What is sustainable swimwear and why should you buy it?

What is sustainable swimwear and why should you buy it?

#sustainableswimwear is trending right now but what exactly does it mean?

I’ll be straight up from the start - the most sustainable swimsuit is the one you already own. BUT if you need new swimwear, making a good, informed purchase will make sure you benefit from that choice for seasons to come.

There is no set definition on what sustainable swimwear is. Generally speaking, sustainable swimwear ticks at least one, but generally several, of the following criteria:

  • it is made from lower-impact materials (eg ECONYL, Repreve)
  • made in a more environmentally-friendly way (eg small batch, zero waste production, circular production)
  • by people who are paid a fair and living wage and who work in safer conditions.

 

Fabric

Thankfully there has been great progress made in the textile industry in recent years meaning sustainability no longer means compromising functionality or design. Natural fabrics and upcycled fabrics are the main options for swimwear. This needs a whole discussion (ie blog post) of itself but the one thing I wanted to mention here that it is worth noting is that recycled fabrics will shed microplastics, which makes some people refute the claims that recycled swimwear is good for the environment. My argument to this is that I 100% believe regenerated and recycled materials are the best materials available right now for swimwear (and activewear). These materials are much better (in many ways) than virgin materials and with correct care, microplastic shedding can be minimalised.

Here's an older blog post about why I chose to use ECONYL® regenerated nylon for UBU Swimwear if you want to know more on this.

 

GuppyFriend Guppy Bag to protect against microplastic pollution

Most microfibre pollution occurs when items are washed, when the items are agitated during the washing process. Most of us are guilty of washing our clothes much too frequently. Unless swimwear is heavily soiled it generally doesn’t need to be washed after every wear. General washing tips:

  • Wash minimally and hand wash where possible.
  • if you must machine wash, wash gently and on a low temperature.
  • Stick to minimal detergent and avoid using fabric softeners as these can make fabrics less effective over time.
  • If you are using a washing machine to wash clothing with manmade fabrics, you can use a Guppy Bag to contain the microfibres and prevent them washing into our waterways. (Buy your The GUPPYFRIEND™ Washing Bag here)

Swimwear specific washing tips please see UBU's Swimwear Care Tips

 

 

By following these tips you should get the longest life possible out of your swimwear, and the longer you own it, the more sustainable it becomes!

 

Production and working conditions

UBU Swimwear Sustainable Production

 

These are a little harder to quantify. Many smaller businesses are the most sustainable out there because in many ways it is easier for them to be - they are often directly involved in each stage of product development and are more passionate-driven compared to the bigger, more money-driven corporations. But small businesses are often self-funded so it is simply too expensive for them to be able to afford certifications like Certified BCorps abd BLUESIGN.

However, any brand that labels itself as an "ethical" and/or "sustainable" brand should be transparent, on their social media, on their website and if you ask them directly. If you are unsure about a brand, reach out and ask them! You will quickly find if they are truly what they portray themselves to be.

 

Final bits of advise

 

Some Do’s & Don’t for shopping for sustainable swimwear

Do read the care label / product description. If something claims to be “made of recycled plastic bottles”, check the percentage to see if it’s still using virgin polyester too.

Don't buy “sustainable” options from fast fashion retailers. If they’re producing clothing in bulk, they’re still creating pollution regardless of whether that specific bikini claims to have saved seven plastic bottles from landfill.

Do check whether the company values the people making their product; look for transparency about their supply and production chain.

Do choose products made using low impact dyes which require less water.

Do check what packaging the product is being shipped in. Look for mentions of compostable/recycled outer packaging and minimal tags.

Don't buy from halfway around the world just because the product is sustainable. Prioritise sustainable brands closer to home where possible.

Do prioritise brands which champion diversity. Not only is sustainability greenwashed, it’s whitewashed, and we should be celebrating the brands which represent a diverse range of bodies by including not just diverse skin colours, but also bigger bodies and people with disabilities.

Do look out for brands contributing to environmental efforts. Many of the best sustainable brands contribute to clean-ups, conservation, marine research, and action to governments in order to have a longer lasting impact on our planet’s wellbeing.

While you will find that the price tag is generally higher, you’ll know that you’ve made a better decision for the planet when you buy from genuine sustainable brands and these better quality products will last longer so you’ll need to buy less in the long term.

 

 

UBU Sustainable Swimwear for surfing

 

I would love any feedback on what you would like to know about about UBU and how I can be more transparent and show our values and work easily to you. Please do get in touch if there is anything you would like to share.