If you’re living a plant-based, eco-conscious lifestyle, you want your clothing to be sustainable. And when summer is on the way, that means finding the best sustainable swimwear brands that fit your style, values and budget.
(Related: Need new shoes with your new swimwear? Learn more about sustainable shoe brands.)
A time comes when we like to change our consumer behavior and try to follow a different pattern. This pattern gives us the pleasure of a new purchase, but subconsciously we would like this product to be the one that harms our environment very little to not at all. The only problem that we face when we reach that moment is the starting point of the new adventure that is wholly based on informed decisions.
You start questioning what is more important to you, a new swimwear, its material or the carbon footprint it left on our before you buy it. Whether it is a sustainable swimwear and does it give back to the environment and the people are big questions.
Features of ethical and sustainable swimwear brands
When we talk about a sustainable brand, we prioritize environmental considerations. There are eco-friendly materials used in a sustainable brand, preferably the natural fabrics and not plastic, has environmental-safe production and technologies, different factors that impact shipping, and it prefers locally sourced products and materials etc.
It is also connected with business practices, production and communication. A sustainable brand always has high standards that are related to the working conditions, fair wages and a safe working environment. This brand is always transparent about its production and supply chain. It openly acknowledges the shortcomings and still strives to do the best. It doesn’t become a part of any fast consumption cycles and prefers to create garments that last.
Problems with conventional swimwear
Usually, the brands use nylon, lycra, elastane and polyester to be the main fabrics in their swimsuits. These materials are cheap to produce, can be stretched easily, are versatile and wick moisture. The main problem is that plastic is not biodegradable, and there is no such easy or fast way to get rid of it, and therefore, at one point, they fill up the oceans and the landfill.
Most of the clothes that we see around are made of synthetic materials that release tiny plastic fibres into the water each time they are washed. These micro-plastics float in water and are consumed by the marine life, and ultimately by the humans as well. The swimsuits are mostly exposed to sun, chlorine and different harsh conditions that tend to damage the structure of plastic and thus to accelerate the shedding of micro-plastics.
There is a sheer amount of swimsuits that are produced every single season.
- Unethical production
Disrespecting labour rights, low wages, lack of safe working conditions in the factories, lack of accountability and transparency in the supply chain and production, all become part of the unethical output.
- Environmental impact
The environmental impacts include pollution, waste and toxic manufacturing practices.
Some swimwear brands are ethical but not sustainable
The majority of swimsuit brands in the eco-friendly and ethical fashion sphere do well when it is about ethical practices. These brands try to be transparent about their productions. They work with smaller factories and artisans, and the majority of them showcase their behind-the-scenes work.
When it is about sustainability, these brands face various challenges. They pay attention by working with the factories with stricter environmental restrictions, use nontoxic ingredients to dye the fabrics and use ways to eliminate unnecessary waste. Even those brands with the best intentions cannot wholly replace plastic as the primary material.
Some of the brands experiment with natural fibers like hemp, but some use a kind of synthetic material for the exact reasons. As of now, no alternative is as stretchy and also durable just like the synthetic materials.
The next big thing that they do is to use responsibly sourced recycling materials like ECONYL. ECONYL is a regenerated nylon fibre that is made from fishnets and various other plastic polymers or different types of recycled ocean plastic. This is also not perfect and completely sustainable, but it is still considered as a better option. If you look in detail to all of the other ethical practices, and the fact that a lot of these brands contribute to the ocean protection initiatives, it is relatively easy to see that they do deserve our support and attention.
What to look for in sustainable swimwear
Buying sustainable and ethical has a lot of aspects. You can choose to help the local businesses by evaluating spending against the quality of the item, purchasing homemade products, buying from charity shops or the brands that tend to engage the local communities for their production. You can also buy from the ones that offer as much transparency as possible.
You see a lot of available options to be sustainable or ethical, and therefore, you only need to find what is more critical for you and go for it. Let us suppose you would like to buy a new bikini to meet your needs, and at the same time, you would like to choose by keeping the environment in mind.
Best sustainable swimwear for men
- Piping Hot – Made from recycled plastic, they use Global Recycling Standard (GRS) fibre and yarn. They claim 100% transparency on their Tier 1 and Tier 2 supply chain.
- Outerknown – Created by world-famous surfer Kelly Slater. Made from recycled polyester and spandex.
- Panareha – Made from recycled plastic bottles (RPET). Packaging made from 100% genuine, recovered waste paper. Drawstrings are plastic free.
- Ecoalf – Made from recycled materials. Started Upcycling the Oceans to remove and repurpose ocean debris.
- prAna – Made from 85% recycled polyester. Launched the Responsible Packaging Movement to reduce single-use plastics.
Best sustainable swimwear for women
- Vitamin A – Made with EcoLux™ fabric made from recycled nylon fibers, also made from certified organic cotton and linen. The brand donates a portion of sales to protecting marine habitats.
- Amara Tulum – these bathing suits are made in Mexico by local artisans. They are made of eco-friendly materials ECONYL regenerated nylon and Lycra Xtra Life. The company organizes beach cleans to protect wildlife from harm from plastic.
- TomBoyX – These bathing suits, bras and under wear are made from sustainably harvested materials. The manufacturing process includes eco-friendly & women-owned factories. They are “size-inclusive.”
- Patagonia – Patagonia offers Fair Trade certified collections of swimwear. For materials, they use man recycled fabrics. The company has been donating a portion of its sales to environmental protection since 1985.
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