A Comprehensive Sustainable Activewear Guide: They say one good habit leads to another… that’s how it is for many people who decide to cut unethical and unsustainable products from their lives. Suddenly they’re more active, eat healthily, and feel happier about the choices they make.
By Sonia Ahmed
Finding sustainable workout gear was a bit difficult some years back, but not today. Now, you can find many brands willing to go the extra mile for the environment. Sports and fitness related businesses are usually more knowledgeable and inclined to adopt sustainable practices and ethical supply and distribution chain for their products.
So here’s how you can stay ethically fit and keep the earth healthy and happy with the best sustainable activewear brands on the market.
Qualities of an Ethical and Sustainable Activewear Brand
Before we discuss the brands, let’s quickly go over what you should look for in an ethical and sustainable workout clothes brand.
What is sustainable activewear?
- Natural Fibers
That’s a given! Look for organic cotton, hemp or bamboo mixed with a little bit of recycled synthetic fibers for flexibility. Tencel is also quite a popular choice among ethical activewear brands. So, if you find the names Lyocell or Modal in a shirt or trouser, know that it’s Tencel.
- Recycled Synthetics
Many eco-friendly sports gear companies are doing an excellent job recycling plastic and using it to make new products. The only thing you need to worry about is the microfibers that eventually break off as you wash your clothes. They can end up in our waterways unless we use specific filters to catch them and dispose off them safely.
- Eco-Conscious Production
Whether a brand manufactures its products without harming the environment is perhaps the essential factor that makes eco-friendly brands stand out. Green products are produced without using any harmful chemicals, and they either recycle all the waste or dispose it off responsibly.
- Fair Labor and Transparent Supply Chain
A brand isn’t entirely sustainable until it doesn’t source all of its raw materials from renewable resources. From raw material to the final product, these brands ensure fair trade practices. They provide fair wages and benefits for the workers and take practical steps to keep down their carbon footprint.
- Charitable Endeavors:
Most sustainable and eco-friendly brands are passionate about uplifting the society. They engage in community work and commit to various charities and nonprofits. They also encourage their consumers to donate for the betterment of the community.
For help with the rest of your wardrobe, see our complete guide to ethical and sustainable clothing brands.
Top Sustainable Activewear Brands
Now that you know how to ensure buying eco-friendly products let’s discuss these sustainable and ethical activewear brands dominating the fitness market.
nuud activewear is a female-founded zero-waste dance and yoga wear brand that is built from the ground up for sustainability.
If you’re looking for an activewear brand that aims to keep production materials and products from ending up in landfill, look no further – nuud activewear utilises all production offcuts, and they offer free repair or a 40% discount on the same style.
nuud activewear style is minimal and timeless. The garments are flattering and hug your body in all the right places. The fabrics feel soft, luxurious and have 4-way stretch. They are moisture wicking and breathable, making them perfect for sweating and staying cool.
The premium recycled fabrics are sourced from an Italian factory that is committed to sustainability – they use renewable energy, and have REACH and OEKO-TEX® certifications.
nuud activewear works closely with an Estonian manufacturer to ensure a dignified workplace and a fair pay. Keeping manufacturers in Europe also helps to reduce the environmental impact of shipping.
nuud activewear donates £1 from each sale to the International Tree Foundation which is an international conservation organisation, involved in planting, maintenance and protection of trees.
If you’re looking for fashion-forward gym wear that complements your body curves, then Girlfriend Collective is your answer!
Girlfriend Collective brings a touch of elegance and sophistication to sportswear made to flatter all shapes and sizes. The brand intricately designs aesthetic and luxurious activewear, without incurring any environmental or social damage in the process.
Ever wondered: Where can I buy sustainable leggings?
As of now, they’ve recycled over 8 million water bottles and fishing nets. Each pair of leggings by the brand is made by recycling 25 plastic bottles. Girlfriend Collective makes no compromises when it comes to the perfect fit, feel or function. Their fabrics are super soft, flatter your curves and do not pill. Moreover, they are made while following all labor rights.
What makes the brand more prominent is that they are a completely female-oriented organization. They are empowering the women with fair trade, comfortable working situations, and guaranteeing adequate healthcare to all.
