This, Not That

A series providing creative plastic-free solutions.

Today I’m excited to bring you a guest post from Jane, of the Fairdare blog. Jane is an expert on ethical and sustainable clothing. Several readers have asked about ideas and sources for synthetic-/plastic-free athletic wear. I asked Jane for help, and she didn’t disappoint. She has a fantastic list to help us eliminate plastic from our wardrobes. Thanks, Jane!

Hello again! I was excited when Julie asked me if I’d like to write about “natural fiber workout clothes” for her series “This, not That”. It is a little explored area of the plastic-free movement in my experience, and I think I have a guess as to the reason. We have come to expect athletic wear today to include spandex + lycra for their stretch enhancement…and nylon + polyester for their moisture (sweat) wicking properties. All of these materials are derived from long thin plastic fibers.

A quest for natural fiber athletic wear involves considering the fibers put to use for sweaty, hard work + lots of movement in all the years prior to the middle of the last century…cotton and wool. Wool might not seem like the obvious choice for athletic wear in the warm months, but it is supposed to keep the body cool and wick moisture even on the hottest days. These natural fibers are not only breathable, they are compostable at the end of their service as workout wear (and then as rags). 🙂

It is not easy to find 100% natural fiber athletic wear. A little digging is required even within most of the websites provided here, but I do think that it is entirely possible to gather a little collection of fully functioning, natural workout wear. I would like the garment workers to be treated fairly as well, so the options listed here take that into account as well. Here are a few places to start looking for fair, natural fiber athletic wear:

Rawganique :: organic cotton tops, bottoms, and bras too :: elastic-free options :: sweat-shop free :: men’s + women’s

Pansy :: organic USA grown cotton :: sewn in California :: tops, bottoms, bras

Ibex :: some 100% merino pieces :: “responsibly” sourced + sewn :: men’s + women’s :: men’s cycling :: some pieces made in the USA

Base Range :: organic cotton :: made in Portugal :: sweatshirts, sweatpants + tees

Victor Athletics :: organic cotton sewn + dyed in Tennessee :: sweatshirts, tees, + sweatpants :: women’s + men’s

​Smartwool :: some 100% merino wool tops + leggings :: knit in Vietnam, so I’m not sure about the fair nature of the labor :: also offers men’s options

Pact :: organic cotton :: fair-trade :: well-priced :: the tanks for women + some men’s tees are 100% organic cotton

Patagonia :: in addition to some organic tees, I found an organic cotton/tencel tank :: sewn in a monitored Vietnam factory :: men’s options as well

Tracksmith :: this top is made from cotton/rayon :: Tracksmith used to be made in New England, but now they “find the best global partners”, so I’m not sure what that means

Footwear may involve a compromise. While Allbirds do boast a merino upper and insole, the soles are made from a mixture of foam and rubber. These are not necessarily running shoes, but they may be good for walks. Vejas feature rubber soles and many have leather, silk, or canvas uppers, but again are not necessarily athletic shoes. Keep an eye on Oatshoes as they promise that their compostable shoes are coming soon.

If the goal is to buy an entirely compostable garment, I would caution about the probability that these pieces are sewn with polyester thread in order to increase durability. I tried to mostly avoid listing items with zippers, snaps, elastic and grommets because they would also not be compostable (but could be cut out before composting).

​One way to avoid all of those items (choose cotton thread) would be to sew your own activewear with the help of one of these sewing patterns:
Grainline Studio :: Linden sweatshirt
True Bias :: Hudson sweatpants :: for men + kids too
​Fancy Tiger :: Adventure tanks
Hey June :: Sloane leggings
So Sew Easy :: leggings
Purl Bee :: City gym shorts :: for girls too
Fehr Trade :: a variety of athletic wear patterns :: some for men too

I love that there are some 100% natural fiber options out there! We are exploring a few more athletic wear options over at Fairdare this week + would love for you to come and take a look, if you’d like! Thank you again for having me, Julie!!

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