You’ve probably heard that reusing, recycling and minimizing waste in your day-to-day life constitute great ways to help the planet. Beyond improving the world as we know it today, these practices also benefit future generations. And yet, despite all the sustainable progress we’ve made in recent years, our relationship with the planet is anything but perfect, and the garment industry stands as one of the biggest environmental agitators. Although the growth rate of the ethical fashion market is hovering at 8.3%, and data suggests it will continue to grow annually, there’s still room for improvement.
If you’re looking to switch up your buying habits in a manner that positively impacts the planet, there exists dozens of affordable athletic brands producing ethically-sourced products, from sports bras to shorts to sneakers. Made with sustainable materials and renewable sources of energy, activewear and equipment that’s good for Mother Earth is easier to find than ever before. So the next time you need a few new sweat-ready essentials, consider investing in the best sustainable workout gear to reduce your impact.
While we could use this opportunity to shine a spotlight on the fashion labels putting sustainability first, we’re instead going to focus on select pieces of workout apparel that you’d be wise to add to your personal collection. From recycled yoga mats to bamboo-based tank tops, we’ve spared no effort to round up the essentials for every conceivable activity. Below, the best sustainable workout gear to overhaul your kit.
While we’re on the subject of sustainability, consider going one step further by reviewing other beauty, home and camping products that uphold sustainable standards. Dressing head to toe in green products has never been easier.
Ethical manufacturing and recycled materials are the main drivers of change at Girlfriend Collective, a ‘slow fashion’ brand specializing in athletic wear. As with the entire range, the Compressive High-Rise Legging is made from recycled materials, plus it’s BPA-free and colored with eco-friendly dyes. If you’re more of a numbers person, consider this: 25 recycled water bottles are used to design the squat-proof, high-rise, compressive leggings, and 3.11 gallons of water are saved while 18.6 pounds of CO2 are eliminated from the production process with each pair.
A soft, four-way stretch design keeps you in motion during workouts, and a small, concealed back pocket stores your essentials. When the time comes to retire your leggings, the ReGirlfriend program makes it easy to recycle them—simply send in your pre-loved Girlfriend Collective clothing, and you’ll receive store credit in return.
One customer said: “My favourite part about Girlfriend Collective (apart from the sustainability and production), is how fitting these leggings are! They provide so much support and so much confidence! They fit beautifully and are so flattering to any body size and shape!”
Made from 79% recycled plastic bottles and 21% spandex
Available in three lengths and sizes XXS to 6XL
Founded in 2012, Janji is an independent company that manufactures a line of limited-run collections. Since 2020, all of the brand’s primary fabrics have been certified Bluesign, OEKO-TEX and RWS. Currently, the brand uses 100% recycled polyester and is refining its manufacturing processes to consume less energy and water.
The 7-inch AFO-Vent Multi Short, available in four colors and sizes S to XL, is lightweight, and it features a built-in moisture-wicking compression layer as well as four-way stretch nylon for flexibility. The bonded hem seams prevent chafing, plus, there’s a multi-pocket waistband with a mesh lining to securely store your personal goods during a workout or run. Made from 80% FO-Vent fabric, the durable nylon is abrasion- and odor-resistant, and it retains its shape after extended use.
One customer said: “These are my first pair of Janjis and I could not be more impressed! I’ve worn running shorts from at least a half dozen other brands. But these stand out to me for several reasons. They are super lightweight even with the compression shorts built-in. They are uber comfortable and stylish.”
Bluesign approved AFO-Vent fabric
Boody, an Australian clothing brand, has your sustainable basics covered. With a mission to reduce waste, side-step pesticides and encourage mindful consumption, each item is constructed from organically-grown bamboo that’s antibacterial, soft, thermoregulating and breathable.
The Racerback Active Tank is made from a blend of organically grown bamboo (it’s suitable for even sensitive skin) and a performance fabric for additional breathability.
The tank’s sustainability specs include: reducing 1.2 miles of vehicle emissions; saving almost 327 hours of LED bulb energy; and preserving 52.3 gallons of drinking water. Find it in four colors and sizes XS to XL in a relaxed fit.
One customer said: “This fabric is so soft and comfortable. Doesn’t get hot and sticky whilst exercising. A great fit.”
