Your Guide to Sustainable Swimwear: 9 Shopping Tips

Good news for your wallet: The most sustainable swimsuit is one you already own.

Top view of beach summer accessories with copy space.
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When shopping for an ethically made, environmentally friendly swimsuit, it's good to first be familiar with the sustainable swimwear industry. What kinds of suits are made with the environment in mind? What are the sustainability objectives of the most eco-friendly swimwear brands?

Before you purchase your next go-to beach bathing suit, read our top tips on shopping for sustainable swimwear.

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First, Decide What's Important

Before you start your search, make a list of what is most important to you in a swimsuit. Do you want to prioritize upcycled materials or organic fabrics? Do you have a specific style in mind or a company you want to research first?

Knowing what you value the most can help you know where to begin, saving you time and stress while shopping.

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Shop Your Own Closet

Woman clearing her wardrobe
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Good news for your wallet: The most sustainable swimsuit is the one you already own. If you have a few items hidden away that you haven't worn in a while or at all, now is the time to pull them out.

The Clean Clothes Campaign claims that 100 billion garments are produced each year, and most are eventually thrown away. If you already own a swimsuit in good condition and don't have a strong reason to discard it, get some use out of it on your next trip to the beach or pool.

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Look for Natural Fibers

While the vast majority of swimsuit brands use some amount of synthetic fibers in their suits, there are a few options for all-natural-fiber swimwear.

Brands such as Rawganique and Akoia Swim make suits made exclusively from hemp and cotton. Vitamin A has options featuring Biosculpt, an innovative plant-based material. And Slo Active and Patagonia use Yulex, a plant-based rubber that is taking the place of neoprene.

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Shop Secondhand

close view of a swimshorts expositor in a shop
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We know what you're thinking: For a bathing suit!?

While thrift stores may not seem like the most ideal place to get swimwear, shopping secondhand remains one of the most sustainable ways to shop. Small local thrift stores and consignment shops are great options, and shopping online apps such as Mercado, Depop, and Poshmark make it even easier to streamline your search. You may just find a suit with the tags still on it.

Treehugger Tip

Wondering how to disinfect a secondhand bathing suit? Prior to washing, soak your gently-used swimwear in hot (but not boiling) water with a mild detergent. This will ensure the items get extra clean. Steaming is also beneficial, and you may also disinfect using an iron if the fabric of the swimwear allows for it.

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Watch Out for Greenwashing Brands

Greenwashing is a term used when companies label their products and practices as eco-friendly without taking actual steps toward implementing sustainability measures. It's sometimes difficult to tell which companies are greenwashing and which maintain truly ethical practices.

Here's a tip: If clothing labeled "sustainable" (or another "green" term) is only a portion of the brand's products, chances are the brand is greenwashing. This is a sign that sustainability isn't a primary focus of the brand, and they are simply trying to ride the eco-conscious trend.

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Buy A Microfiber Filter

Many swimsuits contain at least some synthetic fabric that provides added stretch. Fortunately, some brands use recycled water bottles or fishing nets to achieve that stretch and texture. There is also econyl, a popular regenerated fiber treasured for its recyclability and low-emission production process.

Even with these more eco-friendly options, synthetic fabrics are known as a source of microplastics that end up in waterways. Some of this can be mitigated by using a filter on your washing machine, like the one sold by Girlfriend Collective, or a laundry bag such as the Guppyfriend.

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Choose Small Businesses

Consumerism pleasure
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Small businesses have much less impact on the climate because they produce fewer goods. For smaller brands that have an online platform, consider doing a hashtag search on Instagram or on another small-business shopping site like Etsy.

Treehugger Tip

When looking online for sustainability swimwear, be specific in your search. Instead of searching "eco-friendly swimsuit," try "hemp swimwear" or "cotton swimsuit."

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Seek Brand Transparency

Transparency about products and company practices sets sustainable brands apart. While companies have to include the production location and materials used on the garment tag, you may have more questions about the factory that produced the swimsuit, the manufacturer of the fabric, or the types of dyes used.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is the most sustainable swimsuit fabric?

    While there are find pros and cons to every material, natural fibers generally lead the pack. However, these can be challenging to find in bathing suits.

  • Where can I find sustainable swimwear?

    Start local and try shopping at small businesses. If you are comfortable shopping secondhand, check out local thrift stores and consignment shops.