11 Most Sustainable Sportswear Brands: The Conscious Consumer’s Guide

11 Most Sustainable Sportswear Brands: The Conscious Consumer’s Guide

By
Quynh Nguyen

Read Time:32 Minutes

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Stay impactful,

Amid growing concerns about the textile industry’s environmental impact, there is pressure to find greener clothes for the office as well as the sports field. Unfortunately, fashion greenwashing makes it harder for you and other consumers to figure out which clothing brands offer the most eco-friendly sports garments and gear. So, we had to ask: Which are the most sustainable sportswear brands?

The most sustainable sportswear brands are Girlfriend Collective, VAUDE, and Tripulse, which prioritize recycled materials that are low-impact and high-performing while reducing their climate impact. Iron Roots and Duckworth also commit to using natural fibers to make plastic-free sportswear. 

Whether you are searching for some perfectly fitting bike shorts or a supportive sports bra to add to your wardrobe without negatively impacting the soil, the water, the animals, and other people, there is a brand for you. So, let’s keep reading to learn more about the most sustainable sportswear brands and how they ensure sustainable, ethical practices. 

Here’s How We Selected the 11 Most Sustainable Sportswear Brands

Sportswear can be one of the higher impact and less sustainable textile categories because the high performance and stretch requirements are often better met by using synthetic fabrics, which don’t biodegrade and release microplastics while using and washing. 

Sustainable: The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level | Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”

Oxford Dictionary

The brands on this list were chosen based on their commitment and actions to promote sustainable practices while reducing the environmental impacts of the textile industry. 

They are transparent about their materials, processes, and workforce management within their supply chain. 

Some brands focus their efforts on reducing waste and optimizing natural resources while others strive to reduce the carbon footprint of their clothes. 

All of these brands share the commitment to reshape the textile industry toward a more sustainable and Earth-friendly sector. 

These Are the 11 Most Sustainable Sportswear Brands

Overall, these sportswear brands are sustainable. Yet, they take various approaches to reduce environmental impacts and uphold ethical standards. Let’s dive into each brand and find out more. 

1

Girlfriend Collective: Essential and Timeless Activewear Made Out of Recycled Materials

Logo for Girlfriend Collective
Screenshot of the girlfriend collective front page

We make everything locally in small batches to make sure we don’t have a negative impact on the environment.”

Girlfriend Collective 

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

Girlfriend Collective’s sustainability efforts start with using recycled and recyclable textile and packing materials. Their clothes are made from recycled materials such as post-consumer water bottles, fishing nets retrieved from the seas, fabric scraps, and other waste. On top of that, their packaging is 100% recycled and recyclable. After their clothes are dyed, all the wastewater is sent to a treatment plant 100 feet away. Treated water that meets safety standards is released into the waterway, while mud dye is donated to a pavement facility to be turned into paving stones. Additionally, they help prevent microfiber release with a branded microfiber filter. Their program “Recycle. Reuse. Regirlfriend.” collects old Girlfriend Collective compressive leggings and upcycles them into new pieces that can be worn again and again, reducing waste while moving toward a more circular fashion model. Lastly, Girlfriend Collective partners with EcoCart to provide a carbon-neutral option for all orders placed on their site to offset the carbon footprint of their products.

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

Girlfriend Collective’s facilities are fully certified by Social Accountability International – SA8000. An SA8000 certification guarantees safe working conditions, the right to unionize, and no forced or child labor. They also ensure all workers in their supply chain are paid fair wages and provided with free lunches and guided exercise breaks. 

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

Girlfriend Collective is not known to be part of any giving-back programs. 

🛍️

What is their product range?

  • Best for: womenswear
  • Product range: dresses, hoodies, sweatshirts, activewear, sportswear, maternity wear, tops, blouses, T-shirts, stockings, tights, shorts, lingerie, plus-size
  • Price range: $$$ 
  • Size range: 2XS–6XL
2

VAUDE: Performance Clothing Inspired by Mountain Sports

Logo for Vaude
Screenshot of the Vaude front page

We design with a focus on minimal material consumption, try to avoid waste and design products that are timeless, durable and repairable.”

