Your Guide to Sustainable Swimwear: 9 Shopping Tips

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When shopping for an ethically and environmentally friendly made swimsuit, it’s a good idea to first familiarize yourself with the sustainable swimwear industry. What kinds of costumes are made with the environment in mind? What are the sustainability goals of the most eco-responsible swimwear brands?

Before shopping for your next beach swimsuit, read our top tips for buying sustainable swimwear.

First, Decide What’s Important

Before you start your search, make a list of what’s most important to you in a swimsuit. Do you want to favor upcycled materials or organic fabrics? Do you have a specific style in mind or a company you want to research first?

Knowing what you value the most can help you know where to start, saving you time and stress when shopping.

Buy your own closet

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Good news for your wallet: the most durable swimsuit is the one you already own. If you’ve stashed away a few items that you haven’t worn in a while or at all, now is the time to get them out.

The Clean Clothes Campaign claims that 100 billion clothes are produced every year, and most end up being thrown away. If you already have a bathing suit in good condition and you have no good reason to get rid of it, use it on your next trip to the beach or the pool.

Look for natural fibers

While the vast majority of swimwear brands use some amount of synthetic fiber in their suits, there are a few options for all-natural fiber swimwear.

Brands such as Rawganic and Akoia Swim manufacture costumes made exclusively from hemp and cotton. Vitamin A has options featuring Biosculpt, an innovative plant-based material. And Slo active and Patagonia use Yulex, a plant-based rubber that replaces neoprene.

Second-hand shop

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We know what you’re thinking: For a bathing suit!?

Although thrift stores may not seem like the most ideal place to buy swimwear, second-hand shopping is still one of the most sustainable ways to shop. Small local thrift stores and consignment stores are great options, and online shopping apps like Mercado, Depop, and Poshmark make it even easier to streamline your search. You can just find a costume with the tags still on it.

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Wondering how to disinfect a second-hand swimsuit? Before washing, soak your lightly used swimsuit in warm (but not boiling) water with a mild detergent. This will ensure that the items will be very clean. Steaming is also beneficial, and you can also sanitize using an iron if the fabric of the swimsuit allows it.

Beware of greenwashing marks

Greenwashing is a term used when companies label their products and practices as environmentally friendly without taking concrete steps to implement sustainability measures. It is sometimes difficult to tell which companies are greenwashing and which are maintaining truly ethical practices.

Here’s a tip: if clothing labeled “sustainable” (or some other term “green”) is only part of a brand’s products, chances are the brand is greenwashing. This is a sign that sustainability is not the main focus of the brand, and they are just trying to follow the eco-conscious trend.

Buy a microfiber filter

Many swimsuits contain at least one synthetic fabric that provides extra stretch. Luckily, some brands use recycled water bottles or fishing nets to achieve that stretch and texture. There’s also econyl, a popular regenerated fiber valued for its recyclability and low emission production process.

Even with these greener options, synthetic fabrics are known to be a source of microplastics that end up in waterways. Some of these problems can be alleviated by using a filter on your washing machine, such as the one sold by girlfriend collectiveor a laundry bag such as the Guppyfriend.

Choose small businesses

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Small businesses have much less impact on the climate because they produce fewer goods. For smaller brands that have an online platform, consider doing a hashtag search on Instagram or another small business shopping site like Etsy.

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When searching for sustainable swimwear online, be specific in your search. Instead of searching for “eco swimwear”, try “hemp swimwear” or “cotton swimwear”.

Look for brand transparency

Transparency about products and company practices sets sustainable brands apart. While companies should include the location of production and materials used on the garment label, you may have more questions about the factory that produced the swimsuit, the manufacturer of the fabric, or the types of dyes used.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the most durable swimsuit fabric?

    Although there are advantages and disadvantages for each material, natural fibers are generally ahead of the pack. However, these can be hard to find in swimwear.

  • Where can I find sustainable swimwear?

    Start local and try to shop at smaller businesses. If you’re comfortable with second-hand shopping, check out local thrift stores and consignment stores.

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