Your Personal Textile Index
Wearing organic and naturally derived fibres is healthier for the skin and more planet-friendly. Lots of active wear brands do not make products 100% from organic fibres, rather they blend with elastane or spandex.
This can be good in some cases, e.g. if the garment fabrics used are more than 75% sustainable/organic.
The best thing to do when shopping for sustainable sports wear is to be conscious; look into the brands and see what they are using for their textiles.
Below is a simple break down and some facts about various textiles used in sportswear today.
Quick facts: absorbs moisture but it is not the best at handling lots of sweat. Good for: yoga and low sweat activities, clothes made from a cotton blend are your go-to! Sustainable?
Good for: Cotton production requires lots of pesticides that are harmful to the environment. Cotton is currently in the process of being produced more ethically without lots of chemicals, but it's a slow and ineffective process.
The process is heavily dependant on water but ethical brands have found some new ways to reduce water usage. Look for organic cotton when shopping!
Quick facts: Natural and durable fibres, natural insulator (absorbs and related water vapors!) Britain is one of the largest wool producers in the world, yielding nearly 22,000 tonnes per year.
Good For: hiking as its an amazing insulator and breathable as well! Also for winter sports to keep you warm and for after workout outfits. Sustainable? Yes, but be weary of the sportswear treatment of their animals!
Quick facts: strong naturally derived fibre, BUT it has low elasticity, hypoallergenic and good for sensitive skin!
Good for: an extra layer to regulate body temperatures during: skiing, golfing, hiking and walking for any time of year. Sustainable? Yes! In relation to cotton output, Silk actually impacts the earth, water and air less and doesn't need harmful pesticides. However, it's super important to do your research as obtaining the fabric from animals (silkworms) isn't always done in the kindest of ways.
Quick facts: Hemp fibres can withstand water better than any other fibre, has antibacterial qualities, is resistant to pilling, and is a sturdy fibre that's soft and durable. Processed into a fabric that's similar to cotton but feels like canvas! Best part is that the more you wear your hemp article, the softer it gets!
Good for: (When blended with other fabrics) Running, Cycling, both high and low intensity sports. Sustainable? YUP! It is one of the most sustainable and durable textiles out there for active-wear! It's easy to produce hemp sustainably so it's ideal for sportswear, as it does not need pesticides to grow and returns nearly 70% of the nutrients it utilises back to the soil. Plus its easy to dye & biodegradable! Keep an eye out as some brands do produce hemp chemically, so make sure your hemp garments are sustainable!
Quick facts: Most clothes are synthetic based, Nearly 65% of the fashion industry uses synthetic materials, such as polyester, nylon, and elastane.
Quick facts: main fabric you’ll see throughout the workout world because its light, breathable Good for: Super good for running jackets, cheaper to produce so it makes up most of sportswear on the market Sustainable? Eh, not the most. It is plastic cloth at the end of the day, meaning it gets super smelly sometimes and it's NOT biodegradable. HOWEVER, recent advancements in the industry have turned recycled plastic bottles into polyester fabrics!
Quick facts: synthetic fabric, really soft and dries fast, breathable, super stretchy! Good for: more demanding exercises as this fabric moves with your body and helps you sweat it out, running, crossfit training, sweaty sessions at the gym! Sustainable? Very similar properties to Polyester, so it's non biodegradable and its manufacturing process is intense, producing harmful byproducts. It is less costly to produce than other fibres and it makes great lightwear sports clothes but its byproducts and pose a threat to the environment.
Elastane (aka Spandex or Lycra)
Quick facts: stretching qualities
Good for: compression garments, spandex, leggings, bathing suits
Sustainable? When we wash elastane products, small micro fibres of plastic are shedded from the garments and released into the water, polluting it. Look out for Xtra life Lycra when shopping as not only is this better for the environment, your garments can last up to 5 times as long.
Quick facts: breathable and protects skin from the sun’s UVs. It is 40% more absorbent than any type of cotton and stronger, too, with antimicrobial properties. Good for: Low to high intensity workouts! You can run a marathon or get sweaty in a spin class and your bamboo fabric won't let you down! Also comfortable to chill out in and a great extra layer for trekking.
Sustainable? Bamboo grows fast without insecticides and pesticides, it's easy to get the fibre into yard form and has lots of natural properties. However, once bamboo is chemically processed it turns into other materials (eg: rayon, lyocell, TENCEL).