With everything happening in the world right now, I found myself wondering whether buying clothes was just an easy way to offload anxiety about circumstances beyond my control.
Then I remembered…
While we can’t control everything in the world, we can control our choices.
And that includes where we spend our money.
It’s true–We can’t buy our way out of climate change or any other pressing issue, nor should that be our default response.
But when we need something new (whether it’s vegan workout clothes or shopping for the basics) and invest in ethically-made fashion, we’re casting a vote that says we care how people, animals, and the environment should be treated.
Along with standing up for others, we need to stand up for ourselves. This includes being mindful of our health and moving our bodies regularly. Getting exercise is a great way to stave off depression and anxiety since it releases endorphins, which coincidentally ends up lightening our moods (among other great benefits).
Whether exercise is new or old hat to you, I’ve got you covered for ethical, eco-friendly workout clothes options–hopefully for more than errands or hanging out at your local coffee shop <– check out this video for some giggles!
Every time I see the gorgeous colors and fade effect on this tank, it makes me want to lace up and go pound the pavement. Not only pretty on the outside, its fabric profile of 92% post-consumer recycled polyester (from domestic plastic bottles) shows its sustainable clothing cred by taking plastic bottles out of the waste stream and reworking them into something beautiful. Additional activewear available: matching capris or full-length leggings if you’re looking for a unified look.
Bonus Factor: American made! This tank’s recycled fabric is made domestically in North Carolina (Nube9 has visited to make sure fair labor practices are in place) while the garments are sewn in Seattle and supported by a living wage.
Beckons Yoga Capri
If there’s one thing about the activewear coupled with a yoga influence that I appreciate, it’s the wider waistbands that are now available for bottoms. Thinner waistbands have not only left marks on my waist, but also left me feeling a bit nauseous since they cut into my abdomen.
The Beckons Capri seems like a good choice not just for the easy waistband, but because the fabric is 92% organic cotton (which means less pesticides), available in three colors from ethical vegan boutique Bead & Reel, and is made domestically in Colorado.
Bonus Factor: All end-of-season merchandise is donated to the Samburu Tribe of Africa and the Women’s Resource Network, so it doesn’t join so much other clothing in the landfill.
Brooks Women’s Glycerin 14
It’s a hard, sad truth that when I went looking for a vegan, fair trade, environmentally-responsible running shoe that wasn’t a pastel nightmare–my personal holy grail, yet to be fulfilled–the only company I found that came close offered a loud color scheme that wasn’t really me (no shame if that’s your thing). So I opted for a running shoe from Brooks that was a little more muted and a brand I’d bought from before.
So why Brooks?
The company attests that every shoe they make (except for their Addiction Walker) is indeed vegan, explains on their site that they seek at least 20% minimum recycled content for their polyester, and says they have a goal of eliminating VOC-emitting chemicals by 2020 (among other eco-minded goals). As for labor relations, they profess to having high standards when visiting and picking factories to partner with, along with monitoring via 3rd-party assessments (those 3rd-party companies aren’t mentioned) but I’d like to see this process taken further.
For a company of Brooks’s size, I’d like to see them get fair-trade certification to ensure that factory workers are treated well and paid a living wage. I’d also like to see them up their game re: more awesome, gender-neutral color schemes.
Atayne Unity Singlet
If you like to wear your pride when you’re out tackling that 5k or Ironman (or just around the block, if you’re starting out), this 100% recycled polyester tank from Atayne should be on your list. The Unity is made with a micro-mesh fabric treated with a silver anti-microbial agent (no animal products here!), the company is a certified B-Corp that pays more than minimum wage down the supply chain, and the whole garment (from fiber to end product) is made in the USA.
That’s pretty dang comprehensive and makes Atayne seem like a legit, caring company.
