Strong and sustainable: supercharge your workout with ethical activewear

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The majority of synthetic activewear is made of plastic, but we’ve rounded up an edit of eco-conscious pieces that look and feel great, and mean you’re doing your bit for the environment while working out.

From sustainable denim to vegan leather bags, there are a myriad of ethical and stylish updates you can make to your wardrobe. Now your gym kit too is poised for a sustainable makeover.

The majority of all synthetic activewear is made from plastic, and as all the squat-lovers out there will know, the pressure we put on our kit makes replacing our leggings and sports bras an inevitability. So what’s the solution to this sustainable dressing dilemma? Enter the fashion-led brands who are as environmentally conscious and performance driven as they are stylish. 

Enter Girlfriend Collective, whose compressive leggings are made from 25 recycled bottles (and are BPA free). But it’s their squat-proof design and ultra-flattering high rise cut that will have you wanting a pair in all 18 colours.

If you’re still under the impression that eco-friendly style equals itchy hemp trousers and tie-dyed smock dresses (actually, we do still love a smock dress) then you need to wake up to the new era of sustainable styles that are so luxurious that you’d be forgiven for forgetting all about their environmentally conscious credentials.

Consider Tencel – the ultra-luxe fabric that you’d never guess is produced from wood pulp. Smoother than cotton and (whisper it) softer than silk, once you’ve worked out in a Tencel vest, the fact that it has a significantly lower environmental impact than the cotton alternatives won’t even matter, you’ll love it for how incredible it feels against the skin.

Maybe the first step of shopping ethically is admitting that you will, most likely, not end up keeping that must-have thing forever. So when you’re buying new kit it’s vital to consider all parts of your new piece’s lifecycle. ecoYoga’s yoga mats are made from 100% natural rubber, making them a completely biodegradable alternative to entirely synthetic alternatives. 

Whether you’re a runner or a yoga lover, can’t say ‘no’ to a 7am swim or prefer to break a sweat on the rowing machine, we’ve found the best ethical and sustainable activewear to reinvent your workout. 

Girlfriend Collective

Made from 25 recycled plastic bottles, Girlfriend Collective’s compressive leggings are the sustainable alternative to synthetic activewear. Buy them for the ethical credentials, love them for their robust, squat-resistant fit. 

  • Girlfriend Collective compressive stretch leggings

    Girlfriend Collective’s Ellie Dinh and Quang Dinh tested their compressive leggings on over 100 women to ensure that they’d nailed the cut and fit. Available in 11 sizes and 18 colours, there’s a pair to suit every woman and every workout. 

    Shop compressive high-rise legging at Girlfriend Collective, £62


Based in Madrid, Spanish label Now_Then was inspired by founder Andrea Salinas’ childhood spent diving with her father. The brand exclusively uses Econyl, which is crafted from repurposed marine waste – the idea being that beautiful swimwear shouldn’t be contributing to the sea’s pollution problem. 

Stella McCartney

Stella McCartney has long been the pioneer of ethical fashion since founding her label in 2001, and her swimwear line is no exception. We love this simple black strappy swimsuit, covered in the Stella monogram. 


Yoga is a practice that helps one centre with everything, from themselves to the earth around them. British-based brand EcoYoga, founded in 2003, is designed to be planet-friendly – crafted from plant-based materials and natural rubber, this yoga mat is biodegradable and machine washable. 

All Sisters

This Barcelona-based swimwear brand makes its suits exclusively from fabrics that carry the Made in Green by Oeko-Tex certification. This guarantees they are made in an environmentally friendly way, in a socially responsible workplace.


Baserange crafts its collection of elevated, minimal clothing and lingerie in small family factories. It uses organic, sustainable materials such as bamboo fibres.

Botanica Workshop

Botanica has a slow-fashion philosophy in producing its retro-inspired high-waisted underwear and swimsuits. It uses organic cotton, recycled nylon and low-impact synthetic dyes.

Davy J

Made from 100% regenerated nylon yarn, Davy J’s swimwear is bright, fun and built to last. But when your suit does come to the end of its life, you’re urged to return it so the material can be reused. The company’s goal is to be a 60% closed-loop recycling business by 2020.


All Maarï’s chic monochrome swimsuits are crafted with high-tech Econyl yarn, a process that involves transforming abandoned fishing nets and nylon waste into a secondary raw material.


Manduka’s yoga mats and leggings are designed with sustainability in mind. The Eko mat is made from biodegradable natural tree rubber and all the activewear is made from recycled polyester or organic cotton.

Ohoy Swim

With its minimal, high-leg swimsuits, Ohoy Swim was founded with a mission to look after the environment. It turns plastic and nets collected from the ocean into luxurious fabric. Favouring quality over quantity, Ohoy only produces very limited styles each season in a bid to become more sustainable.

Organic Basics

This Copenhagen-based brand has designed antibacterial and odourless loungewear so that you can wash less and reduce water waste. It makes everything with organic cotton.


With an early focus on sustainability, Patagonia was an environmental revolutionary when it launched in 1973. Now, the outdoor clothing brand has become a wardrobe staple among east London’s cool kids. The brand commits 10% of all its profits to environmental groups.

Silou London

This fuss-free activewear brand produces socially and environmentally responsible pieces. It sources non-toxic materials and manufactures them in Lithuania, where its factory exceeds EU standards and ensures fair pay.

Images courtesy of  Davy J & brands 

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Hannah Keegan

Hannah Keegan is the features writer at Stylist magazine.

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