“Sustainable Activewear” is an ever-growing trend, with now hundreds of brands getting on board and each doing their part to tackle the issues of environmental and ethical concern that plague the industry. But is it enough? Franziska Mesche, the founder of Swedish Activewear brand Tripulse, didn’t think so, which is why she set herself the challenge of pushing the possibilities of ethical sportswear further than ever before.
To begin with, though the company was created on the principle of very low carbon emissions. In fact, they’re Climate Neutral Certified, having partnered with Climate Neutral to measure their 2020 carbon footprint and purchase carbon credits to offset this footprint in its entirety.
Then there is the process: They avoid materials that shed harmful microplastics, making use of innovative natural fibers that perform just as well, if not better, and without the associated environmental harm; their material suppliers and their GOTS-certified clothing production factory are based in countries that have fair labor conditions; and their packaging materials not only avoid plastics but are also reusable, recyclable, biodegradable, and kept to a minimum.
Finally, there is their mantra: fitness, sustainability and community. The “life purpose” of Tripulse is three-fold: to better themselves every day in every way, to inspire people to be more active, and to make fitness a driver for positive change.
They’ve also just released their Tencel “Made to Move” shorts. With a unique composition of biodegradable and compostable TENCEL™ and Roica® V550, they are completely microplastic-free.
Boody is a certified sustainable activewear brand with eco-ethics ingrained in every fiber. The brand creates the softest, most comfortable clothing essentials, sports bras, underwear, and basics for men, women, and kids.
Boody fabricates its revolutionary products from organic bamboo yarn that’s treated only with water and no chemicals. The brand’s organic products are ethically sourced with sustainable materials. Bamboo as a raw material has many benefits including extraordinary growth and re-harvesting without any ecological damage.
Boody boasts a zero-waste production system and believes in giving back to the planet. For this reason, they donate a considerable part of their sales for the betterment of the world.
When Iron Roots decided to create ethical activewear, they pledged to go 100% plastic-free. Each time we wash polyester clothing, it releases microfibers that end up in oceans and then in our food chain. Sure, oil-based fabrics are silky, stretchy, and sweat-free, but that was exactly the challenge Iron Roots had to tackle!
To achieve the same feel and performance, the brand uses unusual fabric sources such as natural and organic Hemp and the TENCEL fabric made from Eucalyptus and Beech trees. As a result, you’ll find their activewear almost as soft and sweat-tolerant with another plus; their clothes are antibacterial.
Moreover, you can return your old apparel to the brand for recycling and get an incredible 15% discount on your next purchase. The company manufactures in GOTS and ISO certified factories that follow fair-trade policies. The brand is also supported by Climate-KIC, a climate-resilient society working for a zero-carbon future.
A sustainable and active life is worth living! With this ideology, Wolven is working towards a world of sustainability. They manufacture innovative, state-of-the-art activewear designed with sustainability and usability in mind.
Wolven is a carbon-neutral brand, taking their carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emission status seriously. The company is OEKO-Tex and Climate Neutral Certified and a partner of Global Recycled Standard, and Workplace Conditions Assessment.
What makes Wolven beautifully unique and sexily sustainable is that they convert BPA-free bottles to non-toxic fabric for their clothes. They spin the pellet into yarn and weave them into comfy clothing solutions. Moreover, their packaging is reusable and biodegradable as well.
Indigo Luna is an ethically responsible brand, manufacturing high-quality, eco-conscious, and sustainable yoga wear, swimwear, and linen. With no exploitation of humans, animals, and the environment we live in, the brand is introducing affordability to the sustainable activewear market.
The brand uses recycled or organic materials for manufacturing, saving the ecosystem from excessive waste. They have replaced plastic with biodegradable cassava starch and use natural dyes that are obtained from organically grown vegetation.
They have also collaborated with ECONYL® for regenerating nylon waste into usable fabric. Indigo Luna is stepping up in protecting the environment from plastic pollution, eliminating the usage of harmful chemicals, and moving towards a more sustainable world.
Breaking the “lazy stoner” stereotype, Stigma is a brand focused on spreading positivity about people who use cannabis. They are a sustainable activewear clothing brand that portrays a brilliant lifestyle encouraging wellness, positivity, and an optimistic mindset.
