What to look for in sustainable sportswear

Year on year, many more individuals and companies are striving to be more sustainable. That means doing more to protect our planet, our environment, and our people.

For the fashion industry, there is still a long way to go. The complex processes and supply chains involved in making, selling, and buying clothing means that there are many areas in which progress needs to be made. Unfortunately, it can’t happen overnight.

The resources needed to manufacture garments, the production of both natural and synthetic materials, and how products are transported worldwide forms a complex web of unsustainable processes involved in manufacturing clothing. There's a reason the apparel industry is the third most polluting on the planet.

For the sportswear industry, the challenges are the same. It also has specific requirements to be fit-for-purpose and withstand the demands of the activity for which it’s worn.

With all these considerations at play, it can be challenging for a consumer to understand exactly what makes a sustainable sportswear brand. To help guide you through your purchase, we’re outlining the things to look out for in sportswear sustainability that reflect a genuine and positive impact on the planet. 

Make sure it prioritises performance and longevity

The easiest way to purchase sportswear that is more sustainable is by investing in garments that will last for longer. Otherwise, you end up buying and discarding clothing at a higher rate which negatively impacts the environment. Increasing the lifespan of your sportswear wardrobe is the first step towards making more eco friendly choices. An activewear brand that is dedicated to the quality of its products contributes to sustainable fashion.

At Presca, we understand that sportswear has to prioritise performance to be truly sustainable. We promise to make sportswear better by making products that last a lifetime. We’re setting new standards for kit that lets every athlete go the extra mile and perform at their best. Our unique, sport-specific designs are tried and tested by those at the top of their field, ensuring our products always put performance first.

 

For example, our men and women’s tri-suits are designed with the athlete in mind. Ensuring breathability, aerodynamics, comfort, temperature regulation, and practicality, it’s sportswear that will make a difference to your performance and the planet.

Look for a brand’s commitment

As our focus as a society shifts towards doing better for the planet, sustainability has become a buzzword and lots of activewear brands want to claim a commitment towards it.

The best way to understand the reality of a brand’s promise is to research its history and purpose. Sustainability should be at the heart of a business, rather than an afterthought of it.

Those whose mission is grounded in producing environmentally friendly and ethical products for their consumers do the extensive research and legwork needed to execute their manufacturing and supply processes in a way to minimise impact and head towards true sustainability. It’s a difficult challenge to take on, but it’s one that is worth fighting for.

It’s a challenge that never stays still. Due to the demands of the world we live in, it’s not possible for a business to offer products and services that are entirely and 100% sustainable end-to-end. That means there is always learning, trialling, and evolving to do.

At Presca, we recognise that sustainability is complex, and there are no perfect answers. We are on a journey of positive change. Our commitments involve a cross-cutting 2020 strategy that allows us to pioneer new sustainability and performance levels for our planet and our athletes.

These commitments include: 

  • Ensuring all fabric suppliers and manufacturing partners sign up to the Presca code of conduct by 2020
  • Having zero single-use plastics in our packaging by 2020
  • Launching an annual GHG report on our website by 2020
  • Making all our new garment ranges fully circular by 2022
  • Reaching net zero on operations and supply chains by 2022

We're proud to have achieved our 2020 aims, especially given it was such a challenging year.

To find out more about our promises, visit our sustainability page.

Weigh up the options of natural vs synthetic materials

When it comes to purchasing sportswear, the material it’s made from tells a complex but significant story about sustainability. Both natural and synthetic fibres have positives and negatives of using them.

Natural fibres come from plants, animals, or minerals. They can instinctively seem more eco-friendly than synthetic fibres because they're "natural", right? However, issues with natural fibres include the amount of water used for growing certain materials, pesticide and herbicide use, potential animal and human rights abuses, land use and durability issues.

Synthetic fibres are human-made using chemical processes which can be damaging if released to the environment. They tend to be made from non-renewable resources and some of their main advantages (long-lasting, durable, water-resistant) can also cause an issue at their end of life if not properly disposed of.

As it stands, neither fabric choice provides the perfect solution to sustainable sportswear. However, with smart decisions, designs, and blends, a garment can increase its sustainability by addressing both production and end of life issues.

At Presca, we use both natural and synthetic fibres in our clothing ranges. For natural fibres, we use certified Organic Cotton and Ecovero. These materials bring versatile and durable properties, whilst also acknowledging and reducing potential environmental issues that other options bring. For synthetic fibres, we used recycled nylon from fishing nets and carpets, and recycled polyester from plastic water bottles.

In this way, we acknowledge multiple factors involved in making eco friendly choices and look for those that can be considered more sustainable materials. An informed decision-making process lets us arrive at the option with the lowest impact on our environment. You can read all about the rationale for our material selection on our fabrics page. 

