Fast fashion uses plastics like Lycra, polyester and polyamide (nylon), to churn out massive amounts of swimwear, more than consumers could ever buy. This has resulted in record amounts of clothing waste, not to mention cheap labor and C02 emissions – all of which are bad for the economy and planet.
Thankfully a reformation is taking place in the world of sustainable fashion.
Sustainable bathing suit brands believe beachwear should not only use renewable materials and look amazing, it should also last more than one season and be crafted humanely and responsibly, whether it’s handmade or machine-manufactured.
Join the fight against throwaway clothing and plastics pollution by buying beach essentials like swimwear, beach towels, flip flops and sunscreen from sustainable brands.
Below are some of the most well-known and innovative sustainable swimwear brands to help you find the most important eco-friendly beach essential: the perfect swimsuit.
The Best Sustainable Bathing Suits in 2020
1. JETS Swimwear Parallels Banded One Piece
Jets Swimwear is a premium sustainable Australian swimwear brand that is a long-term participant in the Ethical Clothing Australia accreditation process.
Supporting the environment is a key focus, and JETS is renowned for innovative, high-quality fabrics like Renew Plus, which utilizes Econyl, and for engaging in transparent and compliant sustainable manufacturing processes to protect the environment and improve conditions in the clothing and textile industries.
When it comes to swimsuits, JETS is known for creating timeless designs that are smooth, elegant and sleek, which is everything this one-piece bathing suit about. Made from nylon and elastane, it has an athletic-inspired shape and crossing banded straps balanced by lavish sheer inserts, a sweetheart neckline and low back detailing for a sophisticated ensemble that is never out of place, no matter the setting.
2. Vitamin A Drifter Beach Sweater Tunic
Incredibly sustainable, Vitamin A leads the way in the use of EcoLux, a recycled nylon fiber that produces a superfine matte jersey fabric. In fact, the founder, Amahlia, invented it in the midst of working with mills in Italy and California.
The company also uses other unique and eco-friendly materials made from castor beans, BioRib, and nylon scraps, EcoRib. Recycled linen, cotton, Tencel (a wood pulp textile) and various other eco-friendly fabrics are also used in their beachwear.
Vitamin A will never let you down for cute items, and this cover up is no exception. Designed with a feminine neckline and loose, slouchy fit, it is the perfect piece to throw on for your way home from a long beach day or for extra warmth when it gets a little windy resting near the waves. Made sustainably in California from beech tree pulp (modal), spandex and polyester, it’s super-soft and comfortable.
3. Faherty Color Block Beacon Trunks
Dedicated to making thoughtful decisions concerning the planet, customers and their community, Faherty is a brand that is about sustainability, even when it is difficult. Their swimwear is made mostly using recycled fibers to create reversible swimsuits for versatile minimalism and they are members of 1% for the Planet, contributing at least 1% of their annual sales to environment-related causes.
Available in Jade Navy, the men’s Beacon Trunks are crafted with a poly made from recycled plastic waste, cotton and elastane. The mid-weight sustainable fabric is durable, breathable and soft for board shorts that dry quickly, move freely with you and provide for all day comfort.
A full mesh lining and elastic waist secure the fit and the styling offers a cool vintage look that’ll turn heads whether you’re lounging poolside or taking on the surf.
4. Mara Hoffman Mina Cut-Out One Piece Swimsuit
Well-known for her incredible ethical fashion line, Mara Hoffman’s bathing suit line has proven to be just as amazing.
Produced responsibly, every piece of swimwear is made with Econyl, regenerated nylon fiber created from consumer and industrial waste or Repreve, polyester fiber created from plastic bottles. So far, Mara Hoffman has removed over 17,500 pounds of waste from landfills, with fishing nets accounting for over 4,440 pounds alone.
The Mina, in Superstar Lilac, captures Mara Hoffman’s signature high-waisted bikini briefs and vibrant prints in a one-piece design that features cut-outs on either side and a tie-back closure. You get a bikini look from the back and a sophisticated, fun design in the front. Made from Repreve and spandex, it arrives in a plastic poly bag that is compostable.
5. Fair Harbor Boardshorts
You don’t have to look far to see how deeply Fair Harbor cares about cleaning our water because every swimsuit they produce is made from 11 plastic bottles collected from the world’s shores. That’s not all, however. They take it upon themselves to personally visit production factories regularly, ensuring their beachwear is being manufactured ethically.
Designed by passionate East Coast Surfers and made with quick-drying recycled polyester fabric, this is one comfortable pair of boardshorts, capable of withstanding the roughest waves. Thoughtfully designed, they feature a seamless fly closure, two side pockets, a zippered back pocket, a key ring and a tailored fit that perfectly balances free movement with a flattering shape.
