These Sustainable Swimwear Brands Are Making Every Summer Eco-Friendly
From cheeky bikinis to edgy one-pieces, these pieces of sustainable swimwear are ~shore~ to help you feel good while you look good.
Despite spending your summer days navigating nature trails, absorbing every last ray of sunshine, and diving into all the refreshing bodies of water within reach, many of your summertime activities spent immersed in Mother Nature aren’t doing her any favors.
Your spiked seltzer habit at the beach could fill an entire trash bag with cans—if you do actually pick up the empties, and your go-to SPF can have detrimental effects on coral reefs and marine life. As for your swimwear? That’s typically made from polyester, nylon, and spandex—plastic-based fibers that use up about 342 million barrels of oil each year to produce for textiles, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a charity focused on transitioning the economy to one that eliminates waste and continuously reuses resources. Even though you might stay on budget by buying that fast-fashion swimsuit, the planet will bear the brunt of the costs, both immediately and over time: The production of nylon releases nitrous oxide, a damaging greenhouse gas that depletes the ozone, and the plastic-based fibers used won’t decompose for decades after you toss it in the trash at the end of the season, according to the foundation. (Because you know you'll want to get a trendy new one when next spring rolls around.)
Buying swimwear that’s produced with eco-friendly fabrics—i.e. recycled polyester and nylon, biodegradable yarn—and techniques is just one way you can reduce your impact this season. And if you’re truly trying to make a positive impact with your purchasing decisions, you’ll also want to consider the people involved in creating your swimsuit—including their wages, working conditions, and rights as employees. In doing so, you’ll be promoting a swimwear industry that’s sustainable on all levels. (BTW, here’s exactly how to shop for sustainable activewear.)
Ready to green-ify your swim collection? Shop the comfy one-pieces or supportive bikinis from these sustainable swimwear brands that make eco-friendly materials, fair working conditions, green production methods, and more their priority. (And consider grabbing a reusable tumbler and natural sunscreen while you’re at it.)
As part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition—the apparel, footwear, and textile industry’s leading alliance for sustainable production—Carve Designs is bringing an eco-friendly edge to swimwear. Each suit in its Sustainable Swim collection, including the Coronado One Piece (Buy It, $98, carvedesigns.com) and Cora Top and Bottom (Buy It, $58 for top, $60 for bottoms, carvedesigns.com) is crafted from recycled polyester, making use of materials that would otherwise be sent to the landfill.
The manufacturing of Carve Designs’ suits is sustainable, too. A significant portion of the brand's sustainable swimwear, activewear, and rash guards are produced in California factories, helping cut emissions that would be created from international transportation and guaranteeing workers the protection of the United States’ strict labor laws. When an item is made overseas, Carve Designs’ onsite managers visit the factories regularly to ensure workers are well compensated and treated fairly.
The term “biodegradable” typically stirs up ideas of apple cores and scrap pieces of wood, but Nevada-based STRANGE Bikinis is proving that bathing suits can hold a spot in the category too. The sustainable swimwear items in Burnt Sienna and Plumb Lane colors are made from an innovative biodegradable yarn that decomposes entirely in just three years after you throw it away—10 to 13 times faster than the average nylon fabric. The biodegradable material is crafted in Brazil through a process that uses less water and energy than other textile manufacturing processes. And the water that is used is treated to remove oil or dye, preventing pollution of waterways. The fabric then makes its way to the Bay Area in California, where a small group of women who are specially trained to work with this fabric hand sew it into your cutting-edge suit.
But you don’t need to worry about your Tango Wrap Bikini Top (Buy It, $89, strangebikinis.com) or Hoosier Racerback One Piece (Buy It, $185, strangebikinis.com) falling apart while you wear it. The buttery soft suits will *only* start biodegrading once they hit the landfill and come in contact with the environment’s unique microorganisms. So you and your booty can enjoy your Hitchhiker High Waist Bikini Bottoms (Buy It, $99, strangebikinis.com) for years and years to come. (Related: These Body-Positive Women Will Inspire You to Wear a Bikini with Confidence)
Vitamin A Swimwear
The next time you soak up some vitamin D, make sure you’re doing so while rocking Vitamin A swimwear. Each of the brand’s pieces of sustainable swimwear is made with plant-based and recycled materials, including silky smooth EcoLux, a swim fabric made from recycled nylon fibers. Not only are the colorful bikini tops—i.e. Neutra Bralette (Buy It, $98, revolve.com)—and high-waisted bottoms—i.e. Lolita Bikini Bottom (Buy It, $99, revolve.com)—standouts at the beach, but they also use less water and create less fabric waste than suits made from novel materials.
