How to find sustainable activewear from smaller companies


Depending on where you live, spring flowers are blooming and summer may be just around the corner. Wherever you are, by now you have probably grown tired of your New Year’s resolution exercise routine and the workout gear you have been wearing day after day (or even year after year). Even the best-intentioned resolutions and highest-quality workout gear won’t last forever.

Eventually armpit stains triumph over your favorite shirts, downward dogs wear your yoga pants thin and the miles you’ve logged force your favorite running shoes to surrender.

Maybe you don’t even need new gear, but just the thought of some new clothes inspires you to want to run to your local coffee shop instead of drive, or to continue cycle to work once a week. So while the most sustainable choice is always to wear the clothes you already have for as long as possible, when you need (or desperately want) some new workout gear, your best bet is to make thoughtful purchases that are sustainably and responsibly sourced.

What makes this difficult is that activewear has a pretty poor sustainability track record. With cancer-causing ingredients, water-guzzling cotton production and unsafe working conditions and low wages for textile workers plaguing the industry, it may seem impossible to find sustainably produced activewear. But guess what? It’s not.

There ARE companies out there making responsible activewear, and it’s not just from the big names like Patagonia (though they should be applauded for their work as pioneers in this field). But sometimes you just want to support the little guy.

In the blog post I wrote for 2degrees network, “Beyond Patagonia: How smaller brands are winning the sustainable activewear game” I share some of the great smaller brands I have discovered, as well as some resources for how you can find more companies like them. Take a look and let me know what you think!

I know I only named a few, so tell me: What are some of your favorite smaller, sustainable activewear brands?

Does your down make geese frown? #YourTurnChallenge

Have you ever really thought about where the down inside your down winter jacket or bedding came from? The folks at outdoor retailer Patagonia sure have, and the reality is pretty sad.

In short, there are a number of problems associated with conventional down. Since down is actually just a byproduct of the food industry (geese are not bred specifically for down), geese may be force-fed (especially if for foie gras), live-plucked (which is very distressing) and transported in horrible conditions.

Concerned about its own supply chain, Patagonia, in partnership with international organizations like NSF International, developed a Global Traceable Down Standard to ensure the highest levels of animal welfare throughout the down supply chain.

The following animated video might be a bit disturbing to you, but it does a good job of telling this story.

As of fall 2014, all of Patagonia’s down meets this 100% Traceable Down Standard. The North Face brand currently has a different standard, The Responsible Down Standard, and plans to have all of its down be 100% RDS certified by 2017. While some believe the Global Traceable Down Standard is stronger overall, The Responsible Down Standard has strengths as well, and the competition between the two is making both standards strive for even more improvements.

Other outdoor retailers like Eddie Bauer are moving in the right direction by at least signing on to the Responsible Down Standard (note: not the Traceable Down Standard). However, the outdoor industry only uses 1 PERCENT of commercial down. While these efforts do add up, in order to make the largest impact, the bedding industry will also need to step up to the plate. So, next time you’re looking to buy a down sleeping bag or comforter, don’t forget to look for either of these certifications!

Personally, I bought my first down jacket from The North Face when I moved to Michigan, a few weeks before learning about the Global Traceable Down Standard. Had I known about this and that Patagonia’s standard is generally considered better, I probably would have opted for Patagonia. But, since I already have a North Face, I’ll be keeping it, and feeling pretty content knowing it is at least the second-best option.

This post is for Day 5 of Seth Godin’s #YourTurnChallenge


Why everyone should start “Thinking Dirty”

Have you heard of the “Think Dirty” app? I’ve been using it for a few months and it has totally opened my eyes to the harmful ingredients lurking in my everyday personal care and beauty products.

This app has saved me both money and time, by cutting through misleading advertising of “natural” products to give me real facts on what I see in my bathroom and on the store shelves. I plan to expand later about specific products and brands, but many of the so-called “natural/green” brands out there actually have plenty of harmful ingredients.

Check out this short video about the app:

The app allows you to either scan the barcode or manually look up thousands of personal products to see how their ingredients rank in terms of various measures of harm, from their likelihood of causing cancer to their ability to cause allergic reactions.

You can save your “bathroom shelf” list for future reference and even get an overall rating for your shelf. My favorite feature is the “You May Also Like” button, which suggests cleaner replacements for your current items.

A few major eye-openers (sorry!) were: mascara, eyeshadow and eyeliner!

Sadly, I found that many of the products women put on and around our eyes are the most dangerous!

  • Most mascaras rank 7/10 (10 being worst)
  • Major disappointment: The Urban Decay “Naked” palettes rank 8
  • Even Bare Minerals Ready Foundation (which you would think is safe) has a rating 7
  • Lush’s Celestial moisturizer (a brand that markets itself as very clean) is 7/10.

On the bright side, here are a few winners that I found through the app or was already using:

  • Pretty much everything from the “100% Pure” brand ranks as a 5 or better (with many even lower than that) – I’m now using their eye cream, mascara and eyeliner
  • Dr. Bronner’s Castile Peppermint Soap: *1*
  • Acure Organics brightening facial scrub
  • Good old coconut oil (0!) and Bragg’s raw, organic, apple cider vinegar (2)

The app has also made me wear makeup less in general. I now think twice about whether it is really worth it to wear mascara or eyeliner on any given day, and the answer is more frequently no. And if you ask me, that change in lifestyle has been the biggest benefit of the Think Dirty app.

In the future, I would like to dive deeper into not just the physically harmful aspects of these products, but the environmental impact as well. Just because a product doesn’t harm your face doesn’t mean it was sourced or packaged sustainably. This is a big concern for me, which is another reason I’ve been trying to use less products in general.

Have you used the Think Dirty app yet? What are some of your most disappointing or exciting discoveries?