One pair of swim shorts at a time, Fair Harbor is out to save the world’s oceans.
6. Sensi Graves Katie Bikini Top
As a professional kiteboarder, Sensi Graves founded her company to make comfortable, high-performance swimwear. Utilizing recycled Italian, Spanish and American fabrics, and working with quality seamstresses from the USA, Sensi Graves produces premium bikinis that won’t get lost in the surf in Los Angeles. Besides ethical swimwear, the company uses recycled packaging and is a member of 1% for the Planet, donating a minimum of 1% of their sales to environmental causes.
One of the best-selling styles for Sensi Graves, the Katie top is essential activewear for nautical women. Made from Econyl, it has a fully lined high-neck top, a flattering front cutout and a nice scoop back. As it’s a pullover, there are no closures to worry about coming undone. Super soft and breathable, it includes removable bra cups for more comfort when necessary.
7. United by Blue Longbow Scallop Boardshorts
United by Blue uses recycled and natural materials to create awesome classic women’s and men’s board shorts. They are very serious about cleaning up the world’s precious water, removing one pound of trash from waterways and oceans with every sale they make and pledging to remove all single-use plastics from their supply chain by spring 2020. Not content at stopping there, United by Blue also only partners with certified factories that have the highest standards for personnel and their working facilities.
The Longbow Scallop Boardshorts walk a thin like between swimming and hiking the trail, giving you the chance to have it all. Slightly tapered to the knee for a modern appeal, the scalloped leg creates an almost retro look. Durable and high performing, they are made from organic cotton, recycled polyester and spandex.
8. Alyned Together Katie Jane One Piece Swimsuit
Alyned Together creates eco-friendly swimwear upcycling around 80 – 90% recycled polyester at affordable price points. Their collections work for every body type, offering flattering silhouettes and gorgeous designs, and it’s one of the first sustainable swimwear companies that is size-inclusive, with a range of XS to 3X.
Featuring peekaboo mesh detailing that hits right above the natural waistline, the Katie Jane is Alyned Together’s take on the modern maillot one piece. Removable cups and adjustable straps give you control over the fit you want and the support you need, and the fabric’s UPF 50+ offers sun protection for your skin.
Sustainably made from recycled polyester and spandex, it reduces its footprint even more with minimal labelling and is packaged in a compostable bag that biodegrades by 70% in 40 days.
9. Peony Swimwear Sangria Bikini Top
A family-run business that cares for the community and environment, Peony Swimwear is committed to changing the negative impact the fashion industry has had on the planet. Every piece of swimwear is made from recycled and sustainable fabrics, including prints, inner linings and custom textures.
Peony Swimwear also works to minimize the impact that manufacturing has on labor, engaging in fair trade and only working with certified SA8000 approved suppliers, ensuring fair and ethical compliance regarding working conditions and labor laws.
A charming bikini top with an unexpected, yet welcome texture, both the outer shell and inner lining are made using over 90% recycled polyester. It features a sporty cut that is super flirtatious and playful, a buckle closure and adjustable straps. You’ll confidently swim, run and jump around the beach all day.
A Buyer’s Guide to Ethical Beach Essentials
Giving up fast fashion to support sustainable swimwear is a big deal, but it is just the beginning. So many products that are made for the beach or warm weather do damage to our air, water and soil as well as take a toll on human life.
For a truly sustainable lifestyle, purchase ethical beach essentials along with your next pair of trunks or bikini.
The first essentials that pop into most heads are products like sunglasses and flip flops; there are a few others that you may not think about as seasonal, but are items often bought for a beach day.
Towels are the first thing many people consider to be just as important as a swimsuit. At least two are typically needed: A bath sheet or bath towel to stake your patch of dry sand while you swim and frolic as well as keep your skin protected from the hot sand, and a hand towel to dry off with after getting out of the water
For an eco-friendly towel, organic cotton towels that are certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) are the absolute best. These towels are 100% organic cotton, free of chemicals and dyes and are manufactured sustainably.
Google beach essentials and a beach tote will be in every image: you simply cannot carry your beach essentials to the beach without a beach bag that can fit everything without breaking apart or hurting your shoulders.
There are plenty of vegan, organic and fair trade totes to choose from and a ton of styles. Look for companies that partner with local artisans and high-quality factories to produce their products.
You probably own multiple pairs of sunglasses because they are such an inexpensive item, which is precisely why it’s so important to buy eco-friendly sunglasses; they are more durable, use recycled plastic or wood and provide maximum sun protection. You’ll also find some of the most innovative and cool designs in the market.
Sunglasses made using recycled materials are some of the best options as they use recycled wood, leather, skateboard decks and even fishing nets as materials. This means they are removing plastic from the world’s oceans and no extra waste is being created.
