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The world produces an estimated 92 million tons of textile waste every year, which is sort of hard to conceptualize. Put more simply: The fashion industry has been called the second-largest polluter in the world, just after the oil industry. Outdoor and activewear brands have been some of the first (and most fired up) when it comes to reducing the industry’s environmental impact by creating sustainable fashion. As many of these companies will readily admit, it’s nowhere near perfect; but as Patagonia—one of the leaders in the sustainable movement—states:
“In the end, Patagonia may never be completely responsible. We have a long way to go and we don’t have a map—but we do have a way to read the terrain and to take the next step, and then the next.”
From sustainable fashion designs (products built to last generations) to more responsible materials (organic, renewable, recycled) and production processes (reducing water, energy, chemical use, and carbon emissions), these brands are taking big steps to increase their eco-friendly efforts—and creating some stylish, high-performing gear while they’re at it.
Our Favorite Sustainable Fashion Pieces
REEBOK COTTON AND CORN SNEAKER | $90
Vegans, rejoice. This stylish sneak is made with no animal products (it even uses an animal-friendly water-based urethane adhesive!). But the real conversation starter? The sole is constructed from corn. That’s right, the only shoe on the market made with 75 percent USDA-certified bio-based content.
FJÄLLRÄVEN GREENLAND DOWN LINER VEST | $190
The perfect sustainable fashion layering piece as the temps starts to drop, giving you some extra warmth where you need it but so perfectly packable you can bring it literally anywhere. This vest is made from recycled polyester and lightly padded with traceable down (meaning no birds were harmed to keep you warm); it’s also PFC-free (a harmful chemical banned in all Fjällräven clothing).
GIRLFRIEND COLLECTIVE COMPRESSIVE HIGH-RISE LEGGING | $68
With a luxe hand feel and comfy-yet-snug compression fit, you’d never know these leggings were made from recycled water bottles. They come in tons of colors and sizes, and are bound to be the supportive side-kick you’ll love having for both super-sweaty workouts and leisurely recovery afternoons.
BODY GLOVE TERRA ECO SHORT | $50
Professional surfer and Olympic hopeful Tatiana Weston-Webb helped design a collection for the brand that is made entirely of organic cotton or recycled polyester. These loose-fitting shorts have a 2.5-inch inseam and an underwear liner for extra coverage.
PATAGONIA HOUDINI JACKET | $99
Made from recycled nylon, this zip-up jacket is super thin and light as air, the perfect stash piece for mornings on the road or late afternoons on the trails.
SUNSKI ANDIAMO SUNGLASSES | $53
Proving that you do not have to sacrifice cool design for doing good for the planet, these frames not only are made from recycled resin but come with a lifetime warranty and eco-friendly (read: no plastic) packaging.
SMARTWOOL MERINO 150 BASELAYER LONG SLEEVE | $80
Thanks to wool’s natural abilities to regulate body temperature, cancel odors, and wick away moisture, it’s a popular material in run apparel. The ethically sourced threads that make up this long sleeve will not only last longer than other fabrics, but are biodegradable, reducing their impact when it’s finally time to say goodbye.
TIMBUK2 L CONVERTIBLE BACKPACK TOTE | $79
Repair is a step above recycling when it comes to helping the environment and creating sustainable fashion. This brand offers a lifetime guarantee (their San Francisco–based team repairs more than 6,000 a year), which along with the company’s other sustainability programs has helped send zero Timbuk2 bags to landfills since 2014. Trust us, this super-sleek and lightweight convertible bag is one you’re never going to want to break up with.
ATHLETA ULTIMATE CROP | $59
This highly technical fabric is made from recycled nylon in a Fair Trade–certified factory. Athleta’s use of sustainable fibers has already helped to reduce more than 15 tons of waste to date. Run your heart out knowing you are helping the Earth with each stride.