It’s plastic free July as I write this and while I disagree with the name of the event (we’ll never be plastic free, nor do we necessarily need to be) I do entirely agree with the sentiment behind it. Especially the focus on single use plastic. Here’s why;
Plastic is made from fossil fuels.
According to the Independent, a recent report shows us that, ‘The oil industry is planning to invest £300bn in producing more plastic over the next 5 years’ to save their arses from the fact that we won’t be using oil-driven cars for much longer (my words, not theirs).
The production of plastic produces methane which, over time, is way better at heating up the planet even than CO2.
Plastic is cheap so it’s easy to over use and over consume without even noticing.
We send approx. 2/3 of our plastic waste overseas to be ‘recycled’ because we don’t have the capacity to deal with all our waste ourselves. This bothers me. It bothered China too so they started refusing to take our crap. Check out this BBC War on Plastics episode to see what happened next.
And ultimately, I just hate it when companies make money out of me knowing that they’re causing harm.
But I’m not going to bang on about my switch from bottled shampoo to these bars. Or my reusable coffee cup use; refusal to buys kids' magazines with plastic toys on the front; or my favourite new plastic free glue, craft tape and deodorant (all of which you can buy at Smallkind AND grab an extra 10% off by using the code HEATHER).
Instead I’m keeping it most relevant to me and my work which is; plastic-free (almost) fitness gear.
You’ve probably not even really thought about it but those leggings you wear for your run or spin class – plastic. That yoga mat you come to to connect with yourself and your soul in sun salutations, plastic. That swimsuit you wear, the water bottle you use heck even the trainers – plastic.
Now these aren’t single use plastic of course (hopefully your water bottle is reusable right?), so in fact it’s not something we need concern ourselves with too much. Although … of course every time we wash that workout gear, we are contributing to microplastics entering our waterways and oceans.
So wash less, use a guppyfriend when you do, and try these plastic-LESS alternatives.
FOR WORKOUT CLOTHES
My all time fave is BAM. Made primarily from Bamboo, their fitness gear is soft, durable, comfortable and of course – plastic free. It also requires washing less and the company are committed to becoming ‘impact positive’ by 2030.
I don’t earn any commission with BAM but I do have a ‘refer a friend’ discount you can use following this link which also gives me a special discount, cheers!
Other fitness clothing companies I’m aware of but haven’t used include;
Free spirit – an Aussie company who also use bamboo and organic cotton.
When I was looking for a new yoga mat because my kids had drawn and walked filthy feet over mine (which wouldn’t come off in spite of me giving the mat a bath), I spent AGES researching plastic free, eco friendly mats.
And I found it entirely overwhelming because there are so many brands claiming to be the BEST at sustainability. Plus many of the mats were insanely expensive! But still if you want to go ahead and look into it yourself I recommend this blog for UK mats and this one for US recommendations.
So did I keep on using my filthy mat? Well sort of. It gets used as padding for transporting things on the roof of our car occasionally but no. For my workouts and yoga, I just went on Facebook marketplace, found someone selling one (new) second hand near me and bought it. For a fiver. Not plastic free but arguably, one better (unless the woman I bought it off went out a bought a new one but I can’t go there).
Again there are heaps of companies, not least the big brands in active footwear, claiming to be uber-eco-friendly. And it’s great that they’re trying but beware of greenwashing.
Now it seems trainers are the trickiest to get fully plastic-free fror performance and longevity reasons. Many companies do, however, make as much of the material as possible more sustainable and, the plastic that is involved is recycled.
Unfortunately as this guardian article points out, recycled plastic fitness gear isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.
But anyway, here are my favourite footwear companies though, full disclosure I’ve never used either. Partly because of the expense and partly because of aesthetics. I just can’t bring myself to spend lots on something that makes my feet feel sad. I’ll overcome this eventually but again I’ve been happy to buy (new) second hand so far using my new favourite app, Vinted.
Vivo barefoot - I love not only from a sustainability perspective but also from a biomechanics, movement perspective. They're arguably much better for your feet and whole body than traditional trainers.
Allbirds - UK based these look less geriatric than other brands and are a little more affordable.
Again I went all out second hand on the swimsuit using Vinted but if you’d rather not, (which I completely understand), the Independent did a pretty good article in 2020 listing some more eco-friendly, plastic-LESS swimsuits here.
And as for water bottles, I tried experimenting with aluminium but although I love the taste of water from a metal bottle, I found the inconvenience of unscrewing the lid every time I wanted a swig just annoying. So I ended up getting a plastic bottle with a flip lid and good sized nozzle, though only after my aluminium one had lost it’s seal and leaked in my bag one too many times.
PHEWF! So there you have it.
As with any change towards sustainable living though, make sure it feels right for you. If spending £120 on a yoga mat made from cork and hemp makes you cringe (as it does me), use that money more wisely on something else, a new (second hand) bike perhaps that’ll make you use your car less and your legs more, perhaps negating the need for a yoga mat altogether and going much further towards reducing your carbon footprint.
If you want to avoid the greenwashing and overwhelm altogether, simply choose to only buy what you need and source second hand when you can. These would be the ultimate goals in sustainable living in my view.
Oh and bonus points for going through your wardrobe and donating any unwanted fitness gear to charity shops or, better yet, SW11 Apparel. Started by an awesome woman who 'Donating free pre-loved fitness gear to empower women and help the planet!'. I believe she also has a sister-business in the US.
Wishing you strength and sustainability!
PS got any recommendations I've not listed here? Please let me know so I can share!
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