Leggings aren’t pants, but it seems no one is taking my fashion advice. Everywhere I look I see hi-tech bright colored leggings and they aren’t just walking into yoga studios. They’re in the grocery store paired with a multi-textured jacket or a loopy backed tank. Everyone looks fit, and if they aren’t doing the work to be fit, they sure look as if they’re trying.
Athleisure isn’t just a fashion trend, it’s a healthy lifestyle, and some clothing companies are basing their entire business on it. Check out any brand selling the stuff and you’ll see models doing yoga, walking thru a farmer’s market and eating fresh organic food. The fashion may have originated from people becoming more health conscious, but the lifestyle is definitely a part of a growing trend, and this is where it gets ugly.
For being associated with a healthy lifestyle, hi-tech fabrics used to make this fashion are some of the unhealthiest for our planet.
I’ve been an athlete since I was eight. My mom threw us all on the local swim team and working out twice daily was routine for me. The swimming could be brutal but the swimsuits were worse.
Lycra (the brand name for a stretchy fiber made by Dupont CHEMICAL Company…yes…a chemical company) was just hitting the swimsuit industry in the 70s baring little resemblance to the sleek suits of today. The Lycra added stretch but a lot of the suits were made with wool making them heavy and making them stay wet for what felt like weeks. Putting on my damp, heavy, cold swimsuit for practice was one of the not-so-fond memories of my young athletic days.
Swimwear, along with all workout wear, has come a long way. Manufacturers of hi-performance Athleisure are using fast drying, wicking fabrics that are lighter and designed with microfiber fabrics that compress our bodies into tighter shapes making these clothes even more attractive to a larger demographic (literally)! After working out my entire life I have to admit that I own some of this stuff, but now that I’ve discovered athletic fabrics are having the biggest negative impact on our planet, I’m incredibly conflicted about buying these hi-tech clothes.
These big Athleisure companies are manufacturing their fabrics to make them function better for exercise but they’re damaging our oceans. They’re using fabrics made from hi-tech yarns containing tiny plastic microfibers that shed with every wash. A recent study conducted last year around the Florida Keys found that 89% of the water samples collected there contained at least one piece of these plastic microfibers that came from our clothing. (Read more here.)
No one, including me, wants to wear those wool suits of yesteryear or workout clothes that never dry, but there are better, less impactful options out there and there’s something we can all do!
Do Your Homework
Learn about where your clothes are made and the fabrics used to make them.
Some of the biggest athletic manufacturers are creating fabrics that are heavy with chemicals so they can be sweat resistant, stink resistant, stain resistant and other resistant.
These hi-tech fabrics are some of the biggest culprits because they’re made with those fine microfibers that shed in our washers and enter our water sources killing off plankton, small fish and other vital organisms that sustain our oceans. These clothing companies that promote Yoga and mindfulness are the same ones doing major damage to our planet. Check where your Athleisure is being made and most importantly the types of fabrics used to make them.
I’m not gonna lie, but pretty much all Athleisure is damaging to our planet but some are worse than others. At Majamas Earth we stopped using recycled poly. We found that when that fabric is made out of old plastic water bottles, MORE plastic filaments are entering our water than the amount coming through out washers from virgin poly! It’s mind blowing, I know because even those of us who are tying to rid plastic from the ocean by giving it a second life are actually making the issue worse. My next attempt to fix this issue is to demand better filters from appliance manufacturers. To me, it’s another way to help because let’s face it, none of us wants to go back to wet wool.
Thanks to a climate-change-denying administration in Washington, some of the most popular environmental sustainability programs like Energy Star (a program created by George H. W. Bush) is having it’s budget cut. This program covers everything from buildings to appliances and has had $430 billion in savings over its lifetime. As of May of this year, the program may be cut. What’s astounding is the Energy Star program had a budget of only $50 million per year (small for most governmental programs that have the brand recognition and support of the public) and it has kept 2.7 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere. This is the program for appliances like laundry machines that have been designed to use less water and our only hope to ensure laundry machines of the future will be made to better filter these tiny microfibers from entering our water.
We still have the power to elect congress people who decide the fate of our planet and those supporting the Energy Star programs should be rewarded.
Think before you Buy
Finally, give a lot of thought to that workout gear you find at big box retailers (online and off). The impact these hi-tech, sweat resistant garments are having on our planet is enough to make you sweat without moving a muscle. It may seem fashionable to have the hottest look from your favorite workout line, but do you really need all the additives they put on those fabrics?
Hi-tech fabrics of the future can be made with less damaging fibers and still give the same results.
Write your garment lines before buying any more clothing and insist they devise a way to minimize their impact on our oceans.
I am a firm believer in exercise and without it I would be a mess but my workout wardrobe is changing now that I know how these super hi-tech fabrics are impacting our planet. I’m not going back to wet wool but I’m definitely not buying fabrics with added chemicals like stink resistance and color fade additives.
We’re on the way to making Athleisure less impactful on our planet. Majamas Earth is working with our fabric mills to create fabrics that work the same way polyester does but derived from natural sources so they decompose without harming the planet. We’re close! Stay with us as we explore and make these clothes that are beautiful without harming our beautiful planet. We all live in the same ecosystem so if the lowest part of the chain is choking on plastic, we are too. Push your clothing companies to find alternatives and write your congress people to bring higher standards to our appliances.
Time to #CAREWHATYOUWEAR!
– Germaine Caprio, Company Owner & Designer
What are your favorite eco-friendly Athleisure brands?
Please share your own thoughts with us – let’s get a conversation started in the comments below! Your comment may even win you a free MAJAMAS garment this week!
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