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The world and their wife have made working out and general fitness part of their lifestyle at this stage. Like any popular trend, the capitalism has latched onto this fact at the speed of light, and we’re encouraged to but workout wear, sports nutrition, there’s even gym-specific makeup on the market (why!?). But there’s an environmental impact attached to all of this, too, which is slowly but surely making its way to the surface.
Fortunately, you can absolutely align your ethics with your love for fitness, starting with building an eco-friendly gym bag (or, you know, whatever it is you use to store your kit. An eco-friendly gym pile if you’re at at-home workout enthusiast like me!). Starting with the actual bag and covering everything through to your post-gym toiletries, this is the ultimate guide to greening your fitness routine.
The eco-friendly gym bag
Let’s start with the actual bag. First of all, if you already own a gym bag, use that. We all know that the most sustainable items we can use are the ones we already have. If, however, you do need to purchase or replace one, then I have a few eco-friendly gym bag options for you!
If you’re looking for a ‘traditional’ gym bag, then this Atlas & Ortus* option is for you. Vegan, made from organic cotton, and available in three colours, this is a mid-budget option. Plus, it’s completely plastic free! However, you really don’t need to splash out on a bag specifically for the gym. Personally, I tend to use an XL canvas tote bag, that can also be used for carrying my shopping or library books. As long as you pack it well and don’t carry around lots of unnecessary stuff, this will do just fine!
If you are buying a new bag, whatever style, the bottom line is to look for ethical manufacturing and sustainable, natural materials like organic cotton.
The sustainable gym kit
Possible the biggest area of the fitness market, fast fashion has well and truly taken over the gym wear niche with its glossy photos and promotion of ‘athleisure’. Spoiler: While I am a card-carrying member of the leggings brigade, there is really nothing comfortable about wearing a full workout set while doing anything that isn’t, well, a workout.
If you’re a hardcore gym-goer and train six times a week, the absolute maximum you need is six pairs of leggings, sports bras, gym socks and tops, plus maybe a handful of warmer thermal tops for the winter, a pair or two of shorts (for the two days of British summer, of course), and not much more. Yes, I get it, buying new gym threads can be motivational, and I have nothing against that, but no one needs four new workout sets every month. As with your eco-friendly gym bag, stick with what you already have first. When the time for a new purchase comes, find a company that uses recycled and/or sustainable materials – although plastic-free can be tricky to impossible with activewear as we want it to be compressive and sweat-wicking. Also keep an eye on the manufacturing – if the company aren’t super transparent about their ethical production standards and can’t answer your questions fully, it’s likely they’re not that great. My brand of choice is Girlfriend Collective, and Boody*, Organic Basics and People Tree also have some really nice pieces.
Finding sustainable running shoes
Sustainable running shoes/gym shoes are really bloody hard to source. There are lots of eco-friendly ‘trainers’, but few of them are actually suitable for any type of exercise. I’ve recently purchased a pair of AdidasxParley Ultraboosts, which are made with recycled ocean plastic, and I’m getting on really well with them. They have a whole section of their website dedicated to shoes made with recycled materials, which is worth a look. However, Adidas appear to be the only widely-accessible brand that I can currently find that uses recycled materials on this scale, which is a real shame. We have far to go in terms of sustainable and ethical footwear! If you know of any other brands that have running shoes with mentionable eco-credentials, please do let me know so I can add them to this section.
The post-sweat toiletries
How many people go the gym on their lunch break and use disposable wipes to freshen up afterwards? Been there, done that. No more of that, however! We know that wipes are one of the worst pollution culprits, and we’re fortunate to have plenty of alternatives.
If you have time and facilities for a quick shower, your best zero waste bet is to bring a small-ish towel, a bar of travel soap* and a soap bag* so that the bar doesn’t get wrecked and/or destroy the rest of your posessions.
If a shower isn’t possible, the next best alternative is to bring a normal flannel with you. To really substitute the wipes you might be used to, you can add water and soap to the flannel at home and store it in a toiletry or reusable plastic bag. The latter isn’t a plastic-free option, of course, but as long as you’re rinsing and reusing the bag, it’s still a much better option than wipes. And for deodorant, we all know the The Natural Deodorant Co is my go-to!
Zero waste sports nutrition
Another hard one. There are tonnes of vegan sports supplements on the market, but many of them come in packaging galore. For easy-access snacks, my brand of choice is Deliciously Ella. Even though their packaging does contain some plastic, they have a really detailed sustainability statement explaining how to deal with which bits of their packaging at home, how they’re trying to reduce plastic, and what types of alternative packaging they’re trialling.
For protein shakes, which I try to make my main source of post-workout nutrition, I like Bulk Vegan Protein Powder*. I’ve been using this for years now and always seem to go back to it every time I try out something else. The price and quality are just the perfect balance for me. They have a whole range of vegan products, but the powder is my favourite because the ingredients are relatively clean, the taste is good, it’s affordable, and the packaging is compostable (!!!). I also use it to add to home-made protein-enhanced treats, such as granola and muffins, which is another way of making your post-workout nutrition a little lower waste.
I also highly recommend getting a metal water bottle. I hardly need to tell you about the importance of hydration, and our bottles have survived numerous journeys, being carted to and from work, the gym, and everywhere in between, as well as being unceremoniously dumped in the dishwasher so often. Chilly’s* are obviously highly popular, but there are tonnes of brands out there.
I hope this has given you some ideas on small changes you can adopt to move towards an eco-friendly gym bag – if you have any more suggestions or things you’d like me to cover, please do leave me a comment below!