Bonus Factors: There are so many clothing options here (check out their ode to national parks gear!) for a company I hadn’t heard of until I did a little online digging. Another added bonus is that all inks used for printing don’t contain phthalates (AKA: known hormone disruptors). A win for living creatures and the earth 🙂
Up-Rise Missa Hoodie
If you’re looking for a lightweight hoodie to ward off the chill on cooler days, the Missa is a solid option. Not only does this Up-Rise hoodie have a beautiful color scheme that channels the forest (I’d secretly pretend I’m channeling an elf in this, for sure), this Belgium brand’s factory partner is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation.
Bonus Factor: This jacket is made with all-star hemp (in addition to certified organic cotton). You can rest easy knowing that by wearing fibers from this misunderstood plant, hemp is giving back to the earth in ways most other plants take–which is to say, we need to start growing hemp around the world stat.
RUMI X Light Leggings
For those of us living in climates where it’s cloudy most of the time, it’s helpful to have some color therapy in our lives to keep spirits high. I came across these multi-hued, prismatic leggings and immediately wanted to know more–they’re so dang cheery! I was told that along with using recycled polyester, Rumi X is Bluesign and ISO 14001-Certified, certifications that many ethical big brands also claim (i.e. Patagonia and Eileen Fisher are both Bluesign partners).
I appreciated finding out that Rumi X says they’ve visited their factories in China and Vietnam to check working conditions, health and safety compliance, that no children are employed, and to ask what workplace challenges there are (when they speak the same language).
I’d like to see them go further, though, and get a translator to speak with workers, make sure the workers are getting paid a living wage, and show the percentage of how much recycled poly is used for their different items.
Bonus Factor: This color scheme is also available in a capri or knee-length with a matching sports bra–and there’s plenty of other patterns available, too.
Renewal Workshop Prana Tank Top
If you’re looking for like-new, sustainable eco-friendly workout clothes at discounted prices, you need to head over to The Renewal Workshop. This company takes garments with small flaws (ex. tears or clothes that didn’t find a home, like the above tank) and spiffies them up so people can buy eco-minded clothes at a discount.
Not only is The Renewal Workshop diverting clothing from landfills, they also make sure that the “renewers” (people fixing the flaws who work onsite at their Oregon headquarters) are paid a living wage.
Bonus Factor: Their IndieGoGo fundraising video is cute and funny and worth a look-see for those who love their ethics with a dash of humor 😉
Note: Not all clothes are vegan, so make sure to read the description tags so you know what you’re getting!
Paramo Ventura Windproof Jacket
Lest anyone think this list is only about yoga or running vegan workout clothes (although it mostly is), I present the Ventura. This windproof jacket is made with vegan-friendly wax to repel both wind and rain (without the toxic PFCs) for taking on mountains like the warrior you are. And since this garment is made out of 100% polyester, it can be recycled again since it’s not mixed with other fabrics like nylon or cotton.
Since Paramo is already willing to take back their garments to be recycled, I was curious why this jacket isn’t made out of 100% recycled polyester itself. I’d like to see Paramo follow through with that on their end in order to fulfill a cradle to cradle ideal.
Bonus Factor: Be still, my heart–all products are certified Fair-Trade by the World Fair Trade Organization. Not only that, Paramo has been working with the Miquelina Foundation in Bogota and Pereira City, Colombia, providing training, jobs, homes, and childcare to its workers. You can learn more about their commitment to ethics here.
Newton Distance Elite
Rounding out my list are the Newton Distance Elite for women. These shoes are big on recycled content: 100% recycled laces, webbing, insole top cover, and the outer-sole rubber (!!!). How awesome is that?
And while that amount of recycled content is mind-blowing enough when it comes to products in general, this brand is also a certified B-Corp who gives back to communities in need.
Not only do they have ethical and sustainable cred, but the reviews from runners on their site (albeit a small sampling for this particular shoe) seem to be happy with the performance and feel, which is what serious runners really need to worry about.
Now it’s your turn: Are there any ethical activewear brands or vegan workout clothes you love? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Also by Kim: How to Curate an Ethical Wardrobe: Basics
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Photo: Unsplash, Respective Brands