Three sustainable athleisure trends to watch out for

Want to be kind to the environment and your body? Here are three sustainable athleisure trends it’s good to watch out for when shopping.

There are many things we can do to improve our workout experience, and dressing appropriately is one of them. Wearing the best cycling jersey while cycling or selecting the right running shoes for a jog can make or break your workout routine. 

But with the apparel industry becoming more and more damaging to the planet, making small changes to help the environment is paramount. 

Choosing sustainable athleisure clothing is one of them. This makes our workout attire not only comfortable and performance-boosting but also eco-friendly. 

In this guide from the cycling jersey division at Leisure Lakes Bikes, we explore three big trends in sustainable athleisure clothing, to help you choose eco-friendly workout attire that can be worn in your everyday life too for optimal use.

1) The fabric: moving away polyester

We’ve known for a long time that polyester is not a sustainable material. Unfortunately, most of our clothing, both sportswear and everyday wear, is made from this fabric, as it’s cheap and easy to maintain.

The problem with polyester is that it’s not biodegradable and will likely end up in landfill even after many years of use. During the laundry process, tiny fibres known as microplastics are released, which can be harmful to marine life.

That’s why the industry has turned their attention to more sustainable fabrics in recent years. Here are three alternatives that are being used.

Recycled plastics

We have seen an uptake in the use of recycled plastics in the fashion industry. In fact, Roger Lee, CEO of clothing manufacturer TAL Apparel, said in an interview for CNBC’s “Managing Asia: Sustainable Future” that we “rarely use virgin polyester” nowadays. “What do I mean by that? Quite often, our polyacetal (fibre) that we use are actually from recycled bottles,” continued Lee.

“The reason is because the cost of using that [fibre made from recycled bottles] has come down to the same price as using virgin polyester. And that’s the key — if the price is the same … (it’s) a no-brainer. It saves environments (and has) the same commercial costs.”

In April 2021, the 2025 Recycled Polyester Challenge was launched in partnership between Textile Exchange and the UNFCCC with the aim of spurring the shift to using recycled polyester in the industry and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

The goal is to stop new fossil-based synthetic fibres from entering the system. So far, 151 companies have signed up for the challenge in commitment to replace 45% – 100% of their virgin fossil-based polyester with recycled by 2025. 27% of the participating brands already use more than 45% recycled polyester.

Innovative recycled materials: from old fishing nets to Bananatex®

Alongside recycled plastic bottles, other materials are entering the recycling system to provide innovative solutions for sustainable athleisure clothing. 

For example, many brands are taking old fishing nets out of the ocean to create recycled nylon and make beautiful clothing. Other discarded plastic items in the ocean can also be used to preserve marine life. 

One sportswear brand that is working along with fishermen to raise awareness of the issue and recycle plastic from the ocean is Ecoalf. So far, they have recycled more than 1,000 tonnes of waste recovered from the bottom of the ocean. They are also repurposing recycled tyres for the bases of flip-flops.

Other sustainable fabrics include Bananatex® made purely from the stokes of Abacá banana plants, Piñatex® which is a plant-based alternative to leather made from pineapple leaves, and Mylo™ which uses Mycelium, the fungus mushrooms are made of. 

Orange Fiber is an exclusive fabric produced from citrus juice byproduct, Vegea uses grape skins, seeds and stalks discarded during wine production, and Parblex uses potato waste. With such a wide range of innovative eco-friendly solutions, we have no excuse to be harming our environment though the fashion industry anymore.

Organic materials: cotton, linen and wool

Using organic materials is another way for brands to reduce their carbon footprint. Organic cotton, hemp, linen, and wool are some of the best examples.

Organic cotton, grown without the use of pesticides and artificial fertilisers, has a reduced impact on the environment due to sustainable growing method involved. 

Among varieties of organic cotton, Pima cotton stands out for its superior quality. Known for its extra-long fibers, Pima cotton is highly durable and soft, making it an excellent choice for clothing. It retains the environmental benefits of regular organic cotton, such as being grown without harmful pesticides and artificial fertilizers, while offering a higher-end feel and longevity. Learn more about Pima cotton here.

Not only is the process devoid of harmful pesticides, but the organic fertilisers that are used help support soil fertility and increase biodiversity. Plus, human labour is used for weed control which opens new job positions.

Linen has very similar properties to cotton and is fully biodegradable, as it’s made from flax plant fibres. Hemp is another natural fabric that is made from the stems of the Cannabis plant. It’s fully biodegradable, requires little water to grow and is also beneficial to the soil. 

Wool also falls into the category of sustainable fabrics, as it’s made from animals’ fleece, making it natural, renewable and fully biodegradable.

2) Sustainable manufacturing processes

Brands are also taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint by using sustainable manufacturing processes. Some companies are implementing closed-loop manufacturing, which means that they recycle waste and reuse it to create new products. 

PrAna, for example, is an eco-friendly yoga wear brand that uses circular manufacturing processes. Instead of products ending up in the landfill at the end of their use, they are brought back into the clothing production cycle to make renewed products, upcycled materials or recycling feedstock. They use a waterless CO2 cleaning machine to get oils and smells out easily and turn them into renewed beautiful products. 

Other sports apparel brands are jumping on the sustainability wagon by using renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar power, to power their factories. 

For example, Hansoll Textile, a global textile company who manufactures apparel for big brands like Under Armour and Victoria’s Secret, has installed rooftop solar panels on two of their manufacturing facilities in Vietnam. Combined, the two solar projects provide 21% of the electricity needs for the two facilities.

3) Ethical and fair-trade practices

In addition to sustainable materials and manufacturing processes, brands are also focusing on ethical and fair-trade practices. This includes ensuring that workers are paid fair wages and that they work in safe conditions. It also means that the materials used are sourced from suppliers who meet these same ethical standards.

Girlfriend Collective, a sustainable brand specialising in activewear, swimwear and loungewear, uses a SA8000-certified factory that ensures that safe working conditions are met, every employee is paid a fair and living wage, there is no forced or child labour, and the employees have the right to unionise.

Sustainable athleisure clothing is a growing trend that benefits both the environment and the consumer. 

With the use of recycled and organic materials, sustainable manufacturing processes, and ethical and fair-trade practices, brands are taking steps to reduce their impact on the planet. As consumers, we can make a difference by choosing eco-friendly activewear options and supporting companies that prioritise sustainability.