It's almost Earth Day, so chances are you've been hearing the word "eco" so much that it almost loses its meaning.
It's almost Earth Day, so chances are you've been hearing the word "eco" so much that it almost loses its meaning. But when you shop consciously, it's about more than just reading a label. Knowing how your fitness wear is made and where it comes from can be just as important as sourcing your meal at a restaurant.
The good news is that finding an eco-friendly fabric can also enhance your workout; it will be irritant-free, naturally breathable, and hypoallergenic, which can be just as important as knowing it's helping save the environment as well. Don't know the facts on popular sustainable fabrics? Here are a few exercise-friendly fabrics to look out for.
Eco-Friendly: Not only is bamboo a renewable resource, but it contains a substance that makes it antimicrobial — perfect for sweaty fitness clothes! Growing it can be less impactful on the environment, since fertilizers and pesticides aren't needed to help it grow exponentially or replenish itself once harvested.
Eco-Enemy? There's the growing problem of irresponsible, forest-clearing bamboo farming, but a larger issue lies in bamboo's conversion into that soft, moisture-wicking material that we love to wear. Depending on the manufacturer, making bamboo fabric may involve a chemical cooking process known as hydrolysis-alkalization using lye and carbon disulfide; these chemicals can lead to headache, fatigue, and nerve damage in those who are overexposed to them. Also, bamboo must be bleached several times throughout the manufacturing process.
What You Can Do. Make sure you know where the brand sources its fabric and if the manufacturer uses chemical processing to make the fabric (REI, for example, makes sure to not label chemically processed bamboo products as eco-friendly). Keep in mind that the more earth-friendly mechanical processing (extracting fibers manually from crushed bamboo treated with biological enzymes) is also more expensive, but worth it.
Check out the pros and cons of more eco-friendly fabrics after the break.