Gone are the days of brightly colored, cheaply made spandex leotards, sweatbands, and scrunchies that our mothers used to pull out of the closet for Jazzercise class twice a week. Athletic wear is now a lifestyle trend, with men and women running from spin class to the office or grocery store decked out in tank tops and jogging pants. But just because athleisure is becoming the everyday fashion norm doesn’t mean people need to skimp on quality items with good intentions.
In the past few years, more and more brands within the fashion and athletic industries have committed to making high-end clothing and gear that’s not only functional and stylish, but eco-friendly, too.
From leggings made with recycled bottles and yoga mats made of cork to sweat-proof jewelry, it’s never been easier—or more fashionable—to gear up for a workout that’s committed to improving the environment (and look good doing it).
Gear up thoughtfully
Just because there are scores of shiny new fitness accessories out there to fill your closet with doesn’t mean you have to go for broke right off the bat. Like with any new workout regimen, it’s OK to start slow and ease yourself into a new, more sustainable routine.
The first step is to think before you purchase and consider how long an item can be worn. Contemplate whether, if it breaks, it can be fixed to extend its usable lifespan. Also, think about what happens at the end of the product’s life cycle. How long does it take to biodegrade? Or better yet, can it be reused and reincorporated into something else
This is top of mind for sustainable sweat-proof jewelry line, Our Exercise Brand (OXB). Founders Maggie Kyle and Laura Treganowan make high-quality 14k gold-filled jewelry, offer chain repairs, repurpose metals in-house, and recycle broken items. “We want to make a product that will actually last,” says Kyle. Which is why “our goal is that people can have these things for decades.”
Accessories that do it all
Fitness enthusiasts Treganowan and Kyle launched their brand of go-anywhere jewelry (seriously, from the gym to a post-workout shower to the office to dinner without missing a beat!) in 2019. OXB was born as a line of rings, necklaces, bracelets, and more that could withstand the wear and tear of daily life, specifically designed for those on the move.
Treganowan knows that “athleisure is the lifestyle today; any way that we can make sweats into an outfit we’ll do it. Throwing a gold chain or some hoops on with your sweats immediately dresses it up,” says Treganowan.
But with people doing less changing from one outfit to another throughout the day, it’s easy for accessories to take a backseat. “Everybody hates taking their jewelry on and off,” Kyle says, herself included.
“We get sweaty doing all kinds of things,” Kyle says. “It can be the sweat behind a workout, finishing a degree, or even starting a business.” It’s jewelry for everyone doing anything challenging. It’s jewelry for life.
Sure, the duo designs jewelry for Olympic athletes and actors, but also for those starting out on their fitness journeys and the ones whose daily exercise consists of walking the dog. Because, according to Treganowan and Kyle, “sweat” doesn’t even have to mean “exercise.”
What goes into making fitness clothes and accessories is equally as important as their longevity. When sweat is involved, materials can quickly discolor and breakdown. Items like stainless steel water bottles, reusable straws for your post-workout smoothie, exercise towels made of organic cotton, bamboo socks, or reef-safe sunscreen (for those water-based workout sessions) are easy to find and just as easy to put to use as their not-so-sustainable counterparts.
Synthetic fabrics most often found in exercise gear are less susceptible to breakdown from bacteria, but that is changing with eco-friendly advances. Each piece of OXB jewelry is handmade by a skilled group of women in Denver, Colorado, crafted with high-quality, hypoallergenic materials that won’t rub off or irritate skin. They use sterling silver and 14k gold-filled metals that can stand up to multiple activities. This is important because durability and longevity play a big role in sustainability.
“We have all bought the $19 pair of hoops that we immediately have to throw away because the gold has rubbed off or it’s irritated your skin,” says Kyle “If you’re wearing pieces that last for tens of years, you reduce the amount of waste by buying less.”
And buying less means fewer items end up in a landfill every year where they’ll take decades, if not longer, to break down. What’s more, the brand prides itself on its commitment to slow fashion, where each piece is handmade to order. This means less waste and less excess from the get-go, but also less leftover stock to dispose of at the end of every season. Fulfilling your fitness needs should be done with intention.
Worth the difference
It’s the little things that can help most of all. To make sustainability a priority, try searching for more eco-friendly items from brands that give back. Global leader tentree is an apparel brand that plants 10 trees for every item sold. Or responsible running brand Janji, who funds clean water supply efforts around the world. And keep an eye out for brands who donate to environmental or social organizations. OXB donates 5% of sales to charities that rotate every month, supporting causes they, and their customers, believe in, bringing sustainability full circle.
The world of fitness apparel and accessories is constantly evolving, but thanks to the foresight of purposeful brands, alongside advances in technology, it’s more accessible than ever. When we stop treating every item we own as disposable, everybody wins, the environment most of all.
Check the tag
Considering a new fitness accessory? Look for items that are made with high-quality materials, recyclable resources, Fair Trade practices, or ones that come with warranties to ensure your purchase lasts as long as possible.
Make it last
If an accessory or piece of gear breaks or malfunctions, check to see if it can be repaired first before you toss it. Repairing instead of replacing keeps perfectly useable items and materials out of landfills.
Make your workouts more eco-friendly!
- Ditch plastic water bottles. An extraordinary 91% of single-use plastics don’t get recycled. Next time you leave the house, reach for a reusable bottle instead.
- Ride instead of drive. Headed to the office or grocery store? Get some exercise and reduce your carbon emissions by riding a bike or running instead of driving.
- Give back with your wardrobe. When you need new exercise clothes or gear, buy from sustainable designers and manufacturers with eco-friendly initiatives, like tentree, who plants trees with every purchase.
- Exercise outdoors. It takes electricity to power most cardio machines. Reduce your footprint by running, cycling, or rowing outside instead of in.
- Fuel yourself with plants. A plant-based, whole-food diet is the kindest to the planet (and your body). Fuel up on fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains to power through that workout.