Focus on ethical manufacture in the supply chain

Whilst sustainability is rightly associated with climate change, carbon emissions, carbon footprint, and greenhouse gas emissions, there is also a more humanitarian element to the term. It must not be overlooked when evaluating sustainable sportswear.

Ethical manufacture describes a supply chain that prioritises the health and wellbeing of every individual involved. To match international labour rights and fair trade laws, every worker must receive fair wages, safety guarantees, acceptable working hours, and good working conditions.

For us, that means choosing to work with organisations that share our values on all of the above. All of our key manufacturing partners are based in Europe and are all signed up to our Presca Code of Conduct.

As we work on our global policies and fair trade commitments, you can read more about Presca’s commitment to ethical manufacture here.

Check if it aims for circularity

Circularity describes the lifecycle of a garment. Out of the 100 billion pieces of clothing made each year, only 1% are recycled. The sportswear industry contributes to those statistics.

By extending the lifespan of sportswear and closing the loop of its lifecycle, we can achieve circularity and start decreasing the amount of clothing produced and increasing the amount recycled.

The four areas involved within circularity are four key steps that all Presca garments go through:

1. Made from recycled materials
2. Designed for longevity
3. Repairable
4. Recyclable/biodegradable at end of life

We still have a way to go before we reach full circularity but using these principles to drive us ensures we’re always moving in the right direction.

By 2022 all our new garment ranges will be 100% recycled and 100% recyclable. 

Remember the packaging it comes in

While activewear brands can put a large amount of effort into producing more sustainable clothing, if transported and delivered in large amounts of plastic packaging, the impact is often undone.

The clothing industry uses 180 billion single-use plastic bags every year, each ending up in the bin, or worse - in the environment. Retailers use polybags because they are a cheap, strong, and light way of packaging goods. The problem is that they are single-use and made from non-renewable petrochemicals. If they're not properly disposed of they can harm wildlife and could ultimately end up in the ocean, causing harm to marine life once they’re there.

Unfortunately, paper or cardboard isn’t necessarily the answer. As trees have to be felled to create these materials, there’s a severely negative impact from the unsustainable harvest forestry. Greenpeace state that 4 billion trees are cut down to make paper every year - the equivalent of 1% of the Amazon rainforest. 

Before purchasing workout gear, find out how your product will arrive. Opt for slower delivery if that means it can be transported more eco-consciously and understand how the brand you’re buying from acknowledges the downsides of their packaging choices.

After phasing out all polybags and single-use plastics in 2020, we’re currently exploring new packaging solutions. We’re investigating options such as 100% recycled paper/card burrito rolls, plastic bags that dissolve in hot water, and reusable packaging. Our research is dedicated to finding solutions that have the most protective impact on our planet. 

Check out the washing instructions

As of January 1st 2021 every garment we sell at Presca is carbon neutral for it's whole life cycle. We've calculated the impacts of manufacture and the in-use phase and offset them using UN Gold Standard accredited schemes.

But it's still important to understand the impact of the in-use phase and how to reduce it. Laundry is an energy-hungry activity, especially for garments that need washing on high heat. Find out how your sportswear needs to be cleaned to ensure it fulfills its sustainability promise throughout use.

At present, the majority of Presca garments can be washed at 30-degrees. We don't recommend tumble drying as this is energy-intensive and can be damaging for your clothes.

We’re also dedicated to inspiring our customers to come with us on our sustainability journey. For these reasons, we’ve collated the information needed to wash clothes more sustainably, including helpful tips such as washing clothes inside out, washing clothes at night, and ditching fabric conditioner. You can find out more here. 

Transparency is key

Because there is no perfect solution to sustainability, transparency over decision-making and real impact is vital.

Sportswear brands that acknowledge the gaps that still need to be closed is a sign they are embarking on a genuine mission to improve how they manufacture and supply their products.

The Presca website hosts the information you need to understand more about us and our commitment to sportswear sustainability. Including supply chains, fabric choices, design philosophy, circularity, packaging, and the climate emergency, we have dedicated pages that communicate where we are at each stage in our journey. Plus, our product pages have an infographic that showcases the impact of your purchase.

For example, our Men’s winter cycling jersey is made from 84% recycled polyester from plastic bottles. It saves 9.5 days of drinking water, avoids 7.9km of driving emissions, and recycles 28 PET bottles. These figures are offered as equivalences or absolute figures to give you the information in whichever way you want it.

Each Presca Sustainable cycling jersey equals 6 x 1 litre plastic bottles

To find out more about how Presca puts sustainability at the heart of our organisation, explore our full range of sustainable sportswear in our online shop.