VAUDE

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

VAUDE prioritizes sustainability by creating a counterbalance to resource-consuming lifestyles. They achieve that by making durable and versatile products for life, minimizing waste during manufacturing, and enabling longer product lifespan with maintaining, repairing, donating, and upcycling guidance. VAUDE opts for materials that combine technical performance and ecological responsibility. An example of this is their use of merino wool, a natural fiber suitable for a warm and water-repellent protective layer that is ideal for mountain sports. Meanwhile, they lower the impact of this fabric by adhering to the Responsible Wool Standard and the Global Organic Textile Standard for virgin organic wool and increasing the content of GRS-certified recycled wool in their collection. Furthermore, their products have been certified by Bluesign® and Green Button. Regarding their impact, the brand sets science-based climate goals to reduce global emissions as quickly as possible, aligning with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degrees in global warming, and is on track with their target as of October 2022, according to Science Based Targets (SBTi). They achieved that by measuring their total carbon footprint and implementing reduction measures in hotspots like material, energy, and transport. Since the beginning of 2022, VAUDE has been a carbon-neutral company, achieved through fully offsetting their global greenhouse gas emissions in the My Climate’s climate change mitigation project in Vietnam, their most important country of production. 

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

VAUDE ensures ethical practices for both humans and animals involved in their operation. They work with the Fair Wear Foundation to monitor their final stage of production, ensuring safe working conditions and fair wages for factory workers. They also audit 100% of their producers in high-risk countries. Additionally, VAUDE has a basic policy to support diversity and inclusion in their direct operations and supply chain. Regarding animal rights, they follow the Responsible Wool Standard, appropriately addressing sheep’s welfare and the land they graze on. 

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

VAUDE donates FairWertung the products that can’t be repaired but are still perfectly functional. In 2021, VAUDE donated products with a merchandise value of approximately €339,000 (approximately $375,000 USD) to the network, which makes clothes affordable via charity shops or second-hand stores.

🛍️

What is their product range?

  • Best for: sportswear (cycling, hiking, skiing) and urban outdoor clothes for women, men, and kids
  • Product range: jackets, hoodies, sweaters, shirts, vests, pants, shorts, skirts, functional underwear
  • Price range: $$$
  • Size range: XS–XXXL
3

Tripulse: Sportswear Made Sustainable With Certified Eucalyptus Wood Fiber

Logo for Tripulse
Screenshot of the Tripulse front page

Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do and of every decision we make. It’s part of our DNA.” Franziska

Mesche, Founder of Tripulse

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

Tripulse ensures sustainability by sourcing low-impact materials, reducing waste, and overcompensating their carbon emission to be climate-positive. Firstly, they use a high proportion of TENCELTM lyocell made with certified eucalyptus wood fibers. Tripulse also opts for ROICA™ V550, a more eco-friendly stretch alternative to spandex (elastane), for the stretch element necessary in gym leggings. Furthermore, the elastane found in a small percentage of Tripulse’s Power III fabric blend consumes less energy, requires lower CO2 emissions than conventional elastane, and has various sustainability certifications (Bluesign®, OEKO-TEX®, and REACH). On top of that, they use organic cotton and natural rubber for elements like care labels and waistbands. Secondly, Tripulse reduces waste by designing timeless, versatile, and multifunctional garments that are durable and long-lasting, using recycled and recyclable packaging materials, and keeping clothing with minor blemishes, prototypes, or returned and refreshed clothing in circulation with their ZeroWaste Shop. Last but not least, the brand holds climate action at the center of their operation, measuring, reducing, offsetting, and overcompensating their carbon emissions. On top of using low-carbon materials and reducing waste, they offset more than their emissions in projects preventing deforestation in biodiverse areas

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

Tripulse ensures their ethics by partnering with a factory certified by the Global Organic Textile Standards and paying a living wage in the final stage of their production. They are also transparent about the rest of their supply chain, publicly sharing their suppliers for various components. 