The brand is in favor of utilizing organic hemp by following fair trade practices. With the minimum carbon footprint, Stigma pursues sustainable manufacturing solutions. From tanks to bras, leggings, joggers, performance shorts, and hoodies, the brand uses sustainable fabrics such as rPET (recycled plastic bottles) and organic cotton.
Their activewear line is not only trendy but also delivers a compelling message to portray cannabis consumers as productive and active individuals, thus helping break the stereotype.
With the intention of finding a natural alternative to the synthetic fabric, Vyayama established itself as a sustainable brand, manufacturing non-toxic, skin-friendly, and ethically made clothes. You can find leggings, tees, tanks, bralettes, and other accessories, all made from sustainable fabric.
Vyayama is an Oeko-Tex Standard Certified brand, using environmentally friendly dyes obtained from natural resources so the brand is completely safe for people with sensitive skin or those who are allergic to synthetic dyes. The fabric is renewable, extremely soft and comfy, and dries out swiftly when wet.
Preferring plants over plastic, the activewear by Vyayama uses noble and natural fibers sourced sustainably. It is the brand’s motto to ensure quality for a beautiful and modern lifestyle while protecting the planet.
Threads 4 Thought is another sustainable activewear brand with a focus on affordability. It uses eco-friendly materials like organic cotton, Lenzing modal fibers, and recycled polyester in its garments. The brand features a bold yet sophisticated look in its fashion sportswear collection.
Each one of their contemporary activewear products is unique and makes you feel good! Thread 4 Thoughts factories are all WARP-certified. The company uses recycled water and reduces wastewater by 80 percent.
Thread 4 Thoughts is a socio-responsible brand that raises donations for the uplifting of the community. It has partnered with the International Rescue Committee to help refugees live better lives and for reducing environmental issues.
Looking for eco-friendly and sung crop tops and leggings, the ones that flatter your curves, shape your flab, and show-off your body as you work out? Then tick those small boxes for Outdoor Voices. It’s a revolutionary clothing brand that wants you to get moving and look good doing it!
From daily wear to sweaty workout gear, Outdoor Voices has top-notch quality products to match your needs. Plus, the entire business model from products to shops’ architecture is built to last and stay out of landfills. They’re working hard to make at least 50% of their products certified by Bluesign by 2021.
Outdoor Voices has also partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Nature Conservancy. The company also raises funds for raising awareness around sustainability, conservation, and carbon offsetting.
Eloquent in the language of creating premium quality apparel, Pact is best known for fabricating contemporary activewear basics.
The Pact has a mission to make organic apparel affordable and suitable for everyday use. They not only offer high-quality but make all their products from ethically sourced GOTS certified organic cotton. The brand adheres to fair labor laws and ensures humane working conditions under Fair Trade certification.
Apart from manufacturing state-of-the-art activewear that is both sustainable and affordable, Pact has also innovated its plastic packing. The brand uses a compostable plastic packaging that degrades quickly in a landfill but is also recyclable like typical plastic.
Looking for something new, impeccable and ethically sourced in activewear? Then revamp your wardrobe with Groceries Apparel’s inventive and eccentric clothing!
Ranging from thick holds-you-in-all-the-right-places yoga pants to high-quality athleisure leggings, Groceries Apparel provides you with 100% natural activewear. They manufacture all their products in their factory in Los Angeles, CA.
The brand uses certified organic and recycled cotton, hemp, and eucalyptus fabric with natural vegetable dyes. As a result, you get non-toxic and 100% natural clothing, diligently designed from sustainable materials.
But that’s not all! This activewear brand empowers human beings through fair wage, fair-trade, and appropriate working conditions across its entire chain of factories.
Versatile, form-fitting, and insanely comfortable are just a few words that describe Kaira Active, a breakout, eco-friendly activewear company designed and made in LA. Featuring bold patterns, flattering cuts, and quick-dry technology, this isn’t your ordinary athletic wear.
Made to be functional enough for any adventure, cozy enough for lounging or working from home, and stylish enough to be dressed up with your favorite blazer, the possibilities are endless.
Kaira Active’s mission doesn’t stop at style and aesthetics, however. The company was founded with a goal to clean and protect the world’s oceans; this is embedded in every aspect of the business. From fabrics made out of ocean plastics and fishnets to 100% recycled packaging for orders, Kaira Active’s business model is built around sustainability without sacrificing style.
