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Fashion, Life & Style

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Let’s chat eco-friendly activewear.

With campaigns such as secondhand September, and the rise of secondhand shopping sites such as Depop, more and more people are opting to buy clothes second-hand.

Whilst a pair of secondhand jeans or a top is one thing, for many people, there are a few things that they may be less inclined to buy secondhand. In conversations I’ve had in the past with people, items that people are generally less inclined to buy secondhand mainly include underwear, shoes, and activewear.

I’ve covered underwear and shoes on the blog before, but what about the options for eco-friendly activewear?

eco-friendly activewear
Image from BAM

What’s Wrong With Traditional Activewear?

You might be wondering what’s wrong with traditional activewear. Traditionally, activewear has been manufactured from synthetic fabrics such as polyester, nylon, and spandex. These stretchy, lightweight, and fast-drying fabrics might be good for your workout. However, these types of fabrics are non-renewable, and their production is both energy and water-intensive.

What’s more, these synthetic fabrics shed microplastics every time we wash them. These microplastic particles drain out of our washing machines, through our wastewater, and ultimately into the sea, damaging marine life, and entering the food chain.

Why About Natural Fibre Activewear?

When it comes to buying activewear, gym wear, and swimwear, it currently isn’t possible to buy 100% natural fibre clothing. Even if you could, you would sacrifice the properties that make activewear what it is. You would lose the stretchiness that allows for freedom of movement, the lightweight fabrics, the sweat-absorbing properties, and all the other elements that go into technical clothing.

What Are The Alternatives?

Over the last few years, we have seen an array of different options when it comes to eco-friendly activewear. Some of which, I think, are better than others.

You can get activewear made from recycled plastic bottles, for example. This initially sounds like a great idea to reduce plastic waste, but these fabrics still shed microplastics when they are washed. This turns a visible plastic pollution problem into an invisible plastic pollution problem on a much larger scale, in a form that’s even more likely to cause problems.

I also feel uneasy about the practice of turning plastic bottles into clothing – it doesn’t solve the plastic problem, or bring about meaningful change.

What About Bamboo?

Other manufacturers, such as BAM, use bamboo to make their activewear.

When it comes to fabric, bamboo is pretty contested as a sustainable fabric choice. On the upside, bamboo is renewable and grows quickly without the use of pesticides or herbicides. It’s strong root system stores carbon, improve soil health, and supports biodiversity. And, it only requires rainwater to grow, making it a less water-intensive crop than cotton.

On the other hand, turning something like bamboo into a soft and stretchy fabric requires the bamboo to go through a chemical-heavy, industrial process to convert it into a semi-synthetic fibre known as viscose or rayon. This process can be very polluting and harmful to workers’ health.

The scientific community is also in the relatively early stages of research into microplastic release from clothing. So far there is little known about the release of microplastics from semi-synthetic fibres such as bamboo-based viscose or rayon. Whilst there is doubt, using a laundry bag or ball designed to catch any potential microplastics would be a good call.

Introducing BAM

Whilst no option is perfect when it comes to eco-friendly activewear, I think it’s important, if you are able to, to shop from a company that is investing in greening their supply chain and treating their workers fairly, such as BAM. In the last two years, BAM says they have “traced our suppliers’ suppliers’ suppliers’ suppliers’ supplier to systematically identify all our growers, factories, plants, and manufacturers“.

By understanding and knowing their entire supply chain, this has allowed BAM to green their operations so that they only work with responsible producers. For example, they only work with bamboo fibre producers who use safe and responsible chemistry and waste treatment practices, and who are committed to investing in the technology needed to further improve their practices, processes, and chemistry where necessary.

By knowing all of their suppliers, they are also able to ensure that their suppliers are paying their staff above the national minimum wage and offering good working conditions throughout the entire supply chain.

You can read more about BAM’s work on sustainability in their 2020 sustainability report, which sets their current impact, their immediate plans, and their ultimate goals for the next ten years.

But What About the Clothes?

The good news is you don’t have to compromise your style credentials if you are after more eco-friendly activewear. BAM have you covered, with their range of stylish prints and flattering and supportive cuts for both men (size S – L) and women (size 8 – 18).

