With the new year right around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about our resolutions and goals for 2022. Of course, we always recommend adding “adopt a more sustainable lifestyle” to the top of your list of priorities, but another perennial favourite is improving one’s fitness. In fact, it seems that the apparel industry has both of these resolutions in mind as well, as sustainable performance wear and sports-related brand initiatives are now gaining more traction and making more advances than ever before.
We believe that when the modern man engages in sport, he should not only have his own health in mind, but also the health of the planet. And when he knows that his actions are having a positive impact, it will increase his enjoyment of physical activity even more—a win-win, in our opinion.
NATURE KNOWS BEST
Whether you are new to a sport or a seasoned participant, having the right gear can make all the difference. Traditionally, activewear has been predominantly fabricated from polyester, a material that is durable, light weight, quick drying and inexpensive. Although it sounds like the perfect fabric for the job, there’s one catch that leads to a host of other problems: it is derived from plastic. This means that performance-wise, it can feel less breathable, and planet-wise, a single garment can release up to 700,000 microplastic fibres into the environment every time it is washed, plus it will never biodegrade. These downsides are what inspired Erik de Groot to co-found Iron Roots, a brand that uses natural, earth-friendly materials to create truly superior athletic apparel, both in terms of sustainability and performance. The fabrics they use come from hemp, beechwood, eucalyptus and organic cotton. For de Groot, hemp is one of his favourites because it is “naturally antibacterial, which means that you can wear our hemp products multiple times without washing them.” This also means that wearing hemp can reduce your water consumption compared to other materials, not to mention the huge water savings in its production. Beechwood and eucalyptus fabrics are also great for keeping the body cool, making them perfect choices for intense training sessions.
These natural performance materials are already making waves in the industry, but de Groot is always looking forward. He shares that one of the main challenges Iron Roots is tackling now is “switching all of our dyes to natural dyes, which is not an easy thing to do with the current technologies. We are taking the first steps in this field by working together with a designer to create fungi-based dyes for our sportswear.” What truly sets Iron Roots apart is not only their innovative solutions to sustainability in the sports world, but their overall positive mindset towards change. “After we solve the dye challenge, there are so many other things to improve. But that is what sustainability is after all: incremental changes towards a better future.”
ENDINGS ARE ONLY NEW BEGINNINGS
These days, conversations surrounding sustainability are finally starting to shift towards end of product life considerations. The textile waste problem is getting out of hand, but activewear brands like Patagonia and Arc’teryx have both launched successful initiatives to address this. In order to achieve a more circular system in fashion, both brands accept trade-ins of their own used products and have resale websites (WornWear and Used Gear, respectively) to give these items a chance at a second life with a new owner. If you are looking for high-quality gear at more affordable prices while simultaneously saving items from landfill, then platforms like these are the perfect solution. Additionally, Arc’teryx launched their newest program, ReBird, in May 2021. ReBird products, such as weather resistant jackets, tote bags and pouches, are made from end-of-roll fabrics, as well as upcycled post-consumer materials that would otherwise have gone to waste. All of ReBird’s offerings sold out quickly, demonstrating to other brands that there is consumer demand for more planet-friendly options and encouraging them to partake—hopefully a sign that even more initiatives like these will be available to us in the near future.
Activewear giant, Nike, has also had its own recycling program for manufacturing scrap, unused manufacturing materials and end-of-life footwear since 1992. Known as Nike Grind, the program has grown immensely over the decades and now collects materials like rubber, foam, fibre, leather and textiles to be processed into new projects that give back to the sport community. These vary from large-scale developments such as bikeshare stations, running tracks, basketball courts and gym flooring, to more individual-focused contributions like new running shoes. Knowing that our sportswear and equipment can be reused to contribute to such amazing projects at the end of their life is a relief. So, no excuses now; get out there and make use of your gear!