To give its apparel bright and bold colors, the company turns to digital printing, which requires fewer wash-and-rinse cycles than traditional wet printing—meaning less water waste—and creates fewer fabric scraps. To further reduce its carbon footprint, the company largely produces its sustainable swimwear in vertically integrated facilities in California. Translation: The dyeing, knitting, and every process in between are completed in one location, cutting the need for transportation between each step of manufacturing.
Vitamin A doesn’t overlook the social responsibility aspect of sustainability, either. The company regularly visits each of its partner factories to ensure employees are paid fairly and have clean, safe working conditions. Garments made outside the U.S. are produced in fair trade factories, which ensure employees receive fair treatment and compensation.
If all those eco-friendly selling points don’t convince you to purchase a ribbed bikini top (Buy It, $114, revolve.com) asap, know that Vitamin A has saved more than 562,000 gallons of water and prevented nearly 681,8000 pounds of emissions from entering the atmosphere with its sustainable practices, according to the company's website. So as you frolic on the sandy shores, you can feel good while you look good. (Related: These Innovations Are Making Your Beauty Products More Sustainable)
Elle Evans Swimwear
If you want a suit that’s both eco-friendly and makes you feel like a legit water goddess, Elle Evans Swimwear is for you. Founded in 2013, the Aussie sustainable swimwear brand creates each of its suits with ECONYL, a regenerated nylon fabric crafted from rescued fishing nets, recycled fabric scraps, and old carpet flooring. But the sustainability efforts don’t end there: Each suit, such as the Sandman Reversible One-Piece (Buy It, $120, elleevansswimwear.com.au), is made to order—meaning large batches of swimsuits aren’t sitting in a warehouse only to be sent to a landfill if and when they aren’t sold. Plus, each piece is hand-crafted at the company’s Melbourne workshop. Any scraps are saved and transformed into extra design elements or straps on another swimsuit, such as the Rolling Stone (Buy It, $130, elleevanswimwear.com.au) or Windsor Bikini Top (Buy It, $66, elleevansswimwear.com.au).
You can also take comfort in the fact that any hired seamstresses are paid by the hour and above the country’s minimum wage. They work less than five hours at a time and spend breaks sipping tea and hanging out with the studio’s cat, Louis, according to the company's website. And thanks to their international shipping, you can get a little bit of the down-under island in just a few days. (See also: These Aussie BFFs Created a Body-Positive Instagram Account to Fight Online Trolls)
At Reformation, sustainability is at the core of every swimsuit, design-making decision, manufacturing process, and more. The sustainable swimwear brand is on a mission to make at least 75 percent of its products from plant-based fibers that are quickly renewable (meaning the plant can naturally regrow after its harvested) or recycled fibers every fiscal quarter. And it's already on track with meeting the goal by using ECONYL in its tropical Wave One Piece (Buy It, $98, reformation.com) and dozens of other water-friendly finds. Plus, the company recycles two-thirds of its textile scraps and other waste and, since 2015, has been 100-percent carbon neutral (read: fully offsetting its carbon emissions by funding new projects that reduce greenhouse gas pollution). The swimsuits are also dyed in Bluesign-certified facilities, meaning they use only safe dyes to color the clothes, monitor their air and water emissions, and guarantee worker safety. (Pssst, these long-sleeved swimsuits are perfect if you're always getting sunburned.)
To ensure workers are treated fairly and have safe working conditions in other components of the manufacturing process, Reformation sources locally when possible and holds all of its suppliers to its social and environmental standards. And since more than 65 percent of the company's cutting and sewing is done in Los Angeles and a majority of its products are made in its L.A.-based factory, ensuring that these sustainable methods are put into practice is as easy as slipping into a Costa Bikini Top (Buy It, $78, reformation.com) and Mandalay Bottoms (Buy It, $68, reformation.com).
If Gabrielle Union is a fan of Mara Hoffman bikinis (Buy It, $145for top, revolve.com; $155 for bottoms, revolve.com), then it’s definitely a brand you want to get your hands on. The luxury sustainable swimwear company uses ECONYL recycled nylon and REPREVE recycled polyester—which is largely composed of post-consumer plastic bottles—in all of its suits, giving waste materials a brand new life in the process. (Related: Here's How Plastic-Free July Is Helping People Get Rid of Their Single-Use Waste)
All of the swimwear is made in Los Angeles, which not only creates a smaller carbon footprint than producing outside the U.S. but it also ensures that employees are treated fairly under the country’s worker protection laws. In order to do business with Mara Hoffman, factories must abide by a strict code of environmental and ethical guidelines, including providing overtime compensation, legally-mandated benefits to workers, integrating sustainability principles into their business decisions, allowing the right to unionize, and more. Plus, Mara Hoffman regularly visits its production factories to ensure the employees are paid fairly, treated respectfully, and have safe working conditions.
