With summer in full swing, it’s hard to resist the urge to pick-up a new, trendy swimsuit. However, many of the bathing suits on the market are made from materials and practices that are harmful for the workers, your body, and the environment. Luckily, eco-friendly swimsuits offer a solution.
What are the environmental and health concerns associated with typical swimsuits?
The first major issue with typical swimsuits can be found in their composition. Bathing suits are typically made from either a nylon or polyester blend, often mixed with some stretchy material like LYCRA, more generally known as spandex. Unfortunately, nylon and polyester are two unsustainable fabrics. Both energy-intensive materials are plastics, non-biodegradable, require non-renewable resources in their production, and emit large amounts of carbon dioxide, contributing to the thinning of the ozone layer and global warming at large. In one study by Muthu et al., “Quantification of environmental impact and ecological sustainability for textile fibers,” nylon and polyester scored as having two of the largest, most detrimental impacts on the environment out of a list of common textile fibers. This large environmental impact quantification was generated from scores on a range of environmental and health factors, such as utilization of renewable resources and biodegradability. Unsurprisingly, nylon and polyester scored very low on the study’s measure of sustainability. Nylon is a particularly concerning material, sustainability-speaking. This is due to the fact that the production of nylon releases nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is estimated to be 310 times more potent than the already harmful Carbon Dioxide. Also a non-biodegradable, energy intensive plastic, LYCRA is an unsustainable, common swimwear material.
The impact of unsustainable swimwear is not just limited to their production, but extends far beyond the manufacturing process. As previously mentioned, nylon and polyester are both plastics. This means that every time a nylon or polyester swimsuit is washed, tiny pieces of fabric, called microplastics, intrude upon our water supply. Once in our water supply, the microplastics work their way into our bodies of water and get ingested by our marine life. The microplastics don’t just stop there, though—from here, they can end up in our bodies when we eat these impacted animals. Meaning that washing an unsustainable bikini can lead to you ingesting microplastics. Besides the danger that comes with washing polyester and nylon bathing suits, there is also the environmental issue associated with the garments’ end-of-life outcome. Non-biodegradable textiles like polyester and nylon can take up to 200 years to break down. That’s a long time for our bathing suits to be polluting our landfills.
How do ethical swimwear brands offer a positive solution to unsustainable swimsuits?
Fortunately, sustainable companies have stepped up their games to design, produce, and sell ethical swimwear that is just as stylish as its unsustainable alternatives. Some swimsuit brands have lessened the negative environmental impact of their garments by using recycled synthetic textiles like ECONYL, recycled nylon made from materials like fishing nets and fabric scraps, and REPREVE, recycled fiber made from primarily plastic water bottles. While these fabrics are still plastics, and thus still bring the issue of microplastics, they use less water and energy than their virgin synthetic textile counterparts, and they utilize waste which otherwise would be polluting our environment. When washing your recycled plastic swimsuit, it is important to either hand wash, or use a Guppyfriend washing bag, a Coraball, or a laundry bag when using a machine; these steps will help prevent microplastic pollution. To bypass the use of plastics, other eco-friendly swimwear companies have opted to use natural, sustainable textiles, like hemp and organic cotton.
Here are five brands which are paving the way for an ethical swimwear future.
1. Do Good Swimwear
Photo Credit: dogoodswimwear.com
A small but mighty, minority women-owned/run business, Do Good Swimwear is focused on making a big impact. After witnessing the sheer amount of trash on beaches, the founders of the Do Good Swimwear created a classic and fun swimwear brand that’s eco-friendly, ethically-made, and affordable. All of the sustainable swimsuits from Do Good Swimwear are made of ECONYL and REPREVE. The brand participates in a host of other environmental and social impact initiatives: such as ocean conservation efforts, tree planting, and carbon offsetting programs.
Coming in a range of fun colors, prints, and styles, Do Good Swimwear creates classic pieces that will defy microtrends and overconsumption, instead championing slow fashion and quality pieces. Even better, the brand’s able to create fun printed designs that don’t come at the cost of sustainability; to minimize the use of resources and energy, Do Good Swimwear uses direct-to-fabric printing. You’ll receive your eco-friendly swimwear piece from Do Good Swimwear in compostable packaging that avoids any excessive and detrimental tags, bags, and labels. Depending on the style, Do Good Swimwear’s sizing ranges from XS-3x.
2. Natasha Tonić
Photo Credit: natashatonic.com
Innovation is key when it comes to sustainable swimwear brand Natasha Tonić. With anti-microbial, seasonless styles, this brand truly goes outside the box when it comes to swimwear production. Ditching common swimsuit materials like nylon and polyester, Natasha Tonić instead opts for hemp and organic cotton as the primary materials in their swimsuits. An extraordinary material in the sustainable fashion realm, hemp uses a quarter of the amount of water as cotton and produces a whole lot more fiber than cotton with the same amount of land. Hemp is a soil enricher and detoxer, acts as a natural pesticide, and removes more CO2 from the air than trees do. Despite the awesome hemp and organic material choices, it should be noted that Natasha Tonić swimsuits are also created with 4% LYCRA, better known as spandex. This is something to keep in mind, as LYCRA is made from fossil fuels and is not environmentally sustainable.