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

Tripulse plants a tree for every product purchased via their partnership with One Tree Planted

🛍️

What is their product range?

  • Best for: womenswear
  • Product range: leggings, tops, T-shirts, tank tops
  • Price range: $$$
  • Size range: XXS–3XL
4

Iron Roots: Natural Athletic Apparel 

Logo for Iron Roots
Screenshot of the Iron Roots front page

“By combining design, functionality and sustainability, we aim to create the best sportswear.

Iron Roots 

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

Iron Roots prioritizes sustainability by using eco-friendly plant-based textiles, cutting down textile waste, and reducing carbon footprint. Firstly, they source a high proportion of low-impact textiles, including GOTS-certified organic cotton, hemp, and lyocell (Lenzing‘s TENCEL™ fibers)—three of the most sustainable fabrics. Additionally, all their healthy sportswear is tested for harmful chemicals through OEKO-TEX® certifications. Secondly, Iron Roots minimizes textile waste in multiple ways, such as designing a product from a single fabric, maximizing cutting efficiency, and sometimes using the same fabric for various products. On top of that, they offer a take-back program where customers can return their worn-out Iron Roots apparel for the purpose of recycling it into new products. Lastly, to avoid overproduction, they do not offer seasonal collections. Regarding their carbon footprint, Iron Roots manufactures locally to reduce their transporting carbon emissions and offset all those occurring from shipping in their supply chain

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

Iron Roots traces most of their supply chain. The manufacturing stage happens in GOTS and SMETA-certified factories in Greece, North Macedonia, and Portugal. The factory’s workers are also paid living wages that average 1.5–1.7 times the minimum wage in their country.

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

Iron Roots donates 50% of the profits from the Iron Roots x Sea Shepherd Wood T-shirt sale to Sea Shepherd, helping to protect the oceans.

🛍️

What is their product range?

  • Best for: womenswear, menswear
  • Product range: activewear, sportswear, hoodies, sweatshirts, accessories 
  • Price range: $$$ 
  • Size range: XS–XXL
5

Duckworth: Sheep to Shelf™ US-Made Merino Outdoor Clothing for a Mountain Lifestyle 

Logo for Duckworth

Our clothes are built to last and perform, tapping sustainable fibers and low-impact processes right here in the US – a combination of ethical practices even our competitors in the Merino Wool space simply can’t match.

Duckworth 

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

Duckworth promotes sustainability by making durable and versatile outdoor apparel using merino wool. They source these soft and breathable fibers from the Helle Rambouillet sheep—a close cousin to merino sheep—that roam wildly in the founders’ ranch. The ranch lies from 5,000′ to 9,000′ elevation in the Northern Rockies of Montana, where the conditions are just right for their herd to grow exceptionally soft wool. At Duckworth, not only the sourcing stage but the entire process happens in the US, from sheep ranching to wool processing, yarn spinning, fabric milling, and finishing, altogether reducing the carbon footprint of transportation. 

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

Duckworth is completely transparent about their supply chain from beginning to end. In particular, while Duckworth owns their sheep, they let them roam free as wild animals, coming in contact with humans a few days per year when they’re shaved for the summer months. 

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

Duckworth, in an effort to strengthen the US wool industry, has joined up with their merino wool producer, Helle Rambouillet, to donate $50,000 to build a new Montana Wool Lab at Montana State University. This marks one of only two wool research and service laboratories in the entire US.

🛍️

What is their product range?

  • Best for: menswear, womenswear
  • Product range: tops, bottoms, sweatshirts, hoodies, jackets, vests, base layers, socks, accessories
  • Price range: $$$
  • Size range: XS–XXL
6

Allbirds: Simple and Comfortable Footwear Made With Nature-Based Materials

Logo for Allbirds
Screenshot of the Allbirds front page

“Reducing the carbon footprint of our products is at the heart of everything we do.”

