Fossil-free Activewear: How to go from oil-based to Natural Fiber

We want our activewear and athleisure wear to feel as good as being naked – and be planet friendly too. photo from Nagnata.com

Activewear is an indispensable part of even the most modest wardrobes. Gym clothings are wearable both in and out of the gym. A pair of leggings or biker shorts are among the most-used items in our closet. Their stretchy, body-hugging characteristics plus dual functionality as both daywear and gym gear have us wearing them a lot. Moisture-wicking, quick-to-dry property is a bonus.

However, activewear can be a blind spot when trying to shop more sustainably. We tend to put a spotlight on the mega fast fashion brands like Zara, H&M, and Shein when we think of clothing bad for the environment, but forget that 90% of the leggings, sports bras in the market are made almost entirely out of petroleum. Polyester gives sporty garments its light and sweatproof characteristics, while spandex, elastane, and lycra, are all 3 different names of the same oil-derived fiber. We need to start looking more at natural fiber.

“What about leggings made from recycled plastic bottles? Aren’t they sustainable?”

Leggings made from plastic bottles are definitely better than ones made from virgin PET; however, they remain more of a marketing tactic than an environmental solution. After all, there’s still plastic coated in every fiber strand of the fabric. That means once your favorite green-label yoga pants reaches the end of its usable life, it’s not going to be in the minute 13% of clothes that gets recycled, and inevitably end up in the landfill. It takes 450 years for PET to fully decompose, not to mention the amount of microplastic being released into the ocean and intoxicating marine wildlife as well as posing carcinogenic threats to humans ourselves. What we could aim for instead, is low-to-none synthetics in our activewear – enter key word: biodegradability.

Brands like Reprise, whose leggings and bras are made from Tencel, provide the antidote. Tencel is a plant-based natural fiber that has a high water absorption rate (50% more than cotton!), which makes it ideal for activewear. However in order to ensure the performance of sports clothings, textile designers still have to include a certain amount of spandex, around 5%. The journey to sustainability is always imperfect, but brands who invest in natural textiles make it easier to go from oil-based to plant-based activewear.

Here is our list of 6 activewear essentials to own, from eco-conscious companies like Reprise, Nagnata, Pangaia, MATE the label, and more.

Leggings

Even if you never plan to spend a single minute in the gym, leggings are still a must-have. Need I say their practicality? Reprise even takes the functionality game up a notch – their Sage leggings are now with pockets on two sides. While Nagnata brings unexpected cuts and patterns, Pangaia breathes new life into good ol leggings with a rainbow array of colors and more.

natural fiber leggings inclusive sizing

Reprise Sage Leggings

Their famous leggings – now with pockets! Their insanely soft super-luxe plant-based fabric is will keep you cool during any activity from yoga to working from home. Designed for comfort, they fit high-rise and are ankle length (and opaque of course).

Instead of plastic bottles, we’re dedicated to using a tree-based fabric that’s grown in a clean and regenerative way. Composition is 93% TENCEL/7% Spandex.


girl in plant based natural fiber activewear by pangaia

Pangaia Women’s Activewear Leggings

Get physical in Activewear made from plants.

These full-length leggings are made from natural fibers like seaweed, eucalyptus, biobased nylon and a responsible stretch fiber. They’re a seamless, supportive and compressive fit with a high-waisted ribbed waistband. The fabric is breathable, soft to the touch and has four-way stretch to keep its shape. It’s treated with BioWick®, a plant-based treatment that absorbs unwanted sweat and PPRMINT™ oil for its anti-odor properties.


wool natural fiber olive green leggings and sports bra

Nagnata Layla striped merino wool-blend leggings

Nagnata’s ‘Layla’ leggings are made from Australian merino wool-blend that’s naturally temperature regulating. They’re detailed with stripes, houndstooth checks and logo lettering.