Patagonia may be known for its eco-friendly hiking gear and outdoor apparel, but it doesn’t overlook the sustainability of its swimwear line either. Pieces such as the Reversible Extended Break One-Piece Swimsuit (Buy It, $149, patagonia.com) are made with recycled nylon from scraps from weaving mills and factories, fishing nets, worn-out clothes, or old carpeting. By swapping 81 percent of the nylon fabric in its gear for the recycled version during the Spring 2020 season, Patagonia has reduced its CO2 emissions by 18 percent—more than 7 billion pounds of the greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Along with recycled nylon, their sustainable swimwear includes recycled polyester, which reduces greenhouse gas emissions that would have been produced in the creation of new polyester. (The eco-conscious company even produces top-notch sustainable activewear.)
To color fabric made from these synthetic materials, Patagonia turns to solution dyeing, which involves adding pigment directly to the molten plastic solution before the yarn fiber is made, rather than creating the yarn and then dyeing it. This process uses 90 percent less water and emits 96 percent less CO2 than a conventional batch dyeing process, which ultimately helps reduce the impacts of climate change, including flooding from a rise in sea level, extreme heat, and ocean acidification.
The workers involved in creating your bikini tops (Buy It, $69, patagonia.com) are supported too: Each swimsuit is sewn in Fair Trade-certified factories, meaning they abide by strict environmental regulations and the employees work in safe conditions and earn additional money to empower their communities. How’s that for a clear conscience? (See also: Patagonia Is Making Clothes Dyed with Bug Poop)
Meghan Markle's favorite apparel brand just got more earth-friendly. Madewell's new Second Wave swim collection contains tie-dye bikini tops and bottoms (Buy It, $45 for top, madewell.com; $45 for bottoms, madewell.com) and chic one-pieces (Buy It, $70, madewell.com) that are made from recycled plastic bottles—with eight bottles going into a single one-piece. And if the green factor doesn't convince you to add a piece of sustainable swimwear to your cart, stat, the fact that the inclusive suits come in sizes XXS to 3X will definitely win you over. (Related: You Won’t Believe These New Sweaty Betty Leggings Are Made From Recycled Water Bottles)
On the manufacturing side of the business, Madewell has a strict—and super transparent—social responsibility approach to its sourcing and production. All partner factories, suppliers, subcontractors, and more are required to follow the company's vendor code of conduct, which is based on the International Labor Organizations' protocols and other internationally recognized labor rights. Plus, independent firms regularly visit facilities to ensure they live up to those agreements; suppliers are given the tools to improve and maintain equitable working conditions and properly train employees; and employees are encouraged to establish worker committees at factories through the Better Work (which aims to improve working conditions in the garment industry) and Fair Trade programs.
prAna may be known for its comfy-meets-colorful athletic wear, but sustainability is a huge part of its mission as well. The company was the first North American apparel brand to produce Fair Trade-certified clothing, which means that the factories have safe working conditions, maternity leave, fair pay, no child or forced labor, no harmful chemicals, and more. And while its swimsuits aren't certified Fair Trade, you can still be certain they are produced under fair working conditions: prAna has been a member of the Fair Labor Association since 2010, meaning its committed to providing safe and humane working conditions through its supply chains and follows a strict set of labor standards. It even makes its own policies public on its website, sharing that their employees cannot work more than 48 hours a week, they must have the right to unionize, and the facilities need to have procedures to eliminate or minimize negative impacts of its practices on the environment.
As for the sustainable swimwear itself, prAna offers adorable color-block bikini tops and bottoms (Buy It, $60 for top, prana.com; $55 for bottoms, prana.com), as well as vibrant tankini tops (Buy It, $75, prana.com) made from ECONYL recycled nylon. More of a one-piece kind of swimmer? The seaglass-styled Neolani One Piece (Buy It, $95, prana.com) is going to be your go-to for all aqua adventures. Plus, these fierce suits offer UPF 50+, so your skin will stay protected from the sun's harsh rays while you float in the pool.