Allbirds 

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

Allbirds ensures sustainability by committing to a concrete plan to achieve net zero carbon by 2030 through meticulously measuring their carbon footprint and working to reduce the emissions beyond carbon neutrality while offsetting the current emissions to operate as a carbon-neutral business. They rely on renewable materialsregenerative agriculture, and responsible energy to reduce their carbon footprint. Specifically, Allbirds sources natural and recycled fabrics to replace petroleum-based synthetic textile materials. The brand even invented their own nature-based alternative called SweetFoam®, their shoe sole material derived from the world’s first carbon-negative green EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate). They’ve also invested in novel solutions, like Plant Leather, a 100% natural, plant-based leather. Additionally, more than 60% of their merino wool currently comes from regenerative agriculture, which has the potential to reverse climate change while promoting biodiversity. Specifically, they combine natural and plant-based fabrics (merino woolorganic cottonTENCEL™) with recycled synthetic fabrics in their socks. Further down the life-cycle, Allbirds actively reduces their carbon footprint in manufacturing and transporting by using renewable energy in their “owned & operated” facilities and their finished goods manufacturersshipping by boats, and reducing 40% packaging material by using one post-consumer recycled cardboard as a 2-in-1 shoe box/shipping box. In spring 2024, Allbirds plans to launch M0.0NSHOT—a net zero carbon shoe (a standard sneaker has an average footprint of about 14 kg CO2 eq). Lastly, they encourage buying and selling slightly imperfect and gently used Allbirds products on Allbirds ReRun™ to extend the products’ life-cycle. 

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

Allbirds has a Supplier Code of Conduct, drawing upon ILO Core Labor Standards to ensure safe working conditions, respect and dignity for workers, and environmentally responsible manufacturing processes in their supply chain. On top of that, they require independent, third-party social and environmental audits of their Tier 1 suppliers. They also strive for transparency and traceability in their supply chain: 100% of their Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers are currently mapped with a target to reach 100% supply chain traceability by 2025. Additionally, their Animal Welfare Policy ensures their merino wool is held to high farming standards, land management, and animal welfare. Their merino wool is also certified by ZQ Merino, covering sustainability and ethics from farm to fashion. 

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

Allbirds donates slightly used shoes returned by customers to Soles4Souls, an organization that helps to empower people living in poverty by creating jobs for them. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Allbirds supported healthcare workers by donating shoes and running a “buy one, give one” option, enabling customers to get involved and show appreciation for those making a difference. 

🛍️

What is their product range?

  • Best for: womenswear, menswear, kidswear
  • Product range: sneakers, socks
  • Price range: $$
  • Size range: XS–XXL
7

Definite Articles: For Active People Who Love Their Planet 

Logo for Definite Articles
Screenshot of the Definite Article front page

“Our fabric is not only rigorously tested and certified free of forever chemicals like BPA and PFAS, but it is also infused with an innovative technology called CiCLO that significantly accelerates the biodegradation of the garment once discarded, transforming it naturally into soil in just a few years.”

Definite Articles 

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

Definite Articles ensures their sustainability firstly by creating the planet’s first biodegradable performance wear to reduce plastic waste and associated pollution. In particular, they use the next generation, OEKO-TEX® certified sustainable technology “CiCLO” that enables traditional yarns like nylon and polyester to behave like natural fibers when they end up in the environment and thus biodegrade in two to three years rather than centuries. Additionally, their collection is free of harmful chemicals like BPA and PFAS and partly made with relatively low-impact textiles such as cotton under the Better Cotton Initiative or lyocell. Secondly, Definite Articles reduces their climate impact by keeping their entire supply chain locally in the US for a lower transporting carbon footprint. They also opt to pack their orders in carbon-neutral fulfillment centers.

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

Definite Articles ensure their ethics by sourcing their fabrics from family-owned mills. Their Supplier Code of Conduct also covers ILO’s Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

Definite Articles gives back by planting trees in the US. They are a reforestation partner of One Tree Planted, committing to donations of 2% their annual revenue

🛍️

What is their product range?

