There is so much to consider when choosing new workout clothing from what clothing is suitable for the type of exercise you are doing, to fit, style and colour, but have you considered how sustainable your workout clothing is? Many new businesses are popping up offering environmentally friendly exercise gear, many with different focuses in their sustainability efforts. From ethical labour, through recycled, organic and sustainable materials, to minimising carbon footprint and recycled water used during production. We take a look at some of the different environment friendly policies being implemented and the brands to look for depending on what is most important to you.

Exercise Gear Made from Sustainable Materials

For many years we have seen companies such as Nike and Adidas producing sports clothing from recycled plastic bottles. But, in 2020 there are many more types of recycled materials being used by different brands in the manufacturer of workout clothing.

Recycled Nylon

Similar to recycled polyester recycled nylon diverts waste from landfill. Items such as fishing nets, carpets and tights are most frequently used to make recycled nylon. The process of recycling these products into recycled nylon uses less resources, including water and energy, than those required to make new nylon. However, the process is costly and results in recycled nylon exercise clothing being more expensive than when new nylon is used. If you care about the sustainability of the workout gear you purchase take a look at the Field of cottonrecycled nylon shorts available from Organic Basics. 

Organic Cotton

Cotton is actually a plant, grown in hotter countries with major growers being the USA, China, India, Turkey and Brazil. However, not all cotton is grown equally. Much of the worlds cotton is grown using pesticides and poorly paid farmers and farm workers. Certified Organic Cotton is best option if you want a sustainable product, it is grown without the use of pesticides eliminating these harmful chemicals from the environment.

You can also lookout for Fairtrade Organic Cotton, as this also guarantees that the farmer has been paid a fair price for their product. There is a lot of cheap workout clothing available to buy; but consider paying a little more for a Fairtrade Organic Cotton product that will be comfortable to wear, environmentally friendly and traded fairly which means that typically poorer people can have a better standard of living.  If you’re interested in buying organic cotton exercise clothing take a look at Pact.


Tencel is the brand name of Lyocell fibres. Lycocell is a type of rayon that is manufactured from cellulose fibres such as wood pulp or cotton linter. Rayon is not synthetic, but neither is it 100% natural, it sits in the middle. There are other brands of Lyocell available, but not all are as superior as the original Tencel brand, so do be aware of what you are purchasing. Tencel brand Lyocell uses wood pulp from Eucalyptus trees, whereas many other producers use oak and birch wood pulp. If you want to take a look and workout gear made from Tencel check out Organic Basics.

Organic sustainable bamboo

Bamboo has been talked about a lot in the clothing industry in recent years. Like cotton bamboo is grown; but is naturally more sustainable as it regenerates from its roots, is very Bamboo forestfast growing and does not need pesticides or large amounts of water to grow. Where bamboo often falls short is during the manufacturing process that requires the use of large amounts of chemicals. Bamboo can be manufactured into fabric in a similar way to Tencel, discussed above, rendering it more environmentally friendly.

However, there are still issues with the disposal of waste and chemical residue left within the completed garments. Look for brands such as Vyayama that are OEKO-TEX Standard 100 Certified, this means that the workout clothing is 100% safe for your skin. You may also want to enquire into the manufacturing process of workout brands selling bamboo clothing to ensure it is as environmentally friendly as possible.

Ethical Merino Wool

Merino wool has many benefits for exercise clothing as it naturally offers thermoregulation, it is lightweight and soft to wear making it perfect as a base layer. In colder climates merino wool absorbs humidity helping to retain heat, in warmer climates it allows excess sweat evaporation to keep the skin cool. However, as a product derived from animals not all merino wool is produced using high ethical and animal welfare standards. In fact, in Australia where most merino wool comes from only 20% off farmers handle their ship to ethical care standards. There are several standards to look for to check that the merino wool exercise clothing that you are purchasing to follow high animal welfare standards, look for labels such as Responsible Wool Standard or ZQ Merino Standard.

Labour and Workout Clothing

Much of the exercise clothing that we buy is mass produced in countries such as China, Philippines and Thailand. There have been questioned raised for many years over the welfare of workers in these clothing factories. The work environment is often unsafe, hours are long and pay is poor. Manufacturers choose to use this type of labour to keep their costs down and profits high.

Some brands, particularly those aimed at ethically considerate buyers are working hard to improve the standards for workers in such factories by improving working conditions, offering fairer pay, referred to as a ‘living wage’ and rewards, as well more humane working hours.

Using both recycled polyester and sustainable merino wool, American brand Outdoor Voices are taking a stand against poor working conditions both within the USA and Internationally. High standards of working conditions and ethical labour practices are at the core of their manufacturing process, take a look at their active wear ranges.

Ethically Conscious Workout Gear

We have already discussed above the use of water for the manufacturing of certain materials that are used to produce workout clothes, as well as limiting the use of pesticides for Woman weaving cotton dyed with vegetable extractscrop growth. Water is not the only resource that is often used to excess during the production of various fibres. Other factors to consider include:

  • Dye – with demand for brightly coloured, aesthetically pleasing workout clothing many dyes are used in the production of these materials. Some companies are opting to use vegetable dye to cut down on the use of harmful chemicals.
  • Carbon footprint – Many fibres used to manufacture workout gear are produced in India, China and other less developed countries. Once manufactured in to rolls of fabric this is then often transported to a factory to produce the clothing, which is then transported again to the destination country and subsequently retail outlets. This can lead to a large carbon footprint. Some brands are aiming to reduce this by using local production or offsetting their carbon footprint.

Yoga Democracy are leading the way in both reducing their carbon footprint and minimising water wastage by producing most of their workout gear in their own factory in Arizona, USA. With bright colours, a great fit, and sustainability at the core of their business they are certainly worth a look.

Other Benefits of Sustainable Exercise Clothing

Obviously enhanced working practices in factories, sustainable fabric, and environmentally friendly manufacturing techniques are all fantastic benefits of purchasing sustainable exercise clothing. Many new brands are entering the arena with different offerings regularly. However, some are going even further with charitable donations, and entirely customer focused products.

Workout Gear Designed for You

One of the benefits of choosing workout clothing from one of the smaller brands, with an ethical focus is that you may find that the leggings, shorts or tops fit you better and are more comfortable to wear.

Outdoor workout classExercise gear is a saturated market, so to get customers, retain customers and go viral in 2020 you need an excellent product. Many sustainably focus companies offer wider size-ranges such as plus-size exercise gear that can actually be quite difficult to find. Products are often developed to meet a need that couldn’t be met by larger sportswear manufacturers. This often results in increased levels of comfort, better performance, improved wearability and longer lifespan of your workout gear.

Commitment to Charity

If you are charity minded and like to donate to charity or purchase products that give back a portion of the cost to charity, there are some exercise wear brands that you may be interested in looking at.

Companies such as REI, a co-op selling new and pre-loved exercise clothing re-invest 70% of their annual profits back into the outdoor community. Another company to donate a portion of their profits to grassroots activists and organisations with a focus on environmental concerns is Organic Basis who make a donation from their profits twice a year.

Should You Buy Environmentally Considered Workout Gear?

Choosing which exercise clothing to purchase can be a minefield, and even more so once you take into consideration how sustainable and environmentally friendly it is. We recommend that you research, look at reviews and try different brands there is certainly exercise clothing out there to meet your needs in terms of price, performance, availability and sustainability.

Take a look at the exercise clothing we have available at Sports Fitness, much of our workout gear from Nike and New Balance is made using recycled polyester and is available for fast worldwide delivery at a great price.