Pangaia’s First Activewear Collection is Made From Plants, Not Plastic

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As leggings, hoodies, bike shorts, and other stretchy athleisure took over our wardrobes in 2020, one question kept coming up: Where are the sustainable options? All of that stuff is plastic, plain and simple. Polyester, nylon, Spandex, and Lycra are derived from fossil fuels, require significant resources and energy to produce, and never biodegrade. Recycled fibers are often billed as the “sustainable solution”; brands tout their leggings as being made from recycled plastic bottles, while others have made recycled synthetics a key part of their sustainability marketing. But even if recycled fibers are an improvement, one big issue still remains: Any synthetic garment, virgin or recycled, will release microplastics as you wear and wash them. The tiny bits and pieces of plastic are toxic to marine life and may account for up to 21 million metric tons of plastic pollution in the ocean. To make matters worse, materials tend to weaken as they’re recycled, which means your recycled poly leggings may actually release more microplastics than a virgin pair.

“When you recycle PET into fibers, especially for something that is high-wash like activewear or swimwear, you’re just putting that plastic back into the ocean,” explains Dr. Amanda J. Parkes, Pangaia’s chief innovation officer. “Scientifically, it is the exact wrong thing we should be doing—it’s just exacerbating the problem. We should be recycling those plastic bottles into construction equipment or something that will last 50 years, and sink the carbon that way.”

Naturally, recycled plastic or poly wasn’t on the table when Dr. Parkes and her team began developing Pangaia’s first activewear collection. Instead, Pangaia Gym’s leggings, cycling shorts, T-shirts, unitards, and sports bras are 90% bio-based. Dr. Parkes described it as “a first step” towards truly natural, renewable activewear: The fibers are made from a blend of eucalyptus and seaweed; bio-based nylon, a fossil fuel-free stretch fiber made from castor oil; Roica V550, a stretch yarn that degrades by microorganisms over five years; bioWick, a bio-carbon and bio-based wicking treatment made from microalgae; and PPRMT, a bio-based odor-fighting finish and antimicrobial treatment.

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Photo: Courtesy of Pangaia

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