Pact women's leggings

pact Women’s Go-to Legging

Made with Organic Cotton with no toxic chemicals and 91% less water used than conventional cotton –in Fair Trade Certified Factories

Sports Bras

Preferably in the same color as your leggings, so you can have a monochrome set that’s gonna be the base for so many outfits. Both MATE the label and pact, long time No Kill favorites, offer sports bras made from up to 95% organic cotton. Check out our newly found brand, Skin. They’re based in New York City and make clothes that your skin will love – all nature-derived, non plastic.


organic cotton sports bra by mate the label

MATE the label Organic Stretch Sports Bra

Most activewear is notoriously bad for the environment because it’s made from synthetic materials that shed microplastics when washed. Our Organic Stretch is an entirely different story. While it’s impossible to get the necessary stretch for activewear from pure cotton, we got pretty damn close with a blend of 92% Organic Cotton and only 8% Spandex.


pangaia sports bra activewear

Pangaia Women’s Activewear Sports Bra

This sports bra is made from seaweed, eucalyptus, biobased nylon and a responsible stretch fiber. It’s tight fitting with a seamless, supportive ribbed waistband under the bust and straight straps. It has low support and ribbed contouring detail on the side bust. The fabric is breathable, soft to the touch and has four-way stretch to keep its shape. It’s treated with BioWick®, a plant-based treatment that absorbs unwanted sweat and PPRMINT™ oil for its anti-odor properties.


Skin Bia reversible one-shoulder stretch organic Pima cotton-jersey soft-cup bralette

A super cool crop with 90’s athletic vibes, the Bia is ideal for your next yoga class, as a lounge top worn with natural fiber wide-leg pants, or paired with jeans and your favorite sandals. Cut from organic Pima cotton with just the right amount of stretch for comfort and doubled for supreme coverage.

Fabric: 90% Organic Pima Cotton, 10% Spandex


pact Women’s Modern Racerback Bra

Made with Organic Cotton
No toxic chemicals and 91% less water used than conventional cotton:


Sets

There’s always room for monochrome sets, especially when it comes to simple cuts like those found in activewear. A snugly fitted set of a bra top and leggings is great for those gym to grocery picking cross sessions, but when it gets chilly we’ll need something to cover up. Enter: Sweats and joggers. So simple, so effective. Sustainability-wise, the non-stretchy nature of these comfy clothes means no need for synthetics, so 100% cotton is the way to go.

MATE the label Fleece Oversized Sweatshirt

Fleece Oversized Sweatshirt is made with a cozy blend of 50% Organic Cotton, 50% Cotton Fleece, and designed with an extra roomy fit for supreme comfort. Who knew you could find a sweatshirt of 100% natural fiber?


MATE the label Fleece Relaxed Pocket Sweatpant

This updated version of their bestselling sweatpant has the same relaxed fit and athleisure style as the original but now features pockets thanks to popular demand. A drawcord waistband and leg cuffs ensure the perfect fit. Still made in super soft blend of 50% Organic Cotton, 50% Cotton Fleece.


PangaiA 365 Signature Sweatshirt

This Signature Recycled Cotton Sweatshirt is made with a responsibly sourced, high quality, recycled and organic cotton mix. The Apple Red color is created using a recycled water system. The fabric weight is a thicker, heavyweight recycled cotton that’s perfect for days you want a cozier feel. The material is brushed on the inside with a luxuriously soft, fuzzy, plush handfeel.

50% recycled cotton
50% organic cotton


Pangaia 365 Track Pants

The 365 track pants are made from 100% Organic Cotton. They’re a medium weight fabric, with a loop back texture inside and a finishing that provides extra softness.

Sweatshirts

You’re going to need more than one sweatshirt. No cap.


MATE the label Fleece Crop Sweatshirt

Equal parts cozy and cool with a cropped length for effortless style. This pullover sweatshirt has a relaxed fit and is made with natural fiber: the softest 50% Organic Cotton, 50% Cotton Fleece.


