I am about to embark on refining the model of Upward Dog, as a part of a business course that I am doing. One aspect of this is to decide whether to stock apparel again. If I do I stock clothes, I want them to be the most eco and ethical threads possible. Recycled polyester activewear has become a prominent category in the yoga world, and is promoted as the eco yoga option.
I have been wondering if recycled polyester is all that it is cracked up to be in terms of sustainability. Clearly, more activewear brands are now on the recycled polyester bandwagon, and boast of recycling plastic water bottles and taking plastic out of the ocean.
Polyester, particularly when mixed with nylon and elastane, helps give the stretch that we love. Sweet. Love stretch. In fact, I have been wearing stretch apparel throughout my life. From doing a huge amount of dance as a kid, to having medical conditions that caused chronic pain and so wanting very comfortable clothes, to being pregnant and having kiddies, and now living the lockdown loungewear life – stretch clothes have been a permanent feature. Stretch brings a forgiving aspect to a garment. It feels good to have clothes that move with you.
The environmental implications of polyester, however, have provoked debate – even if the fibre is recycled.
This blog post, and this one are good initial summaries of the pros and cons of using recycled polyester. A key pro is that it does remove some plastic from landfill and the ocean, for a while at least. Recycled polyester also uses less energy to produce than virgin polyester. So far, so good for recycled polyester activewear.
However, a key con is that the polyester sheds microfibres in the wash, and that ultimately the fabric doesn’t break down well in landfill. Recycled polyester also takes much more energy to produce than natural fibres such as hemp and cotton (whether organic or not), and it may require intensive use of chemicals to process the polyester into fibres that can become a new garment.
The conclusion of both of these posts is that natural fibres are a better choice. This is also my instinct – but I will share the research journey here to see what the data says. Stay tuned.
In the meantime – if you are keen on some natural fibres in your life – check out our beautiful Upward Dog yoga bolsters and eye pillows. Eco linen covers printed with unique Australian designs, and all of the supportive goodness from our heart to yours.