Which Leggings are Actually Eco-Friendly? Where to Find Yoga Pants and Active Wear Without All the Plastic

by - Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Which Leggings are Actually Eco-Friendly? Where to Find Yoga Pants and Active Wear Without All the Plastic

Oh, yoga pants. We all wear them. Some of us even do yoga in them (not me personally, but that is the rumor). Some of us take selfies in them (thanks to Heather for the pictures). Most of us own them.  Leggings and athletic wear are a pretty common part of our everyday fashion. If you are a tired parent like me, you might be wearing them all the time! That said, they are freaking terrible for the environment. One of the worst things we are all wearing. And we all have a bunch (myself included, no judgement).

So can we switch to greener, more ethical leggings? Do they even exist?

OF COURSE THEY DO! Or I would politely ignore them, right? But they are tricky, and the normal rules I live by (buying secondhand and recycled) don't actually apply. So, it takes a real shift and some new information to transform our yoga pants for the better (while they transform our butts for the better).

So, what is the rule we are living by?

No Synthetic Fibers, Even Recycled Water Bottles

There are a few amazing companies out there who tried to recycle plastic bottles into activewear (the one recommended to me most is TeekiInner Fire is another one). In theory, this means less new synthetic materials can be made and fewer bottles go into landfills.

I love this idea so much and really want it to work, but it just doesn't.  Those bottles are turned into fibers that shed off in your washing machine and out into water sources. Creating billions of microscopic trash pieces that have totally taken over the water. Teeki uses 100% synthetic fibers, some recycled and some not. That means 100% of those pants are shedding microfibers into your water.

THIS IS WHAT EVERY PAIR OF YOGA PANTS ALREADY DO. Anything made with synthetic (plastic-based) fibers sheds plastic into our water.

This needs to stop. We all need to get all plastic fibers the heck out of our wardrobes and our lives.

This is one of the only areas where I won't say the easy fix is to buy recycled or used. Neither solve  plastic pollution. If anything, they make the problem more impossible to solve. 

So how do we do it? And what should we look for. And most importantly, do we have to give up yoga pants?

Before we go further, let's learn about our fibers:

Polyester- Oil-based, PLASTIC
Nylon- Oil-based, PLASTIC
Spandex (also known as Lycra or Elastene)- Oil-Based, PLASTIC

To be clear, STOP buying anything made of Polyester, Nylon, or Spandex. If it is another name you don't recognize, just look it up. Anything that is oil-based is literally garbage.

So are all synthetics out? No! I have good news- some synthetic fibers (and yoga pants) still have a relatively positive (and low waste) impact.

Rayon- Wood fibers, considered a "semi-synthetic"
Tencel- Made of Eucalyptus Trees, sustainable practices
Viscose- Made of Trees, larger impact then Tencel, but still pretty great
Modal- Made of beechwood trees from sustainably farmed forests. The yield is twice as high as cotton; I think modal is a fabric of the future.

So, your new mission is to look for organic fibers like cotton (also linen and hemp) and "semi-synthetic" fibers in the rayon family like tencel, viscose, and modal. Get plastic out of your pants.  At the very least you should keep those fibers to a bare minimum.

Ok, this is a lot to take in and might seem hard to apply. It's not. You need to just start reading tags. On Thred Up, you can read the list of fabrics on the website to avoid all the plastic-fabrics (plabrics?).

Well, the answer is mostly. Average stretchy pants are 80% or more plastic-based synthetics. I found plenty that are around 10%. So much better, but I am going to update this post someday with perfectly green yoga pants. Until then, pretty dang green pants is the best we can do.

I am going to show you some yoga pants/leggings. The holy grail of stretchy synthetic goodness. This is a case of looking for a better option until the best (completely plastic-free) option comes around. But we can all still do a heck of a lot better.  To compare, an average pair of sports leggings you would get from the gap is 75% polyester and 25% spandex. 100% synthetic fibers!

Let's do this!

Blue Canoe

Blue Canoe is an amazing resource for American-made organic clothing. Their yoga pants also look soft and natural, instead of that shiny synthetic stuff. I dare you to poke around this website- you will be kicking yourself for buying your active basics anywhere else!

Percentages- Most of their yoga pants and leggings are 87% organic cotton and 13% spandex.


This awesome brand makes their leggings and yoga pants in the US, and they use organic fabrics. They have a lot of the basics you will be looking for too, so you can keep it simple and functional.

Percentages- 87% organic cotton/ 13% Spandex

Lily Lotus

This fashion/spa brand sells yoga pants and activewear that focuses on natural, not synthetic, materials, with the tagline that what we put on our bodies is as important as the things we put in our bodies. They do lots of dying, so these are really unique as well.

Percentages- 90% organic cotton/ 10% spandex or 92%bamboo/ 8% spandex

from Inner Waves

Inner Waves

This family-owned and woman-led company makes all of their clothes in the United States with eco-conscious practices. They also donate some of their profits to a Yoga Give Back foundation, which brings yoga to underserved communities. One of those companies that I want to switch to the more I research about them!

Percentages- 90% organic cotton/ 10% Lycra


Both ethical and affordable (no, really!), this holy grail for eco-shoppers sells paneled leggings and a strechy pants.

Percentages- 92% organic cotton/ 8% Elastene


This company is probably the most well-known eco-friendly activewear company. They have tons of yoga pants choices. They have earned their acclaim, and their sustainability practices are really excellent across the whole supply chain. They also have a wider variety of sizes than both of my choices.

Percentages- The Leda Pant is 53% hemp/ 42% organic cotton/ 5% spandex. Not all of them are nearly as plastic-free, so be sure to check.

from Satva

Satva Sustainable

There is so much to love about Satva and their commitment to sustainaility, from their organic materials to their ethical practices. I love their partnership with Suminter India Organic; this co-op in India uses all sustainable practices and fair labor.  And some of their fabrics have the highest natural to synthetic ratio I have seen! So much good being done here, but keep an eye out, because some of their clothes use the recycled bottle fabric we now know is not much good for the environment.

Percentages- These leggings are 95% Cotton and Modal and only 5% Lycra! Most of the leggings I saw are the same, but always check.

from Soul Flower

Soul Flower

This online shop sells two brands of yoga pants- wishful thinking and their in house brand- that are made in America, use 87% natural fabrics, and low-impact dyes. These are really green options.

Percentages- 87% organic cotton/ 13% spandex

Woo hoo! Doesn't it feel good to have a place where you can easily do better? These brands are awesome, most aren't particularly expensive, and you can do so much good by simply working those synthetic fabrics out of your life!

Which Leggings are Actually Eco-Friendly? Where to Find Yoga Pants and Active Wear Without All the Plastic

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  1. Thank you for these sources. I'm not currently in the market for new leggings, but as a runner, I like the idea of finding sustainable brands for leggins and yoga pants for when I need new ones.



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