For the bolder conscious shopper, Natasha Tonić swimsuits come in a range of unique styles, colors, and prints—a sustainable swimsuit from Natasha Tonić is sure to stand out in the best way. To create their beautiful, vibrant colors and dyes, Natasha Tonić privileges low impact dyes and recycled water prints. The brand also produces in small batches, features only made per order options, and uses scrap fabrics to their fullest extent. The brand’s sizing is a bit on the less-inclusive size, with sizes ranging from XS-XL (we hope that this range will be expanded in the future!).
3. Girlfriend Collective
If your ideal summer day involves beach volleyball, kayaking, or any other active hobbies, then Girlfriend Collective is a great option for your sustainable swimsuits. Made with aquatic activities in mind, GF Swim uses high-quality, eco-friendly materials that are supportive and durable enough to keep up with your active lifestyle. GF Swim is made out of ECONYL. An added benefit of buying sustainable swimwear from Girlfriend Collective is that 1% of your purchase goes toward the Healthy Seas ocean-clean up initiative.
From flattering scoop necks and string bottoms to straight neck one pieces and plunge tops, the eco-friendly swimwear from GF Swim comes in an array of styles for every preference. The sporty swimwear line is designed to be completely mix-and-match, with every piece coming in a handful of the same, vibrant and neutral, solid colors. Just as in their other lines, Girlfriend Collective’s swim is size-inclusive and made to fit all types of bodies, with sizing options from XXS to 6XL.
4. Peony Swimwear
For those whose personal style incorporates both retro and modern touches, Peony Swimwear is the perfect place for you to find your next sustainable bathing suit. Peony Swimwear is a certified Carbon Neutral organization. In their manufacturing, Peony Swim utilizes relatively sustainable recycled textiles, REPREVE and ECONYL. In their overall production, Peony also uses GOTS certified organic cotton, ECOVERO fibers (made from wood pulp sourced from sustainably sourced FSC or PEFC wood), linen, and hemp. No sustainable detail is spared with Peony—their eco-friendly swimwear features recycled and FSC certified wood tags, FSC certified bioplastic hygienic liners (this means they’re biodegradable!), and their garments come wrapped in compostable packaging.
A curated swimwear collection designed with a retro meets modern flare, the Peony swimsuits are unique pieces that you’ll want to hold on to forever. And, don’t worry, their beautiful prints weren’t made at the expense of the environment, consumers, or workers. All of their prints are created via digital printing, avoiding plastic use and reducing fabric waste and water usage. Many of the patterns and designs come in a range of silhouettes, so you can mix-and-match and find the best eco-friendly swimsuit for you. Currently, Peony Swimwear offers its ethical swimwear pieces in sizes XS-XL, with more positive strides to be made in the inclusivity realm.
5. Vitamin A
Photo Credit: vitaminaswim.com
Vitamin A is a testament to one of their motivating phrases: “sustainability is sexy.” With their durable, body-hugging styles, Vitamin A’s ethical swimwear options are irresistable. As a member of 1% For The Planet, Vitamin A donates a portion of their proceeds to ocean-focused, environmental causes. In addition, the brand has instituted a number of different sustainability initiatives in their operations process and keeps their whole production process domestic to help reduce carbon emissions. From Tencel and Recycled Nylon, from Organic Cotton to Hemp, Vitamin A’s swimsuit material list is one to celebrate. All of the brand's materials are Oeko-Tex certified, so you can rest easy knowing these garments don’t contain harmful levels of toxic chemicals. Vitamin A has invented game-changing sustainable swim fabrics such as EcoLux, made from a recycled nylon and LYCRA blend, and Biosculpt, a plant-based high-quality swimwear fabric. As the brand does utilize recycled plastics, it's important to take the previously discussed steps when washing to halt microplastic pollution.
Vitamin A is for the effortlessly cool and the effortlessly sexy. Their collections are designed in a mixture of neutrals, pops of color, and patterns, and they are meant to hug your curves in all the best ways. With their wide range of silhouettes and styles, and user-friendly website, it's easy to find just the right ethical swimwear piece for you. Vitamin A’s tops and one pieces range from XS to XXL/DD and their bottoms range from XS/XXL.
This summer, say goodbye to unsustainable bikinis, and all of the harmful and polluting materials that come with them. Thanks to a rising number of ethical swimwear brands, you can pick an eco-friendly bathing suit that doesn’t sacrifice when it comes to health, style, and the environment.