  • Best for: womenswear, menswear, kidswear
  • Product range: leggings, sports bras, tanks, joggers, hoodies, shorts, shirts, socks 
  • Price range: $$
  • Size range: XS–XL
8

VEJA: Sneakers Made With Innovative, Low-Impact Materials

Logo for VEJA
Screenshot of the Veja front page

VEJA is walking on two feet: ecology and social justice on one side, design on the other. We never compromise between the both of them.”

Sebastien Kopp, Co-Founder of VEJA

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

VEJA ensures sustainability by opting for a high proportion of low-impact materials and reducing textile waste. In 2020, recycled polyester and organic cotton made up nearly 76% of their sneaker materials. They also use other eco-friendly materials, including organic jute and recycled cotton. With leather, the traditional shoe material, VEJA strives to improve traceability and transparencyAll their tanning partners are Gold certified by the Leather Working Group which promotes sustainable environmental practices in the leather industry. VEJA discloses the total carbon emissions released throughout their supply chain and the equivalent carbon footprint of various models. By working out the proportion of their emissions, they identify the hot spots and reduce their footprints in multiple ways, including using renewable energyimproving the most-polluting products (leather-based streetwear), reducing air freight for transportation from factories to retailers, and taking the train as the main transporting methods for team members. In June 2020, they launched their VEJA x Darwin project, a test hub for cleaning, repairing, and recycling old streetwear, keeping materials longer in circulation while reducing waste and carbon footprint.

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

Fair trade is one of the three fundamental pillars VEJA is built on. They work directly with producers and use annual contracts to guarantee income and a reasonable price for producers. Workers who manufacture VEJA streetwear are well compensated and live in normal conditions. Their Supplier Code of Conduct covers the ILO’s Four Fundamental Freedoms principles. VEJA also traces most of their supply chain and visits their suppliers regularly. 

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

VEJA partners with Log’ins (Logistics & Insertion), an organization that employs people with light disabilities and promotes their social inclusion. In 2022, more than 200 employees recognized as disabled workers were supported by Log’ins.

🛍️

What is their product range?

  • Best for: womenswear, menswear, childrenswear
  • Product range: sneakers
  • Price range: $$
  • Size range: XS–XXL
9

Seea: Small Batch, Locally Produced Swimswear Designed for Women Who Love the Sea 

Logo for Seea
Screenshot of the Seea front page

“A celebration of the style, rhythm, and grace of women’s surfing. These suits are made for you.”

Amanda Lapham, Co-founder of Seea 

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

Seea ensures their sustainability by sourcing a medium proportion of eco-friendly fabrics. Specifically, they no longer use neoprene, a conventional material for wetsuits made from harmful petrochemicals. Indeed, they’ve switched to Yulex, a plant-based material derived from FSC-certified rubber trees. Additionally, Seea sources deadstock and recycled fabrics to lower their environmental impact. Further down the life-cycle in the manufacturing stage, Seea produces in small batches to avoid textile waste and locally in California to reduce transportation carbon footprint.  

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

Seea traces most of their supply chain and visits some suppliers regularly.  

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

Seea is not known to be part of any giving-back programs.

🛍️

What is their product range?

  • Best for: womenswear, girlswear 
  • Product range: surf suits, one-piece swimwear, bikinis, bodysuits, rash guards, wetsuits, pants, jackets, shorts, ponchos, capes, shorts, surf accessories 
  • Price range: $$
  • Size range: XS–XL
10

CARIUMA: Sneakers Designed for Style, Comfort, and Sustainability

Logo for CARIUMA
Screenshot of the Cariuma front page

We iterate a sneaker style for a year + before we bring it to production and we attempt to reduce the number of steps it takes to manufacture (which saves energy and time).