Pangaia 365 Signature Sweatshirt

Made in Portugal from a recycled-organic cotton blend, Pangaia’s sweat proves how dedicated the company is to sustainability. It’s dyed in blue using a recycled water system and even has responsibly sourced labels and threads inside, while a fleecy lining and heavyweight feel make it the ultimate winter must-have.

50% Recycled Cotton, 50% Organic Cotton


Pangaia 365 Signature Hoodie

This Signature Recycled Cotton Hoodie is made with a responsibly sourced, high quality, recycled and organic cotton mix. The Celestial Blue color is created using a recycled water system. The fabric weight is a thicker, heavyweight recycled cotton that’s perfect for days you want a cozier feel. The material is brushed on the inside with a luxuriously soft, fuzzy, plush handfeel.

Zip-ups

If you’re one of those who wake up at 5am and run, or just want a jacket that’s gonna hold all car keys and phones and your hands when it gets cold, you’re gonna need one of these. Pangaia offers a cool alternative to the homely cotton zipped hoodie – the Nylon Zipped Hoodie, which brings a little more zing. Wait, they use “Nylon”? Rest assured: Pangaia’s nylon is a specially formulated one that fully biodegrades in only a few years when disposed of in anaerobic environments (such as controlled landfills). It can biodegrade better than some normal “plastic upcycling” zip-ups you find these days.

MATE the label Organic Terry Zip Hoodie

No clean closet is complete without a classic full-zip hoodie with a front pouch. This one is made with 100% Organic Cotton Terry and has a shrunken but relaxed fit for the perfect balance of comfort and polish. Trust us, you’ll hit 50 wears in no time.


Pangaia 365 Zipped Hoodie

The 365 zipped hoodie is made from 100% Organic Cotton. It’s a medium weight fabric, with a loop back texture inside and a finishing that provides extra softness.


pact Perfectly Lightweight Zip Hoodie

Lounge around or get things done in the PACT® Perfectly Lightweight Organic Cotton Zip Hoodie featuring a structured shape to flatter your figure, thumbholes at the cuffs, and full front zipper closure.
95% organic cotton, 5% elastane.


Pangaia Nylon Zipped Hoodie

This Zipped Hoodie is made from a specially formulated nylon that breaks down in only a few years when disposed of in the proper environments. It has a lightweight, organic cotton jersey lining, an adjustable drawstring hem, and concealed, side seam zips and elasticated cuffs.

We use a specially formulated nylon that fully biodegrades in only a few years when disposed of in oxygen-poor (anaerobic) environments (such as controlled landfills) as demonstrated by laboratory tests in accordance with ASTM D5511 (equivalent to ISO 15985).

Biker Shorts

Biker shorts challenge the cult item status of the leggings, and from what we see in recent years, it’s winning over its full coverage cousin. A pair of leggings that are a little bit out-there can be tricky to wear, but when it comes to biker shorts, going for colors and patterns is more welcomed.

Reprise Aspen Shorts

Instead of plastic bottles, we’re dedicated to using a tree-based fabric that’s grown in a clean and regenerative way. Composition is 93% TENCEL/7% Spandex.


Nagnata Lucid Yoni Short

Nagnata Lucid Yoni Short

The Lucid Yoni Short is a limited-edition evolution of the
classic mini Yoni. Designed in our signature organic cotton knit fabric, these mini shorts are the perfect style to transition from studio to street to beach.

Stripe Colour: Black, Red, Bronze.

75% GOTS Certified Organic Cotton 25% Nylon


MATE the label Organic Stretch Biker Short

While it’s impossible to get the necessary stretch for activewear from pure cotton, we got pretty damn close with a blend of 92% Organic Cotton and only 8% Spandex.


Skin Aphrodite reversible stretch organic Pima cotton-jersey shorts

These reversible shorts are cut from supple organic Pima cotton-jersey blended with plenty of stretch and double-layered for opacity.

90% organic Pima cotton, 10% spandex

–Jacqueline Pham