Here are some of my favourites from their women’s range:

eco-friendly activewear
BAM’s Endura Leggings in Fragment Print
BAM’s Challenge Bamboo Crop Top
ethical sportswear
BAM’s Endura Leggings in Aqueous Print
Bamboo Joggers

What I also really like is that all of BAM’s products are shipped plastic-free, right down to the protective poly bags. These are either home compostable and can be placed in your kerbside bin, or can be composted in your kerbside bin only. Don’t worry – the bag tells you exactly how to dispose of it.

plastic free packaging

Something I would like to see next is for BAM to work towards more inclusive sizing in both their men’s and women’s range, as I feel the size range is limited.

Apart from that, I think that BAM is making some really big environmental steps in the activewear market, a market that is especially prone to greenwashing. So if you are in the market for activewear then do check them out on their website – you get 10% off your first order when you sign up to their mailing list – and follow along on Instagram and Facebook.

Fashion, Life & Style

What’s So Bad About Fast Fashion Anyway?

problems of fast fashion

Today I have a post from Lianne Bell, author of How On Earth Can I Be Eco-Friendly, on the problems of fast fashion, and what you can do to help.

What’s So Bad About Fast Fashion?

I recently signed up to Slow Fashion Season. Here 25,000 people have pledged not to buy any clothes for 3 months, between 21st of June and 21st of September in order to raise awareness about the wasteful nature of the fashion industry and how you as a consumer play a role in it.

I love sustainable fashion. So much so that friends, family, and people on Instagram all ask me the same thing – how can I shop more sustainably? And my response is pretty simple – just stop buying clothes. Because let’s be honest, the rate at which we are collectively consuming clothing is beyond nauseating.

The number of garments being produced has doubled in the last 20 years. As a result of this, we are wasting the equivalent of one garbage truck full of textiles every single second.  This is a staggering amount of waste, that has severe ramifications on the planet.

Fast Fashion and Economics

Over the last 20 years, as the price of our goods and services has steadily risen, clothing has not. In fact, clothing is the only consumable which has deflated in price. It has instead done a complete 180, dropping considerably in comparison to other consumables, and thus completely defying the laws of economics. But why?

One of the main factors which contributed to this was the Multi-Fibre Agreement. This was an international trade agreement that imposed quotas on the volume of clothing we could import from developing countries. When this ended in 2005 it opened the door for suppliers and factory owners in developing countries to work on a larger scale with major corporations within the western retail world. 

Western corporations were able to treat the labour of garment workers as though it were a commodity. The factory owners offered labour at lower and lower prices in order to meet the desired garment prices. These prices were demanded by the high street stores attempting to meet their profit margin targets.

When Cheap Equals Disposable

If you’re sat there wondering why cheap clothing is such a problem, then do not fear, you are not alone. I thought the exact same thing. This was until I realised that the heart of the problem lies in the fact that we’ve come to think of clothing as disposable and easily replaceable.

When something is so readily available to us, it devalues the whole item. We don’t even have to think about it; we just buy it, aimlessly and needlessly. Half the time, we’ll buy clothing, then send it off to a charity shop without ever wearing it

This creates a whole new problem. Once our high street charity shops are overrun by cheap, generic clothing which they can’t sell, they bundle it off to developing countries. Here it is chopped up into rags, sold on at markets, or thrown into landfill.

The town of Panipat in North India recycles over 100,000 tonnes of our cast-offs every year. So much so that it is known as the world’s “cast off capital“.

The women of Panipat that shred these practically unworn garments have surmised that there is a water shortage in the Western world. That’s because the mindless nature of our clothing consumption is so alien to them, that they assume it’s too expensive for us to wash our clothes. This is the only way for them to make sense of how we discard our clothing after only wearing it a handful of times.  

What Can We Do?

So what can we do to stop this deluge of clothing? Well, this brings me back to Slow Fashion Season. By avoiding buying from fast fashion brands; trading, upcycling or DIYing clothing; buying second-hand and vintage clothing; and/or supporting sustainable, local, small fashion labels who may be struggling due to COVID-19, then by acting as a crowd we can be a force for change. Change for ourselves, the people around us, and the policies and industries that are woefully inadequate.

The fashion industry should be more sustainable, and the fashion industry should treat its workers fairly, and having a direct effect through our own consumption changes, as well as call for transformations of the fashion industry can help bring about the changes needed.