yoga pants and tops that don't kill the planet

Yoga pants that don’t kill the planet and how to find them

In our last blog post we wrote about all the reasons why you should be wearing organic underwear and bras. Naturally we believe that it’s important to wear organic, sustainable clothing all the time, but with the news that microfibres from our yoga pants are infecting the oceans and freshwater lakes with plastic pollution, it seems even more important to ditch your LuLu’s and don an organic alternative.

What are micro fibres, and why are they in my yoga pants?

Remember polyester? It’s that crazy stuff that your mom, or grandma wore in the 60’s and 70’s until everyone realized it was actually horrible to wear, and made you stink and well…that’s because it was basically plastic. Polyester, Acrylic and Nylon are made from the waste of the petrochemical industry, and as we all know they petrochemicals don’t break down in the environment. In the 1990’s Sweden figured out how to take an earlier iteration of fine polyester and nylon fabric, and “spin it” into a fabric finer than silk. This thread had the capacity to be tough, soft, water repellant and absorbent, and was cheap like borsht if you didn’t care about the cost to the planet (which these guys didn’t). The activewear industry picked that puppy up and went to TOWN with it. It’s now in almost every single piece of yoga clothing made, as well as most active wear tanks, tops, jogging pants, rain wear, outdoor gear, your favourite fleeces, and even your underwear and socks!

Why do I care if there are microfibres in my yoga clothes?

Well because in 2011 Dr Mark Brown from the University of New South Wales did a landmark study, and found that microfibres make up for  more than 85 % of plastic pollution on the world’s shores. Jump Back! Just let that settle in for a second. We already take reusable or fabric bags to the store. We are already demanding less plastic packaging. We recycle. But companies are still using microfibres in clothing when that is the largest percent of what’s killing our oceans?! Does this make sense? We could change all the packaging we want, but without dealing with the microfibre disaster we are still heading for…well…disaster.

How do the microfibres get from my hot yoga booty shorts into an ocean hundreds of miles away?

Through our washing machines. Micro fibres had less of an impact when they were solely being used as an alternative to leather products like ultra suede, and pleather. Still not the greatest in our opinion (we like oiled canvas as a leather alternative…or ethically sourced, fair trade, vegetable tanned leather like these AS98 boots), but still it was better than the invasion of yoga pants that hit washing machines like an army of silent bendy assassins since the early 2000’s. Quite simply, micro fibres break free during the washing process, but never actually “break down”. Tiny plastic particles leach out through the wash, and into our waterways, and eventually to the oceans. Where they NEVER EVER BREAK DOWN. Did we mention that? They are then eaten by fish, mollusks etc.. and have entered our biosphere by the millions of tons.

And here’s the thing: recycled plastic is No Better. It’s still plastic that is being worn, and washed,(that’s why we switched out our recycled plastic buttons this season for wooden ones). And second hand? Even worse. The older the clothing, the more microfibres come out per wash. We are literally infecting our planet with plastic.

Yeah, but who cares if tiny bits of plastic too small to be seen are being injected into our biosphere by the millions of tons per year

Well here’s the rub: those tiny bits of plastic are making their way up the food chain into humans, where they have been proven to cause fibrosis and inflammation. And science is now starting to realize that chronic inflammation causes and advances many common diseases, and has been linked to conditions like ALS and asthma. In fact a report published in the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health  states that chronic inflammation may be at the root of ALL disease and illness.

I’ll give you a moment to take that in.

Ok. This is serious. But I can’t go to yoga naked. What can I wear that won’t infect all life on the planet with petroleum?

Well here’s the thing…you know stretch? Stretch means petroleum, so it’s pretty hard to find comfortable yoga clothing with NO petroleum in it (we’ve tried, but we spend all our time pulling up and adjusting the tied waist…and if it’s an elastic waist…well then it’s petroleum). But what you CAN do is look for clothing with less of the bad stuff, and more of the good. For instance, we made a commitment not to have any more than 5% spandex in any of our styles. Any less than that and the fabrics wouldn’t hold their shape, but more didn’t add any extra benefits, and you could really feel the difference in the hand of the fabric. Organic, and sustainable fabrics have a soft…real…feel to them. Generally speaking they smell better too! Many natural fabrics are naturally antimicrobial, and require less washing because of that. Mother earth really is amazing.

So unless you are planning on wearing an organic cotton dhoti to your next yoga practice (which we think are kind of awesome and comfortable, and would totally make some out of hemp if there was an interest), here is our go-to for getting down with your mat, without getting down on the planet.

How can I tell if there are microfibres in my yoga pants?

  1. Look at the fabric content of all your yoga wear
  2. Look for Acrylic, polyester, nylon, spandex
  3. Check out the percentages of content – should be 5% or less of the above
  4. If they have a registered trademark fabric (with a catchy name like WikWear, or Lustreme), be wary and find the content list
  5. If there is no content list, and they won’t give you one – run away. Seriously.

There are more options than ever for doing your yoga practice in a sustainable way. More companies are offering eco options, and choosing a sustainable path. It’s up to us as consumers to vote with our wallets, and change the world for the better.

Full disclosure? We have a horse in this race. Check out our sustainable, non planet killing yoga clothing here.

Hey this blog was written by our fabulous content gal Amanda Euringer.