CARIUMA 

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

CARIUMA prioritizes sustainability by increasing the natural content of their products. In particular, they prioritize materials that renew quickly, like bamboo and sugarcane, and plant-derived substances, such as cork and rubber, that can be harvested without cutting down trees. CARIUMA also sources lower-impact alternatives to conventional sneaker materials, for example, organic cotton instead of cotton, mamona oil instead of petroleum, recycled nylon instead of virgin nylon, and rPET (recycled PET—polyethylene terephthalate—plastic) instead of virgin plastics. The leather used in CARIUMA sneakers is sourced, tanned, and finished with low-waste methods, renewable and recycled inputs, and fewer chemicals. Their responsible practices involve recycled waterrenewable energy, and a closed-loop tanning chemical system to protect the surrounding land and groundwater. CARIUMA exclusively sources leather as a byproduct of best-practice food industry cattle, which are steroid-free and grass-fed on naturally treeless plains indigenous to South America. Furthermore, they reduce their carbon footprint via a series of initiatives, including using solar energy, LED lighting, and a cooling tower in their warehouse, delivering sneakers in one recycled and recyclable paper box (which acts as both packaging and a shoe box), and opting for a carbon-neutral shipping option. 

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

CARIUMA binds their suppliers to a Code of Conduct that covers all of the ILO’s Fundamental Freedoms Principles. They also trace most of their supply, specifically 100% of Tier 1 suppliers—the footwear manufacturer; 85% of Tier 2 suppliers involving raw material processors, mills, knitting, packaging, outsole factory, and components in general; and 59% of their Tier 3 suppliers who provide yarns, polymers, and chips. Additionally, their manufacturing partner is audited annually by WRAP. They also visit their suppliers routinely. Regarding the use of animal skins in their leather sneakers, CARIUMA has an Animal Welfare Policy, ensuring animal welfare standards and transparency in the leather supply chain. Their leather suppliers are certified and audited by the Leather Working Group (LWG).

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

Since June 2020, CARIUMA has committed to planting two trees for every pair of sneakers they sell. Their reforestation program started in Brazil, with over 2 million trees planted. They work closely with the local indigenous communities, following their guidance on how to tend to the land and best support regrowth and restoration, improve seed storage efficiency, and go about replanting methods that mitigate risk and preserve biodiversity.

🛍️

What is their product range?

  • Best for: womenswear, menswear 
  • Product range: sneakers
  • Price range: $$ 
  • Size range: XS–XL

Hylo Athletics: Vegan Training Shoes From Carbon Neutral Brand 

Logo for Hylo Athletics
Screenshot of the Hylo Athletics front page

With science in our soles and renewability in our materials. The future is still ours to write.

Hylo Athletics

🌎

How do they ensure their sustainability?

Hylo Athletics ensures their sustainability firstly by using renewable, circular, and resource-light materials while moving away from fossil-based materials and high-impact animal-derived fabrics (leather and wool). Specifically, they source PLA fabrics derived from corn and sugarcane, algae-based BLOOMTM, (organic) cotton, and REFIBRA™ (regenerated cellulose fibers made with pre and post-consumer recycled cotton) for their vegan sportswear. For example, their Hylo Run shoes are 60.03% bio-based. Hylo Athletics also prioritizes low-impact packaging materials. For shoe packaging, they use FSC-mix certified cardboard boxes engineered to be resealable and, thus, reusable. For garment packaging, they have partnered with Invisible Packaging to ensure their apparel is packed in water-soluble, compostable, biodegradable, and non-toxic bags. Hylo Athletics further pursues sustainability with waste reduction incentives, such as designing shoes with few parts (25% of the average running shoes), employing the flat-knitting technique to maximize materials, and dope dyeing yarns to save water. Moreover, their Hyloop platform helps extend their products’ life through care, repair, and recycling, keeping materials in circulation longer and cutting down waste. Continuing on, they reduce their carbon footprint by using materials that emit less carbon, less energy-intensive processes, and a localized supply chain to offset all their carbon emissions. Last but not least, Hylo Athletics invests in a project installing biogas digesters in Sichuan that decompose organic waste, naturally turning it into a clean fuel that replaces the need to burn coal or wood.

