I live in South Texas, and let me tell you, there is nothing quite like getting in the water on a scorching hot summer day.
Summer here seems to last from early March through late October, and we practically live in our swimsuits.
Have you ever thought about what a swimsuit is though? Or how it’s made?
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Here’s a shocker for you: your favorite swimsuit is most likely made of plastic.
The plastic (polyester, nylon, and/or spandex) in your swimsuit is what makes it slick and water-resistant, keeps it from stretching out, and creates less friction when you’re in the water.
Unfortunately, these plastic materials are currently the best option we have on the market. There are swimsuits made of organic cotton and linen, but they stretch out when they get wet. Imagine that you jump into the water with your cute new crochet swimsuit on, but when you come back up to the surface, your swimsuit has stretched out, fallen off, and is now floating somewhere in the ocean. That’s probably not what you were hoping for…
Okay. What’s the Problem with Plastic Anyway?
If you haven’t done a ton of research on sustainability and non-toxic living, you may be wondering why plastic is such an issue.
Plastic is not Biodegradable
Unfortunately, even the most well-treated swimwear won’t last forever. Eventually your favorite swimsuit is going to wear down, stretch out, and maybe even get a hole or two in it.
When you throw it in the trash (or donate it to a place that can’t use it and doesn’t recycle it), those plastic fibers do not decompose. Even when burned in a landfill, the fibers last for hundreds of years and contribute to soil and air pollution.
Microplastics Make Their Way into Our Oceans
Take your swimsuit for a ride in the washing machine, and thousands of tiny microplastics will detach from the suit and wash down the drain, eventually making their way into our oceans.
Scientists aren’t 100% sure what kind of damage microplastics may cause humans, but biologists have found microplastics inside fish, which means these fibers will eventually make their way back to us when we sit down to eat dinner.
You can help keep microplastics out of our oceans by using a Guppyfriend laundry bag or a Cora Ball.
How to Choose Sustainable and Ethical Swimwear
So, is there such a thing as sustainable or ethical swimwear? Since it’s difficult to get away from plastic being in our swimsuits, many brands have found a slightly better way to make them: by using recycled plastic.
There is a range of brands making swimwear from recycled PET bottles. Some of those brands are listed below. (Please note that this is not a conclusive list.) Aside from buying from the brands below, you can also look for swimwear that has been tested for hazardous substances by a third-party like Bluesign, Oeko-Tex, and Cradle to Cradle.
10 Brands Making Eco-Friendy, Ethical Swimwear
Reformation makes their swimwear from recycled polyester and ECONYL®, a type of recycled nylon made from things like fishing nets and carpet fibers.
As of Spring 2019, approximately 85% of Athleta’s swimwear is made of recycled materials, and their prices are some of the best on this list.
Aerie and American Eagle’s “Real Good” label features the swimwear that they’ve made with more sustainable resources, like recycled materials, natural dyes, and pesticide-free fabrics.
Summersalt makes their swimsuits from 78% Recycled Polyamide, which they typically create from old fishing nets pulled out of the ocean. They wanted to sell long-lasting swimsuits for their consumers, however, so they have used some virgin materials in their fabrics as well. That being said, if you can keep a swimsuit for five-to-ten years (rather than getting a new one every season), that’s still an environmental win.
Vitamin A, a Los Angeles-based swimwear company crafts their swimsuits with high-performing sustainable fabrics like recycled nylon. They also offer a plant-based fabric made out of castor beans. What’s more is all of their swimwear is made in the United States, supporting the U.S. economy and keeping their swimsuits out of sweatshops.
Patagonia’s swimsuits are Fair Trade Certified™, bluesign® certified, and they make them from recycled materials. Patagonia is also taking their environmental responsibility a step further by offering “Worn Wear” — a selection of used clothing items at a discounted price. They don’t have used swimwear here, but if you’re looking for a jacket this winter, it is a great place to shop.
Another bluesign® certified company, REI is committed to sourcing sustainable materials in all of their products, and their swimwear is no different. They use recycled materials and have banned PVC (which is harmful to the environment and to the people who manufacture it).
Mara Hoffman is leading the way in sustainability. The brand carefully selects sustainable materials for all of its products, and they produce 100% of their swimwear with recycled materials (either recycled nylon or recycled polyester).
Do Good Swimwear
One of the smaller brands on this list, Do Good Swimwear manufactures their swimsuits from recycled ocean waste. They create timeless silhouettes in basic colors, so you can keep your swimsuit for years to come. The longer you can keep a swimsuit, the more you will cut down on waste that ultimately ends up in our landfills.
Yes, the brand that makes Instagram’s favorite bra also has a line of eco-friendly swimwear. While not made of 100% recycled material, Lively’s swimsuits have an outer lining that they make out of recycled plastic. You can filter for their eco-friendly line of swimwear in the left sidebar. (FYI these are affordable and adorable!)
Do you have a favorite sustainable and ethical swimwear brand that I didn’t mention here? Tell me about it in the comments!