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What is Sustainable Swimwear?

We don’t often consider the importance of sustainable swimwear. 

Sustainability and the preservation of our environment are some of the top challenges faced by our generation. More people than ever before are waking up to the fact that a ‘throwaway culture’ will make life on Earth inhabitable – and soon. Even corporations are catching onto the fact that even if sustainability is costlier in the long-run, at least it preserves their ability to continue doing business for generations to come. 

But this realization is hitting people and businesses at different rates; while some have dramatically altered their practices to support sustainable living, others have made far fewer changes. However, even companies that haven’t changed their production and manufacturing practices can’t deny that supporting sustainability is important- yet, very trendy. 

People want to feel like they are making a difference, and in most instances, they are even willing to pay more for the same product if they feel like it is better for the environment. While this works exceptionally well with honest companies that are genuinely committed to sustainable living goals, others are simply taking advantage of the trend for profit. 

They are able to do this by ‘greenwashing’ their marketing materials. The term comes from the idea that painting ‘happy little trees’ on your material will make it look greener, more eco-friendly, and sustainable. And this strategy works well (kind of) for consumers who don’t dig a little deeper. 

But if you are truly committed to the idea of sustainable living, it’s worth taking just a couple of minutes to determine whether a company is truly practicing what they preach. If not, take the power of your dollar elsewhere and support another brand that is more transparent and committed to its sustainable business practices.

Sustainability & Swimwear

In fashion, sustainability is incredibly popular right now; and this is particularly true for swimwear. Active individuals who spend time on the beach or outdoors are generally more acutely aware of the damage that has been done to our environment. They see it first-hand. And swimwear is not known to be environmentally friendly, in most cases.

It is frequently made from synthetic fibers, such as nylon, spandex, and polyester to make it stretchable. Unfortunately, these materials are often made with a common ingredient that is notoriously bad for the environment – plastic. 

Currently, the planet has over 8 billion tons of plastic on it, much of which will never decompose. Some of it is found in swimwear. The plastic byproducts from discarded swimsuits often end up in landfills. Even when you are wearing a suit made from these plastics, synthetic fibers are released into whatever body of water you enter. There are no filtering mechanisms in natural bodies of water, meaning that marine animals consume these tiny fibers. When we eat seafood, these microplastics can even end up in our own bodies.

Recognizing Greenwashing Strategies

As a consumer, it may be not easy initially to discern between companies that truly practice what they preach in terms of sustainability and those that have simply greenwashed their marketing material to make it appear that they have.

While it is trendy to be (or appear) sustainable, not all companies are making an effort to put their money where their mouth is in a way that is impactful to the environment. So while shopping, it’s a good idea to keep a few things in mind, as they can tell you how committed certain vendors and manufacturers are to sustainability.

Check Websites & Social Media

Vendors and manufacturers who have truly adopted sustainable processes, materials, and sourcing strategies are often very open about it. They want consumers to see how they are different from other retailers who have not made the same efforts they have. There will be great detail that can, in many instances, be verified by independent third-parties. 

In addition to the website, retailers may often link to material published about their sustainable practices on social media accounts. If a retailer or manufacturer claims to be ‘green,’ but you can’t find any info on their website or social media about it, this is a huge red flag.

Look at Content Labels

All clothing (and most other textiles) have a tag with the details of the content and care instructions. Check these labels to ensure that the fibers used are actually sustainable and do not contain microplastics.

Look at Production Processes

In addition to what information is given freely by the company, it’s sometimes worth doing a deeper dive into their practices. Take a look at where they are sourcing their material. There are only a handful of truly sustainable fabric producers around the world. If they aren’t sourcing it from one of them, or they can’t provide an answer as to where their fabric is being sourced – then it probably isn’t truly sustainable.

Also, consider other eco-friendly practices they may have adopted. Sustainability is achieved through many combined efforts. Using sustainable fabrics is only one strategy. Companies that are aiming for a higher bar will often incorporate additional strategies, such as reusing/recycling hang tags and using the minimum amount of recyclable shipping bags and packing materials to cut down waste. All of these small details add up and demonstrate which brands are most committed to sustainability.

Ask Questions

If you are uncertain about a certain practice or material, ask questions. A reputable sustainable retailer should be able to answer them – especially if they are a small business. It’s also good to make sure that their message makes sense. If a certain retailer claims highly sustainable practices, yet their prices are a steal, it’s worth questioning. Sustainable options are generally more expensive, although the consumer wins by receiving a quality garment with a long life expectancy – and the peace of mind of knowing that it was fabricated with a smaller footprint than the alternatives. 

Sustainability is a lifestyle, but by making small decisions every day, we can make a tremendous difference on a global scale. And supporting small businesses that practice sustainability is especially crucial since they generally place smaller orders which cost more. But the power of your dollar does so much more in this setting. You can rest easy knowing you made a great environmental choice and know that you are supporting small business owners, which are the backbone of the economy.


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