This guide excludes purely synthetic, petrol based, cheaper fabrics such as polyester and nylon (man-made polymer: plastics) and focus on non-synthetic, more environmentally responsible and natural fabrics: Let’s be honest, when humans make something in large scale, they impact the environment one way or another, we are aiming for sustainability, circular economy, loop processes with biodegradable, easily recyclable yarns and textiles that reduce impacts on the planet and still make amazing workout clothes, enjoyable to wear with natural athletic benefits.
The Austrian company Lenzing branded Lyocell fibers are derived from sustainable wood sources, created through an environmentally responsible process with low environmental impact. The pulp of trees is dissolved in a non-toxic organic solvent. The solution is then extruded through fine holes to produce fiber and the solvent is recovered in a closed-loop process, more than 99% of the solvent is recycled and reused.
It is perfect for athletic wear as Tencel™ Lyocell based fabric helps you to stay cool, dry and comfortable naturally. “Textiles made from TENCEL have a luxurious texture, are softer than silk and cooler than linen. Tencel is biodegradable, breathable, and resistant to wrinkles.
Sustainable production of botanic origin Fibers are derived from sustainable sources. Wood for pulp is harvested from certified and controlled sources. On the contrary, the carbon emission from polyester production is one of the fastest growing worldwide.
Thermal regulation & Sweat management The smooth fiber surface absorbs moisture more efficiently than cotton. This supports the body’s natural thermal regulating mechanism and help to stay cool in warm temperatures and warm in cold temperatures.
Although plant-based like other very good non-synthetic cellulose fibers: Modal and Viscose (Rayon), TENCEL™ structure comes from a different manufacturing process and gives TENCEL™ improved moisture absorbency and breathability. The dark areas show water absorbed into the structure of the fibre. Picture: Lenzing Fibres Organic fabrics absorbing more water under microscopic images
- Unfavorable for bacterial growth The fibers absorb moisture efficiently. In comparison synthetics (Polyester, nylon) there is less available moisture formed on the surface of the fiber for bacteria to grow. Consequently, fibers provide a less favorable environment for bacterial growth, offering better hygienic qualities to fabrics and less odour and sweat stains.
BBC Earth recognizes: TENCEL ™ Lyocell fiber as one of the best sustainable materials that helps create a healthier planet!
Unlike generic cotton, the organic type carries the Global Organic Textile Standards for ecology and social responsibility (GOTS) which means no toxic chemicals and synthetic pesticides are used and less water wastage in the production benefiting the environment and worker’s health.
Moisture Absorbent (To a limit) - Natural cottons are useful in textile production due to its natural wicking properties, absorption of dye colour and its ability to stabilize other eco fibers. Cotton feels great against the skin, which is why it’s such a common fabric for lifestyle & active wear products, but unless it’s blended with other more technical fabrics, for pure performance athletic wear - Cotton can hold sweat, unless a chemical wicking application is added, or blended with Linen, bamboo or Tencel Lyocell that have naturally better moisture management benefits.
Feel of Fabric - Clothing made from organic cottons have the feel of linen without the weight. Since natural cottons are not chemically stripped of its natural wax, most weaves have a characteristic smoothness and weight which makes the fabric particularly flattering in its drape and in the mellow way it reflects and absorbs light.
- Anti Allergenic - Many allergies may be caused by chemicals in cotton fibers we either wear, or sleep on. The organic kind reduces this risk dramatically however not 100% as everyone reacts differently.
Activn Activewear new line of workout clothing contains TENCEL ™ and Organic cotton as the main fibers, for the planet and for the performance and comfort in terms of sweat management, breath ability and hypo allergenic properties
Bamboo is increasingly used to make workout gear, bamboo feels soft, cool and comfortable to the touch and it’s a very sustainable plant.
- Bamboo is 40% more absorbent than even the finest organic cotton, wicking moisture away from the skin much faster and keeping you dry and comfortable easier. “It keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. (Bamboo can take in three times more water than its weight which once made into a fabric, means that it also is able to get rid of moisture faster.)
- Bamboo smells better and stays cleaner. One of the most amazing properties, bamboo has antimicrobial properties referred to as “Bamboo Kun”. These natural antimicrobial bio-agents help reduce bacterias that thrive on clothing and other materials as well as on the human skin.
However even if the plant is sustainable, the process of turning it into fabric can be quite polluting.”
Everyone knows that linen make great summer clothing for its ability to keep cool, fresh and dry in extreme heat and humidity. But linen also has strong athletic benefits in terms of comfort, long durability, high breathability and water absorption. Linen is a textile made from the fibres of the falx plant.
- 2-3 times stronger and smoother than cotton fabric
- Weave of linen fibers allows for airflow which keeps clothing away from the skin
- Air permeability allows body to breathe and heat to escape, improving cooling system
Linen can feel heavy, and is laborious to manufacture, hence why linen apparel are usually expensive,
Wool isn’t just for ugly Christmas sweaters or winter socks. Wool is a natural fiber that’s not only durable but has inherent properties ideal for comfort and performance features such as:
- Humidity management
- Odor resistance
- Thermal regulation
Wool is known to make great outdoor activities clothing such as hiking, climbing, trail running. Other environmental friendly benefits: Long life cycle, extremely recyclable, and do not release micro-plastics in the landfills or oceans.
Active wool clothing requires more care for washing and drying and the raw material, especially Merino wool, subject to weather, seasonality and other production issues, hence wool apparel are usually very expensive too.
All those natural fibers-based fabrics make top notch workout clothes for professional athletes and active people alike, who choose to mind the environment (reduce the amount of cheap plastic produced and wasted daily and reduce the carbon footprint of the clothing industry, carbon emissions from polyester production is also one of the fastest growing worldwide), be participants in the circular economy, and don’t mind spending more for it. "Buy less, but buy better"
Honorable mentions and subjects of future articles: Pineapple leaves, hemp and squid!
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