🌐

How do they ensure their ethics?

Hylo Athletics’s production partner is based in China, a country with extreme risk of labor abuse. However, they conduct regular third-party audits on worker conditions, showing that 100% of workers are paid correctly and above the regional average. Hylo Athletics also publicly shares the list of their suppliers via Open Supply Hub. Additionally, they are transparent about the impact of their products, measuring and sharing the carbon footprint of each product line

🤝

Are they part of any giving-back programs?

Since January 2021, Hylo Athletics has partnered with Common Goal to donate at least 1% of their net revenue as they work to pioneer their work on planetary impact. 

🛍️

What is their product range?

  • Best for: menswear, womenswear
  • Product range: everyday trainers, performance running shoes, T-shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, sweatpants, accessories 
  • Price range: $$
  • Size range: XS–XL

Why Is It Important to Buy Products Made of More Sustainable Fabrics

It is important to buy products made of more sustainable fabrics because a sustainable textile industry has a lower carbon footprint, helps save natural resources, and is better for forests, animals, and humans. 

Buying Sustainable Fabrics Reduces Your Carbon Footprint 

The production of clothing and footwear is estimated to contribute 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions—more than all international flights and shipping combined. If the fashion industry were a country, it would be the fourth largest emitter of carbon dioxide

One way to reduce the carbon footprint of the clothes you buy is to opt for sustainable fabrics. Sustainable fabrics, which are often made with natural or recycled fibers, have relatively low carbon footprints compared to petroleum-based fabrics. For example, organic cotton made in the US has a carbon footprint of 2.35 kg CO2 (per ton of spun fiber)—a quarter of polyester’s carbon footprint.

Buying Sustainable Fabrics Reduces Demand for Natural Resources and Waste Management

The textile industry uses water and land to grow cotton and other fibers. It is estimated that 79 billion cubic meters of water were used for the sector worldwide in 2015. For example, producing a single cotton T-shirt requires as much water as one person drinks for 2.5 years (2,700 liters of fresh water).

Worse yet, the textile economy is vastly more linear than circular: the largest amount of resources used in clothes ended up in landfills (instead of being recycled to remake clothes). According to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation,

  • Less than 3% of materials used in the textile economy in 2015 came from recycled sources.
  • In other words, more than 97% of the resources used in making clothes are newly extracted. 

When clothing items are disposed of within a short period of time—under a year in the case of half of the fast fashion clothes—the natural systems that provide raw materials for fabrics don’t have enough time to recover and regenerate, which could lead to ecological breakdown. 

Sustainable fabrics are made with less water and emissions while lasting longer:

  • Because they are durable, you don’t need to buy new clothes too often. 
  • Thus, you help reduce the pressure to extract more resources for making new items. 

Similarly, making and consuming sustainable fabrics made with recycled materials reduces the demand for virgin materials while helping tackle waste management. 

Buying Sustainable Fabrics Encourages Sustainable Management of Forests

Sustainable natural fiber fabrics are made with raw materials from forests and plantations that are sustainably managed, such as complying with FSC standards

When you buy sustainable natural fiber fabrics, you discourage unsustainable forestry practices like illegal logging. You can help reduce deforestation, biodiversity loss, and the effects of climate change. 

Buying Sustainable Fabrics Encourages Fairer Treatment of Animals 

The fashion industry is rife with animal mistreatment when it comes to making animal-based fabrics like wool or silk. Every year, billions of animals suffer and die for clothing and accessories.

Buying sustainable vegan alternatives can help to reduce the pressure on raising more and more animals to meet the demand for animal-based fabrics while sacrificing their well-being and lives. 

Suppose you have to buy fabrics made with, for example, wool or silk; make sure you only choose brands committed to cruelty-free products. In that case, you help advocate better treatments for animals raised within the textile industry. 