Ingredients used in chemical sunscreens have caused serious damage to coral reefs and can disrupt the human body’s hormonal balance. Reef-safe sunscreens are critical to use for your health and the health or our marine life.
Eco-friendly sunscreen is made using the minerals zinc oxide and titanium oxide to filter harmful UV rays, reflecting them away from the skin. These eco-friendly sun protectors are reef safe because they aren’t packed full of nasty chemicals that leave behind toxic residues that can harm reefs or the organisms that depend on them.
As an alternative to conventional chemical formulas, many people think they may not work as well but this is not true. Plenty of reef-safe sunscreens provide full coverage from harmful UV rays, come in sport versions and last just as long, if not longer, than conventional sunscreen.
What do you put on when you get a little chilly, sunburned or are feeling a bit modest? A cover up of course! Organic cotton T-shirts, sweaters and tunics as well as eco-friendly kaftans all make for wonderful beach attire when you’re lounging or taking a breather until it’s time to get active again.
Since cotton requires the most water and chemicals to produce than any other crop in the world, companies that create organic cotton coverups help the environment in many ways. Unlike non-organic cotton, sustainable farming practices are used to grow cotton without the use of harmful pesticides and insecticides and uses almost 90% less water.
Again, when it comes to organic cotton, the best will be GOTS certified.
Even when you’re not at the beach, water bottles are an essential part of life to keep busy people hydrated as they go through their day. Great for holding water, they can hold juice or your beach drink of choice.
Unlike single-use plastic water bottles that plague our environment, eco-friendly water bottles can be reused over and over again, saving you money and protecting your body from harmful chemicals and materials. You’ll also notice that your water is more delicious; this isn’t because you’re sitting next to beautiful ocean waves, though – plastics aren’t leaking into your water, changing the taste.
No shoe screams beach more than flip flops, the perennial shoe of summer. Eco-friendly flip flops are made with eco-friendly materials that don’t compromise by way of style and design. You can find vegan shoes and flip flops made from recycled cork or styles that utilize recycled plastic.
Companies making sustainable flip flops should be looked at closely as some produce shoes that can contain the harmful material PVC, while still technically being compliant as an eco-friendly product.
Flip flops made from vegan leather and recycled materials are the most sustainable because these materials are both renewable and biodegradable.
Full Beach Day Essentials
For the days you know you are spending the entire day at the beach, whether alone or with a group, these eco-friendly beach essentials are a necessity.
Plastic straws litter shorelines but many more are already floating around in the oceans and lakes. When you commit to using eco-friendly straws, though, you can feel good about doing your part to help the environment while sipping on a refreshing drink.
Reusable straws are made from a range of materials, including glass, stainless steel, silicone and bamboo. The best option will depend on what feels best for your mouth and which is easiest to carry around with you. Throw it in your beach tote with no worries as it has become standard for them to come in travel pouches to make portability easier.
Eco-single use options are also available, and are a great choice if you’ve been tasked with bringing enough for everyone. Made from compostable materials ranging from paper to actual wheat, these straws can be tossed into the garbage after the beach fun is over and done with.
When you leave the beach at night, the unfortunate amount of plastic cups and bottles left behind by some beachgoers can be disheartening. Leave the sand and water in the best condition possible by bringing your own set of recycled drinking glasses.
Mostly made from recycled glass, they can be used over and over again without worrying about nasty chemicals leaching into your drinks. Built strong and tough, it takes a lot to break these and they come in great colors and designs to enhance any drink and, in all honesty, make you look pretty stylish too.
If you can’t really see yourself packing drinking glasses made from actual glass, you have another eco-friendly option: recycled plastic drinking glasses. Super cute and inexpensive, these drinking glasses are perfect for beach day because they are disposable and biodegradable.
You may be one of those people who refuse to sit on the sand or who just enjoy a luxurious day at the beach more with a chair. Regardless of the why, outdoor furniture is great for elevating a beach day.
Recycled plastic outdoor furniture is easy to maintain and looks fantastic! Made of poly wood, a material that uses post-consumer waste, it looks like wood furniture, with the premium brands being even harder to distinguish from natural wood.
Bring a lounge chair or picnic table to the beach made from poly lumber because it is lightweight and the color never fades, thanks to UV protection. Poly wood furniture can also handle harsh elements like salt water that would usually break other materials down or cause them to rust.
This Summer is About Sustainability
The hunt for sustainable swimwear and ethical beach essentials can be a tough one, but more companies are stepping up to take responsibility for the planet and so are consumers.
By supporting the brands above, you become a part of the mission to clean the environment, and you’ll feel and look great doing it.