95% rayon from bamboo and 5% spandex
Four colors in sizes XS to XL
Tasc Performance is a sustainable brand established in 2009 with a mission to reinvent activewear that consistently performs as hard as you do. Clothes are constructed from a bamboo fiber blend that wicks moisture, is wrinkle-resistant and stops nasty odors from stinking up your gym bag. There are many comfort features to be found in this simple tee, including four-way stretch that allows you to move freely in any direction no matter what your workout involves, as well as superior breathability that should keep sweat stains to a minimum.
The Carrollton Fitness T-Shirt is a blend of 52% organic cotton, 43% bamboo viscose and 5% elastane, and the fabric has an ultraviolet protection factor of 50+ if you want to take your workout outdoors. Choose from eight colors to complete your kit.
One customer said: “The blend of bamboo and cotton IS very soft and durable, the color stays, the fabric doesn’t shrink, the fit is always spot on and even after a long workout with lots of sweat, the shirts are easy to take off.”
Made from bamboo viscose and organic cotton
Moisture-wicking and anti-odor
Sizes S to XXL
A relatively new athletic brand (they launched in 2020), Hylo Athletics has already made its mark on the sustainable footwear market. Among its many lofty goals, the British label aims to use renewable materials like corn springs and natural rubber to reduce its carbon footprint. As of 2021, the brand donates 1% of net revenue to its partner Common Goal—an organization encouraging sustainability through the love of football (we’re talking soccer, people).
With all that in mind, the Hylo Light shoes represent one of two footwear options currently available—the other is a running shoe. Its materials fuse sugar-derived EVA, natural rubber, organic cotton, biodegradable polyester and more into a fully vegan and recyclable shoe that weighs in at just 240 grams.
Further details include the Corn Spring midsole and Algae BloomTM insole, as well as the lightweight, breathable knit upper that lets your dogs breathe.
One customer said: “My Hylo’s are amazing. I have been searching for sneakers to wear in the gym but also provide support whilst running that are conscious in all their processes. Thank you so much for creating sustainable and ethical sneakers that are so comfortable!”
Made from a blend of renewable and recycled materials
Lightweight at 240 grams
Available in 14 colors and half sizes
Not all yoga mats are created equal, but if you needed proof, just look to Suga—a California-based company that transforms recycled wetsuits into workout mats. The brand aims “to recycle these petrochemical based landfill clogging neoprene monsters into highly functional instruments of yogic bliss” and, whether you’re a surfer or yogi, there’s no denying the fact that it’s a pretty ingenious concept.
The yoga mat is available in two sizes: regular (72 x 25 inches) and extra-large (74 x 26 inches) with a thickness of 5mm and it weighs just under 5 pounds. Like a traditional yoga mat, it’s designed with tackiness, elasticity and durability in mind.
While $89 may sound steep for a yoga mat, remember you can add a C2G (Cradle to Grave) policy that provides you with a mat for life. Once your SugaMat is too worn to use, you can send it back for a free replacement.
One customer said: “This mat has great traction for classes where you break a sweat and need to hold a pose without slipping. Because the material is denser than the usual spongy material found in most mats, I haven’t needed a blanket to add extra cushion for my knees.”
Made from recycled wetsuits
Available in two sizes
Beta-tested for durability, elasticity and tackiness
Health and sustainability are at the core of Larq’s hydration products. The California-based brand, founded in 2017, gives back a percentage of each purchase to aid environmental nonprofits across the globe.
The Larq Filtered Bottle is available in 17- and 25-ounce sizes, and you can pick up an insulated or non-insulated option. Its key feature is its independently-tested Nano Zero filter technology that traps and removes many pollutants, including lead, heavy metals, chemicals and chlorine. Additionally, it filters up to 40 gallons of water (equivalent to two months of use), saving 300 single-use plastic bottles. There’s an option to add on the filter refill plan for a replacement every two months, and the low-pressure straw makes it easy to stay hydrated on the go.
One customer said: “Great for traveling. The clip is convenient when you’re going hiking or just need to have your bottle with you (I clip it to my purse). The straw is comfortable and the design looks great. Highly recommend if you’re wary of endocrine disruptors in water.”
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