Using Sustainable Fabrics Encourages Fairer Treatment of Textile Workers 

Recent statistics from UNICEF estimated as many as 170 million child laborers worldwide, many of whom were engaged in some form of work in the textile industry. They don’t get paid minimum wages and often work long hours. 

When you buy sustainable fabrics from brands transparent about the working conditions at their factories, you discourage the use of child labor and help promote better working conditions for textile workers.

How Can You Generally Buy More Sustainable Fabrics

The key to sustainably buying fabrics is to check on relevant environmental and original certifications. 

For natural fabrics

  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): A globally recognized certification system that ensures a certain threshold of organic content has been met. It covers manufacturing, packaging, labeling, transportation, and distribution (but not what happens in the fields where crops are grown). 
  • USDA Certified Biobased Product: The USDA BioPreferred® Certification is a voluntary certification offered by the United States Department of Agriculture. The certification identifies products made from plants or other renewable materials.
  • Ecolabel: Ecolabel is the official European Union voluntary label recognized worldwide for certified products with a guaranteed, independently verified low environmental impact. The label requires high environmental standards throughout the entire life-cycle: from raw material extraction through production and distribution to disposal. It also encourages companies to develop innovative, durable, easy-to-repair, and recyclable products. 

For natural fiber semi-natural/semi-synthetic fabrics:

  • Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification: PEFC’s approaches to sustainable forest management are in line with protecting the forests globally and locally and making the certificate work for everyone. Getting a PEFC certification is strict enough to ensure the sustainable management of a forest is socially just, ecologically sound, and economically viable but attainable not only by big but small forest owners.

For recycled fabrics:

  • Recycled Claim Standard (RCS): The Textile Exchange RCS was originally developed as an international, voluntary standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of Recycled input and chain of custody. 
  • The Global Recycled Standard (GRS): The Global Recycled Standard (GRS) is an international, voluntary, full product standard that sets requirements for third-party certification of Recycled Content, chain of custody, social and environmental practices, and chemical restrictions. It can be used for any product with more than 20% recycled material.

For all types of fabrics:

  • STeP by OEKO-TEX®: STeP by OEKO-TEX® is an independent certification system for brands, retailers, and manufacturers from the textile and leather industry. It communicates organizational environmental measures, including reducing carbon footprint and water usage.
  • OEKO-TEX® Standard 100: OEKO-TEX® labels aim to ensure that products pose no risk to human health (i.e., containing banned chemicals). 

Some certifications that are signaling brands’ efforts toward lowered environmental impacts and a circular economy are: 

  • B Corp Certification: The label B Corp is a certification reserved for for-profit companies. Certified holders are assessed on their social and environmental impacts. 
  • Cradle2Cradle certification: Cradle2Cradle provides a standardized approach to material circularity. It assesses whether products have been suitably designed and made with the circular economy in mind covering five critical categories: material health, material reuse, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness.

Final Thoughts

Sportswear is a category of clothing that is often high-impact due to its frequent washing needs and its conventional use of high-impact synthetic fabrics for stretch and moisture wicking. Thus, it is important to shop with ethics and sustainability in mind when choosing your next pair of running shorts or cycling gloves. 

By purchasing sportswear from brands that commit to sustainability, you support their mission to create a fairer and less harmful textile industry for all lives on Earth. 

Here is the list (again) of the most sustainable sportswear brands:

  • Girlfriend Collectives
  • VAUDE
  • Tripulse
  • Iron Roots
  • Duckworth
  • Allbirds
  • Definite Articles
  • VEJA
  • Seea
  • CARIUMA
  • Hylo Athletics

To make your use of these clothing items even more sustainable, follow these steps:

  1. Buy second hand, recycled, or upcycled sportswear made with low-impact materials. 
  2. Keep your sportswear for as long as possible.
  3. At the end-of-life of your sportswear, upcycle the materials to extend their usage and arrange for them to be recycled or properly disposed of.

Stay impactful,



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