The growing interest in health, wellness, and fitness by eating wholesome, organic foods, and exercising regularly has grown exponentially. The fitness trend has led to a boom in activewear — high-performance clothing and accessories designed for a variety of exercises and sports. Interestingly enough, activewear has taken on a life of its own and is no longer just gym clothes. It’s grown into a fashion trend, with yoga pants and hoodies embraced as the uniform of the mom who takes her kids to school every day.
Unfortunately, activewear poses unique challenges when it comes to the environment. Many of the materials break down into tiny plastics that could negatively affect our oceans. Luckily, several major athletic brands have embraced social and ethical sustainability to create eco-conscious athleisure. Take a closer look at what some of your favorite activewear retailers are doing for the environment.
As mentioned, the boom in athleisure poses certain problems. The chemical makeup of the high-performance fabrics used can wear down in the washing machine and transform into microplastics, which make their way into our municipal water systems and pollute our waters. People turning to the latest styles of activewear are unconsciously contributing to the breakdown of the world’s food sources. While the future of global food systems is dependent on access to and conservation of resources like water, neither will do any good if the water has been contaminated by microplastics.
Nike is working towards creating athleticwear fabrics that are easier on the earth. The company recognizes the microfiber problem. Although the breakdown of the textiles into harmful microfibers or microplastics isn’t completely understood yet, the company tests and evaluates its materials for wear in an effort to reduce the negative impact the material breakdown can cause.
Besides researching how the brand can reduce the level of plastics and chemicals that can end up in the water supply, Nike is upping the amount of eco-conscious apparel it sells. The company combines organic cotton and recycled polyester made from plastic bottles salvaged from landfills and repurposed pre- and post-consumer scrap textiles, fabrics, and garments to create a collection of sustainable athleisure.
Adidas releases a shoe every year that reflects the latest in innovation. Past shoes included a 3-D printed sole design and one made with recycled ocean waste. The latest iteration the athleticwear brand is planning on launching by 2021 is a recyclable sneaker. Known as the FutureCraft.Loop, it’s designed to have a 'circular lifestyle'; once the shoe wears down, you will be able to return it to Adidas for recycling. The goal is to create a fully recyclable shoe that avoids adding to landfills and needing resource-heavy manufacturing to make a shoe from scratch. At this time, about 10% of the shoe can be recycled and used to produce a new one, but the company is working on improving this figure.
PUMA was the world’s first corporation to put a value on its level of sustainability in the production of footwear and apparel. The company has gone above and beyond corporate social responsibility to reduce the amount of harmful and non-recyclable materials it uses.
Among the sustainable athletic shoes and clothes collections available, PUMA has partnered with First Mile to create a low global impact collection. First Mile is a unique organization. It has a dual mission of creating and supporting micro-economies and jobs in developing nations such as Haiti, Taiwan, and Honduras while reducing the amount of waste many of the struggling countries of the world deal with. It does so by supporting the needs of recycling-focused micro-businesses and entrepreneurs.
The new collection, named First Mile x PUMA, is made with fully-recycled yarns for one of the most sustainable activewear collections around. The pieces in the collection are stylish, featuring fashionable colors that work with the latest sustainable capsule wardrobe.
Athleisure looks like it’s here to stay, regardless of whether you work out or simply like the comfort and style of the designs. The high-tech fabrics are flattering, low-maintenance, and easy for traveling. The yoga pant is a widely accepted fashion staple, even among fashionistas.
However, people focused on living a more sustainable lifestyle should be aware of the impact athleisure garments pose. Buying sustainable activewear is a good way to vote with your money by rewarding the brands most committed to making lasting changes. Your fashion choices ultimately affect the environment.