See all tips to
GreenYour Yoga

Buy eco-friendly workout clothes

This feature is only available to GreenYour members. Please sign-up.

Environmentally friendly workout clothes for running, cycling, and yoga, are made from natural materials and avoid the use of pesticides, as well as potentially toxic chemicals sometimes used to treat fabrics to make them more durable or moisture-resistant.

Find It! Eco-friendly workout clothes

Look for organic cotton which is pesticide-free; bamboo has natural anti-microbial and absorbent properties.[1] Hemp is another great earth-friendly exercise alternative to conventional cotton, producing three times as much fiber per acre.[2]

Eco-friendly workout clothes help you go green because…

  • The fibers used don't require the use of pesticides that are used to grow conventional cotton and other crops.
  • They avoid potentially toxic fabric treatments that can break down to form perfluorochemicals (PFCs) or dioxin, which may harm the environment or your body.

Conventional cotton production relies on vast amounts of hazardous synthetic chemicals, including pesticides, fertilizers, fixers, and dyes. Cotton farming uses only about 3 percent of the farmland around the world, but consumes 25 percent of all chemical pesticides and fertilizers.[3] A third of a pound of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is needed to produce enough cotton to make just one T-shirt, and $2 billion worth of chemicals are sprayed on global cotton crops annually—almost half of which is classified as hazardous by the World Health Organization.[4][5] Billions of pounds of nitrogen synthetic fertilizers are used to cultivate cotton, resulting in runoff that can create aquatic "dead zones" in waterways. Insects are quickly becoming resistant to recommended rates of pesticide application, and ever increasing amounts are needed be effective.[6]

Once cotton is harvested, it is treated with even more chemicals. Due to cotton's natural resistance to dyes, roughly half the chemicals used as dyes or fixers end up as waste in rivers and soil.[7] Chlorine bleaching releases carcinogenic dioxins. Permanent-press and stain- and water-repellant finishes can offgas formaldehyde, and their manufacture releases PFOA into the environment.[8]

Eco-friendly alternatives

Organic cotton is grown and processed without dioxin-producing bleach, defoliants, pesticides, or artificial fertilizers. But it's not the only eco-friendly workout wear alternative. Consider the green properties of bamboo and hemp:


Despite the controversy surrounding hemp's status as a legal crop—especially in the United States where it is considered a Schedule 1 controlled substance like marijuana—it is an earth-friendly alternative to conventional cotton.[9] Hemp produces three times as much fiber per acre as cotton. Like cotton, hemp requires water and fertilizer to grow but it doesn't need to be treated with pesticides or herbicides.[2] The farming of hemp benefits overall soil conditions by adding nutrients, fostering microbial life, and eradicating weed growth.


Bamboo fiber, a natural fiber spun from the pulp of bamboo grass, resembles cotton in its unspun state.[10] However, that's where the similarities end as bamboo is considered a sustainable crop. It doesn't require the use of pesticides or fertilizers, needs little water, and is a self-renewing plant, meaning that new shoots grow on an uninterrupted basis. Bamboo also releases a great deal of oxygen into the air—even more than trees—helping to lower levels of carbon dioxide and curb soil erosion.[11]

The same natural antifungal, antibacterial agent found in bamboo plants that acts as a sort of internal pesticide (called "Bamboo kun") is also useful in bamboo clothing, controlling bacteria growth on the skin, as well as moisture levels.[12] This is especially beneficial for those prone to night sweats and for athletes.[13]

Related health issues

Many athletic clothing manufacturers add chemical treatments such as GORE-TEX and Teflon to fabrics in order to help repel insects, water, and odors. According to the Environmental Working Group, clothing treated with such chemicals can break down in the environment or in the human body into harmful PFCs.[14] Scientific studies have identified 15 PFCs in human blood, and one 2001 industry study of six PFCs in human blood identified four PFCs at higher levels in children than in adults.[15]

One PFC, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)—sometimes known as “C8”—has been found at low levels both in the blood of the general US population and in the environment. PFOA is used to make fluoropolymers, substances used in breathable, all-weather clothing. Although the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not currently believe there is any reason for consumers to stop using products containing PFOA, it has called on companies to reduce facility emissions and product content of PFOA and related chemicals by 95 percent by 2010, and to work toward eliminating emissions and product content by 2015.[16]

Triclosan, an organic compound with antibacterial properties, is sometimes used to fortify sports clothing such as socks, footwear and towels. Triclosan has been shown to react with chlorine in tap water to form chloroform, which has been identified as a probable carcinogen by the EPA.[17] Triclosan has also been shown to react with chlorine to produce compounds such as 2,4-dichlorophenol, which converts into dioxin upon UV exposure.[17] Dioxins have been shown to bioaccumulate in humans, animals and aquatic organisms, and persist in the environment because they decompose very slowly.[18]

External links