Why Eco-Friendly Workout Gear Matters More Than You Might Think

There is no doubt that the wellness industry has taken the world by storm. From the yoga gurus on Instagram to the abundance of new activewear lines, wellness is in vogue. The new year predictions for the wellness scene include skipping alcohol, investing in organic makeup and sipping “super health tonics” all in a bid to cleanse our bodies inside and out.

So, it seems a little ironic that the very clothes we wear to sweat away bad toxins could actually be doing more harm than good.

Why Eco-Friendly Workout Gear Matters More Than You Might Think | DARLING

Image via Rêve En Vert

First, the bad news.

It turns out that activewear is one of our closet’s biggest sources of harsh toxins and chemicals. Public health advocates, including Greenpeace and European regulatory bodies that oversee chemical safety, are becoming increasingly concerned by evidence that shows a possible link between sportswear and health issues such as cancer, obesity and developmental disabilities.

While toxic chemicals are a longstanding issue in various types of apparel, sportswear presents a particular problem because sweat and friction can prompt more rapid absorption of toxins into the body (not to mention what goes into a product to make it sweat or stain-resistant to begin with). The list of nasties hiding in our favorite workout gear is mind-boggling: phthalates, PFCs, nanoparticle silver, and dimethylformamide, to name just a few. The high chemical concentration paired with the conditions in which they come into contact with our skin presents unknown consequences for our health.

Despite such chemicals being linked to these diseases and health issues, brands are hastily reassuring us that their products carry no real risk. But can they be so certain when “athleisure” wear has become an acceptable everyday uniform?

Deciding to pull on those lush yoga leggings, for example, rather than a pair of stiff jeans is becoming the norm. This super-comfortable trend undoubtedly has it perks, but with increasing our daily exposure to activewear, perhaps it is time to start considering what the long-term effects could really be. Not just for us, but also for the planet. Both the production and end-of-life processes for activewear are harsh on the environment; commonly used materials such as polyester, rayon and nylon can take decades to break down. As they do, the chemicals they’re made from make their way into the land. The fundamental impact on eco-systems remains unknown.

yoga gear

Image via Rêve En Vert

Now, some good news.

Information overload, I know. But no need to panic. The good news is that there is a host of brilliant brands that have made it their mission to make activewear without toxins. From Teeki’s playful leggings crafted from recycled water bottles, to elegant graphics printed with non-toxic dyes from yoga brand Vyayama, there are pieces to suit every personality and budget.

Rêve En Vert (REV) is an online retailer that sells sustainable style pieces and addresses the discrepancies between fashion and ethics. As a co-founder, I’ve learned an incredible amount about the issues behind the fashion industry in just the past three years. REV wants to share these stories with you so consumers can start the subtle change in becoming more conscious shoppers.

Activewear, in particular, is something I feel strongly about as a devoted yogi. It just didn’t made sense to be doing something I thought of as connecting me to people and the planet while wearing clothing so at odds with both of those things. At REV, we’ve curated an eco-activewear section that addresses this problem specifically. It’s full of lovely, high-performing and ethical pieces. I hope you find the switch as easy to make as I have!

What determines your choices when it comes to workout gear?

Feature Image via Chloe Rey

Cora is the co-founder of Rêve En Vert, the premier retailer of sustainable style online. Originally from Maine, life has taken her to University in Paris and jobs in New York City. After brief stints in the fashion industry at Stella McCartney and Christian Louboutin, she finally moved to London to get a Master's degree in Environmental Politics. This is where the idea for Rêve En Vert was formed and she continues to live there today, working towards a more sustainable future of fashion.

  • Anton June 13, 2018

    Great article. Thank you. Earlier I also thought that sport traning should not be expensive, so I bought the simplest sports clothes in Wolmart. Then a few articles led me to the idea that all the objects around us (include clothing) have a strong influence on our health. Now I buy more expensive but 100% organic clothing for yoga and workouts. I found this online store for myself (Yoga-Eco-Clothing.com) and bought the whole set of sportswear. I really liked that all of it is made of Beech Tree and Eucalyptus fibers (sustainable material, wich known modal). It is very durable (stronger than cotton) and very pleasant for the skin. Definitely recommend to try!

  • Elli March 9, 2018

    After doing further research on the topic, I wonder if there are even better alternatives for these types of fibers. Even using recyclable fibers, like the majority of these companies do, eventually, those fibers still cannot break down sustainably. The only sustainable way to change activewear is to actually use natural organic fibers, are there companies that only use these instead of supplementing them with recycled fibers?

    • Rêve En Vert March 10, 2018

      Hi Elli, thank you so much for brining up this point! Since this article came out we have learned more as well and completely agree that recycling is not the only or best solution out there! Therefore we have started working with some more brands like Vyayama and Silou who use only natural and noble fibres that are OEKOTEX certified safe. Materials like tencel, bamboo and micro modals are starting to be found more and we really applaud and try to invest in those things. You can check out more of their stories on our site! x

  • Amy Lee Mayer April 17, 2017

    At AnaOno, we also believe in eco-friendly and sustainable athleisure wear and bras. Three of our bra and undies collections, and our entire loungewear line is made from sustainable materials. And the added bonus? Our designs not only wear well on the average person, they are specifically engineered for those who’ve had breast surgery, mastectomy, reconstruction and even those who live with chronic pain.

    Thank you for writing about sustainability is fashion; it’s quite important.

  • Su April 12, 2017

    Great to read this Cora! We’ve been raising awareness to chemicals used in activewear, specifically around what you wear on your breasts when working out – see our little video explaining https://fromclothing.com/blogs/news/are-there-toxins-in-your-sportswear
    I’d love to connect with you more – thanks, Su

  • Hannah March 22, 2017

    Ethical workout gear never crossed my mind before! What a great idea! As your article mentions about 2017 expected health trends- I started transitioning to organic makeup and healthy tonics back in 2015 when I had a surgery to remove cancer, and forewent radiation treatment. There are so manny links between cancer and foods as well as chemicals in beauty products, it never occurred too me that workout clothing or athletic wear could carry cancer causing chemicals as well. I don’t wear yoga wear everyday, but I have taken up yoga this year and do so a couple times a week, so I am happy to learn of healthy alternatives! I sometimes feel like people mention cancer as a risk as a sales gimmick to scare people into buying things ( there’s nearly a cancer causing chemical in almost everything) but i appreciate that you mention these items are also eco-friendly and some are ethical as well. Great Article!


    Hannah// IG @theblessedlittlelife

    • Cora March 23, 2017

      Hello Hannah, that is such a powerful message-I am so glad we could bring a bit of awareness to this issue! All the best, Cora

  • Wow, I totally did not know the difference. I’ve always tried to save money in terms of workout gear but this post has really got me thinking about my choices again.

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    • Cora March 20, 2017

      I’m so glad this left a positive impact on you Charmaine! x