Eco friendly yoga wear: using sustainable materials & ethical production in Europe - yet never perfect
Just like us humans, many sustainable brands are doing their best, but it’s not always easy. There are very few businesses that can claim to be 100% sustainable. As a commercial operator we can never be perfect. That being said, it’s important to continuously educate ourselves and make better choices.
As the founder of Moonah Wear, I want to take a moment to break down our practices, how and why we operate and use the materials we do. I also want to acknowledge the various challenges with different types of fabrics and talk about a hot topic in the industry: microplastics. But let's start with the basics.
Sustainable materials and ethical practices
The idea behind Moonah is to create high-quality and eco-friendly yoga wear both ethically and sustainably. We use ECONYL® which is regenerated nylon to craft our yoga wear. ECONYL® is simply put, recycled plastic.
ECONYL® is made by recovering nylon waste - such as fishing nets from the oceans and aquaculture, fabric scraps from mills and carpets destined for landfill – and turning it into virgin quality nylon yarn. The yarn is produced in Slovenia and the material is manufactured in Italy by the company Aquafil.
Our aim is to create high quality yoga wear that is timeless (solid colors with no crazy prints you'll get sick of), functional and durable. This is why we have chosen to use a synthetic fiber, to ensure that the yoga wear are long lasting.
We use eco-cotton for our t-shirts and pure waste for our hoodies. Our manufacturing takes place in Europe (mostly in Lithuania, some in Finland and some in Estonia). This is obviously not as cheap as it would be to produce in Asia, but with this, we can make sure to always provide ethical work environments, fair wage and to keep a short supply chain. We ship our clothing in recycled plastic packaging.
What is ECONYL®?
Let's take a closer look at our main fabric, ECONYL®. Like mentioned above, ECONYL® is made out of synthetic waste, such as industrial plastic, waste fabric, and old fishing nets from oceans. After being collected, this waste is then recycled and regenerated into a new nylon yarn that has the same quality as virgin nylon.
As well as being a solution for waste, ECONYL® is also a better option in terms of climate change. It reduces the global warming impact of nylon production by up to 90% compared to material from oil. For every 10,000 tons ECONYL® recycled nylon produced, 70,000 barrels of crude oil and 65,100 tons of CO2 equivalent emissions are saved compared to a regular nylon yarn made from virgin polymer.
Another great advantage with it, is that it is infinitely recyclable. All fabrics utilising ECONYL® regenerated nylon have the OEKO-TEX® 100-standard ensuring they have been tested for harmful substances and are safe to be used and worn.
But wouldn't a natural fiber be more sustainable?
It's not that simple. All fabrics have their "issues". For example, conventional cotton is responsible for around 25% of the world’s pesticide use and enormous amounts of water. Viscose is made from trees and toxic chemicals.
Besides, it’s proving much easier to create a circular economy in fashion—one where resources are used over and over again—with synthetics, which are easier to recycle than most natural fibres. Another advantage with synthetic fabrics are, that their performance: quick drying, durable and moisture wicking properties.
But what about microplastics?First, let's understand what microplastics are. But yes, this is a challenge with synthetic materials, yet again, a complex question with no simple solution when it comes to creating functional yoga wear.
Microplastics are tiny plastic particles typically less than 5mm in size. They can be found in our oceans, in the air, in the rain, and most worryingly, inside us and other living creatures.
Microplastics can be categorised into two groups; primary and secondary. Many primary microplastics are specifically manufactured to be minute in size. They are designed for commercial uses and serve a specific function, for example, microbeads in cosmetic products. Secondary microplastics form when larger plastic items degrade into smaller fragments once they are exposed to weathering, for example, the sun’s UV rays, wind and ocean waves.
Another significant source of microplastics which often goes unacknowledged is paint. Synthetic fibers used in clothing and fishing nets account for around 35% of the microplastics that are found in the ocean today.
How do we avoid and reduce microplastics?
- Avoid single-use plastic altogether (use a refillable water bottle), skip straws, use canvas bags etc)
- Avoid any products with microbeads, glitter makeup etc
- Wash your clothing in a bag that catches micro fibers, especially the first wash is crucial with new clothing. For example, The Guppy Friend bag is said to catch 90% of microplastics.
- Use liquid detergent instead of powder—another thing to help with that friction.
What is ECONYL® doing to tackle the issue?
The company that creates ECONYL®, Aquafil, is funding various researches, of which the most prominent one is a a three-year research partnership with the National Research Council of Italy to recognise and standardised method for recognising and analysing the microplastic footprint of products.
In other words, Aquafil is creating a way to measure microplastics, so that their impact can then be minimised.
It’s proving much easier to create a circular economy in fashion—one where resources are used over and over again—with synthetics, which are easier to recycle than most natural fibres.