Looking for an all-in-one shop where you can get sustainable sports bras as well as ethically sourced jackets? Then stop right here, because Athleta matches your requirements to the T.
Ranging from diligently crafted sustainable activewear made to move with you to cute dresses you could rock on your first day at work, Athleta has designs for every size and age! It’s a B-corp certified brand with many long term goals at achieving 100% sustainability and zero waste.
Athleta is not only mindful of the environment but also your comfort, performance, and aesthetics. With Athleta, you can feel good, wear good, and breathe even better.
Athleta believes in helping the world move forward. For this reason, they provide advanced education to their workers, helping them develop life skills through their PACE program.
Looking for a brand that you can wear to your morning run as well as to the brunch? Then Patagonia is your go-to place!
Patagonia sells high-quality, aesthetic activewear, as well as unique, comfy casual clothes for people of all ages. However, it’s more popular as an outdoor adventure clothing brand that has top-notch quality and eco-friendly production.
Patagonia sells its high-performance sportswear with the promise of sustainability. The brand follows strict policies in its factories to ensure safe working conditions and ethical labor policies. It also donates 1% of their sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment.
What to Look For When Choosing Activewear
Buying sustainable products is everyone’s responsibility, but sustainable activewear doesn’t automatically become the most suitable for you. The following are a few of the qualities you should look for in any sportswear clothing product to ensure maximum comfort and productivity.
Well, here are some of the few standard yet essential features of eco-friendly sportswear.
Of course, it’s the first thing you should look for in an activewear brand once you’ve ensured its sustainability. Choose the sports bras, leggings, and tank tops that suit your figure and don’t cut into you after some time. So, instead of following any random catalogs, always try out the workout clothes you’re about to purchase.
Moisture Wicking Ability
Fitness hours are sweaty if you’re doing it right. Your activewear must possess excellent wicking ability to ensure an irritation-free fitness session. Sustainable brands usually use natural materials such as cotton or bamboo, which not only maintain your body temperature but also keep you dry and fresh.
Style and Glamor
What’s the use of having so many choices if your gym clothes don’t maintain your style statement? With so many options, you don’t need to sacrifice your glam for abs. Also, if you like yourself in the gym clothes you’ve chosen, you’re more likely to enjoy your fitness session as well.
Remember that there are different types of activewear suitable for various physical activities. For instance, if your fitness regime includes cycling, you should steer clear from loose yoga pants. Similarly, a swimming session is impossible to imagine in flowing tops. Hence make choices based on the activity you are about to perform.
Get an Eye for Innovation
These exercise apparel are resistant to microbes and offer a reliable defense against the dangerous UV rays from the sun as well. Look for innovative sustainable activewear that saves you from sun’s UV rays and keeps you germ-free and dry.
Certifications for Sustainable and Ethical Workout Clothes
In the world of workout apparel, the terms of sustainable and fair fashion can be hard to understand. That’s why we’ve simplified some of the best certifications you should know about before choosing one brand over the other!
This third-party certification body confirms the human and ecological safety from harmful chemicals used in textile and leather products. The certificate is issued for 12 months and needs to be renewed periodically.
This internationally recognized standard ensures the 100% organic status of the product. The certification considers the entire production chain from sourcing of raw materials through processing, manufacturing, and delivery.
Fair Trade monitors the social, economic, and environmental aspects of raw material production. It works to promote fair trading conditions, especially for disadvantaged producers. They issue the certificates once they’re 100 percent sure the buying, selling, and packaging of the product complies with Fairtrade Standards.
Ecocert evaluates organic farming methods and certifies the presence of best agricultural practices for organic raw materials, such as for cotton production. It also certifies compliance with the best environmentally friendly practices and the social requirements level required by the standard.
WRAP is a social compliance certification that mainly accredits apparel and footwear industries. They issue certificates to the facilities which are free from any forced labor, discrimination, human rights violation, or any unethical practices.
B-Corp measures the entire company’s ethical and environmental policies and not just the products. It ensures a business model that protects the workers, community, buyers, and environment.
Healthy living leads to an active lifestyle. In this fast-fashion era, sustainable activewear brands not only give you a lot of design choices but also provide you with peace of mind while wearing them.
All of the brands listed above are dedicated to producing high-value durable products while maintaining fair trade policies, labor laws, and commitment toward social and ecological endeavors.