Whether you’re out on the trail or inside on a yoga mat, the materials you wear have an impact on your workout. So is using eco-friendly sportswear any better for exercising in?
The last time you likely heard anyone say, “Ah, no sweat!” was probably circa 1990. Yet for the sportswear industry, it’s a phrase that’s definitely come back in to fashion. With summers heating up and workouts more intense, no sweat, or at least less sweat, is one thing to look out for in choosing activewear.
Eco-friendly Sportswear versus Manmade Materials
Polyester, a synthetic and non-eco-friendly sportswear material, is found in nearly every major sports brand’s apparel. It’s favoured for its low manufacturing costs (which aren’t always passed on to the consumer) and can be used in nearly all types of exercising clothes. For outdoor winter pursuits, however, you’re best finding a warmer, natural material. But factor in its wicking properties – how a fabric moves moisture from your body and dries quickly – and it’s the industry’s darling non-eco-friendly sportswear fabric.
Yet polyester is most definitely NOT odour-controlling. It harbours bacteria and fungi and after a hard workout or gruelling run you can definitely notice the not very subtle smell in your baselayers (the clothes next to your body). And if it’s a top you’ve worn a few times, expect that to happen after a few minutes which can, surprisingly, make that workout far less enjoyable for you and others nearby. That means the lifetime of polyester tops is limited.
Then there’s the environmental impact – it’s certainly not an eco-friendly sportswear material. The plastic fibres in polyester break up every time they are washed and add to the ocean’s soaring plastic pollution. And with ever frequent washing required at high temperatures, it uses more water and electricity than eco-friendly sportswear, which means less change in your pocket.
What are some of the best eco-friendly sportswear materials?
While you might associate wool with being hot, merino wool is a great eco-friendly sportswear material for activewear. Its ultra-fine thread can make it as thin as a lightweight T-shirt or as heavy as a winter skiing thermal top. The fine weave also wicks away any moisture from your skin and magically, it doesn’t retain odours thanks to its antibacterial properties.
Unless you’re in a cold setting, however, like skiing, winter hiking or climbing, wearing merino leggings with your top will likely be too hot. With cheaper merino tops, this eco-friendly sportswear can start to pile and you might notice bobbly bits on your clothes. Unlike polyester, take care not to wash it in high temperatures or you might end up with a top that fits a five-year-old!
Bamboo is fairly new on the scene for activewear, but already it’s making ripples in the eco-friendly sportswear industry. Its hard to imagine the super soft material actually comes from a plant. It’s also a whizz at wicking away moisture from the body and drying quickly. That means no cold back when you slow down on a winter jog and a blast of icy air hits you.
Due to bamboo’s natural odour controlling properties, there are no nasty surprises if you wear the top several times before washing it, which is great for reducing water consumption. And unlike merino wool, it doesn’t need any special care when washing. Depending on the clothes’ thickness, you can wear this eco-friendly sportswear in both summer and winter.
Plus, it’s a vegan-friendly material which makes it a top contender in the eco-friendly sportswear stakes.
Choosing between manmade and eco-friendly sportswear isn’t just for eco-warriors. It’s for anyone wanting activewear that is durable, odour-controlling and comfortable to wear.
bodytek is an eco-friendly sportswear firm based in the UK that makes a range of bamboo apparel.