfills its primordial function, and thus gets retired.

As more and more consumers internalize eco-friendliness in their everyday lives and consumption choices,[2] here are three things you can look for when shopping for your next athleisure clothing.

Not all wear is woven alike

In order to reduce your carbon footprint derived from your purchases, the logical first step is to turn to those products which last longer and pollute less. This is the best way to curb the impact of fast fashion on our environment. Below, we target and snapshot the key advantages of select materials, with three materials differentiating recycled from the rest.

The first is recycled polyester, or rPET, and it is usually made from plastic waste, such as plastic PET bottles. The production of recycled polyester requires less water and land, using 70% less energy than its virgin counterparts.[3] The key advantages of this fiber rest in its durability and affordability.[4]

The second is recycled nylon. Durable and water-resistant, it is one of the highest performing fabrics out there, loved by athletes for both land and water sports. Similar to polyester, it is often blended with stretchy materials in order to heighten its fitting properties for activewear. For example, ECONYL® nylon comes from pre- and post-consumer waste, which includes discarded carpets, fishing nets, fabric scraps, and other post-industrial refuse (think plastic components).[5]

The environmental properties of regenerated nylon are tangible. For example, for every 10,000 tons of ECONYL® raw material produced, 65,100 tons of CO2 eq. emissions are avoided.[6] This allows sportswear brands, such as Ukuthula and Feel Fit, to design high performance but low impact workout gear.

The third, and final material, is Tencel. This derivative of natural cellulose wood pulp is environmentally friendly, and fully biodegradable. According to Green America, it uses Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood pulp and less toxic chemicals in a closed loop process,[7] resulting in 20 times less water use than industrially farmed cotton.[8]

The next time you’re browsing for a new pair of gym shorts, take a look at the label, read about the brand, find out how your clothes were made, and what they’re made out of. Whether you’re a yogi, runner, or gym junkie, head over to the ECONYL® e-shop to discover small, local and sustainable sportswear brands fit for every workout.


An Eco-Friendly Tip to Care for the Planet

As recycled versions of nylon and polyester present a greener resort to petrochemical fibers, it is crucial to note that the way we care for our clothes can either further harm, or help, the planet.

Up to 35% of microplastics come from washing our clothes, in which the materials (yes, this includes recycled nylon and polyester) release tiny “microfibres” as they spin around. The particles drain into our waterways, polluting oceans and harming marine and human life.[9]

A microfibre filter built into washing machines helps prevent such particles from entering aquatic streams. However, until legislation catches up, in-drum solutions such as the Guppyfriend and Cora Ball can reduce shedding during wash cycles.[10]



[1] “What’s Wrong with the Fashion Industry.” Sustain Your Style. Available at: https://www.sustainyourstyle.org/en/whats-wrong-with-the-fashion-industry

[2] “3 Sources of Competitive Advantage to Drive Sustainability.” ECONYL®. Available at: https://www.econyl.com/blog/3-sources-of-competitive-advantage-to-drive-sustainability/

[3] “Polyester is a Synthetic, Non-Renewable Fiber, With Some Surprising Redeemable Qualities.” Clean by Design. Available at: https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/CBD_FiberFacts_Polyester.pdf

[4] Recycled Polyester. Patagonia. Available at: https://www.patagonia.com/our-footprint/recycled-polyester.html

[5] “FibreFocus: Why Regenerated Nylon Is A Smarter Choice.” ECONYL®. Available at: https://www.econyl.com/blog/fibrefocus-why-regenerated-nylon-is-a-smarter-choice/

[6] ECONYL® website. Available at: https://www.econyl.com/the-process/

[7] “The Rise of Eco-Athleisure.” Beyond the Forest. Available at: http://graduate.cees.wfu.edu/magazine/the-rise-of-eco-athleisure

[8] “I Bought a Plain, White Button-Up Made of this ‘Luxury’ Fabric – And Now I’m Hooked.” Business Insider. Available at: https://www.businessinsider.com/how-tencel-compares-to-cotton-2015-9

[9] “Stop Ocean Threads.” Marine Conservation Society. Available at: https://www.mcsuk.org/what-you-can-do/campaigns/stop-ocean-threads/

[10] “How To Look After Your Clothes To Save The Planet.” ECONYL®. Available at: https://www.econyl.com/blog/community/how-to-look-after-your-clothes-to-save-the-planet/


Author: Naomy Gmyrek