Along with warm nights and long days comes a sometimes-loved, but often-dreaded, task: finding a swimsuit. We hope this guide to ethical and sustainable swimwear brands proves helpful! Image by Vitamin A #sustainableswimwear #ethicalswimwear #sustainablejungle
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Ethical & Sustainable Swimwear for Sandy Bums and a Healthy Planet | Sustainable Fashion


It’s almost that time of year… surf, salt, and sunshine (in the Northern Hemisphere, anyway).

Along with warm nights and long days comes a sometimes-loved, but often-dreaded, task: finding a swimsuit. 

Between the bikini tops and bottoms, something doesn’t fit quite right though—and our planet agrees… 

Most bathing suits aren’t biodegradable thanks to the stretchy synthetic materials that keeps your suit on as you dive into the pool. 

And many of these materials (looking at you, polyester, nylon, and spandex) end up in landfills, or back in oceans (without you) as microplastic pollution

Fortunately, some of these ocean plastics are being transformed into ethical and sustainable swimwear by a host of different brands. 

When it comes to new (and old) synthetics, Vitamin A is blending the best recycled fabrics to make one of the most durable bikinis. In Wolven’s case, they remove an additional pound of ocean trash for every purchase. 

We should also mention Natasha Tonić, who did the unthinkable: create sustainable swimwear from UV-resistant and antimicrobial hemp. Did we mention it can also be worn as activewear and loungewear?!

For synthetic swimwear (i.e. all swimwear, sustainable or not), make sure you use a guppy wash bag in the laundry to prevent microfibers from escaping into the ocean. 

Ready to dive in?

Paddle to the end of the article to see our ethical and sustainable fashion criteria.

*This post contains affilate links 

  • Vitamin A
  • Outerknown
  • peony
  • SummerSalt
  • Boden
  • Wolven
  • Patagonia
  • Natasha Tonic
  • Kitty and Vibe
  • Aro
  • Made Trade

Along with warm nights and long days comes a sometimes-loved, but often-dreaded, task: finding a swimsuit. We hope this guide to ethical and sustainable swimwear brands proves helpful! Image by Vitamin A #sustainableswimwear #ethicalswimwear #sustainablejungle
Image by Vitamin A

Vitamin A can help us get some Vitamin D, sustainably. 

They want us to feel good about what we’re wearing—and not just because they’ve got some of the cutest ethical sustainable swimwear—but because it’s designed to fit flawlessly and last many a summer vacation. 

Grab your beach bag and get ready to fill it with some of the best sustainable swimwear for women, including tops, bottoms, and one-pieces.

You can even shop by fit (think: bandeau tops, cheeky bottoms, and everything in between). 

Materials:

Drawing inspiration from one of the brand’s (and our) favorite planet-friendly companies, Patagonia, Vitamin A was inspired by the use of recycled plastic bottles. 

After fabric suppliers made it seem impossible, they created their own recycled fabric.

EcoLux™ is the world’s first premium recycled-nylon swim fabric and is blended with Xtra Life Lycra® to give it a long-lasting fit. 

It’s been tested to demonstrate supreme durability, even when exposed to oxidation and chlorine. 

Some suits are also blended with other sustainable and high-performance fabrics like linen, recycled cotton, organic cotton, and TENCEL (often blended with 10%-20% Lycra or spandex). 

All materials are certified safe by OEKO-TEX.  

Supply chain & labor practices:

Their manufacturing partners adhere to the highest standards of environmental responsibility and workplace ethics.

They try to produce everything in California, but also partner with some fair trade artisans around the globe to provide (women especially) with safe working conditions and fair-wage jobs.

Vitamin A regularly visit these locations. 

Green business practices:

Vitamin A is still applying its first layer of sustainable sunscreen, but it looks promising. 

Last year, they partnered with the third-party organization Green Story to calculate the impact of their materials and manufacturing process. 

Now, each product has some stats about the positive impact it has in terms of waste, emissions, and energy.

They’ve also used this data to make changes in every step of their operations.

For example, prioritizing local supply chains to minimize transportation emissions and using vertically integrated facilities (meaning a lot of supply chain steps take place in one location in California, which has some of the strictest US environmental laws).

You’ll receive your environmentally sustainable swimwear in recycled, biodegradable/backyard compostable, and recyclable mailers/bags.

Inclusivity:

They have sizes to accommodate a large range of swimmers and models to represent them all! 

Most of their eco friendly swimwear range accommodates sizes 4 (XS) to 14 (DD or XXL). 

Community & charitable giving:

Vitamin A supports organizations and individuals who are protecting our planet. 

They donate a portion of sales through 1% for the Planet and use their voice to advance causes like cleaning up the oceans (through 1% for the Planet).

Available: Vitamin A

Along with warm nights and long days comes a sometimes-loved, but often-dreaded, task: finding a swimsuit. We hope this guide to ethical and sustainable swimwear brands proves helpful! Image by Outerknown (Seea) #sustainableswimwear #ethicalswimwear #sustainablejungle
Image by Outerknown (Seea)

Outerknown knows all about ethical men’s swimwear and trunks.

The company was started by surf legend Kelly Slater, after all.

Ladies, we know you can catch a wave just as well as the boys, so Outerknown makes conscious sustainable swimwear for you, too. 

Check them out for women’s swimwear through their offshoot Seea brand, which makes bikinis, one-pieces, wetsuits, rashguards, and swim shirts. 

The organic clothing company does more than just keep us catching some gnarly waves in their surf-ready attire; they keep us cozy at home with their eco friendly sweatpants, sustainable hoodies, and much more.

Materials:

We don’t really love nylon fabric, but we do love that Outerknown uses regenerated nylon from fishing nets in their ethical swimwear. 

We also love that some of their sustainable swimwear for men is made with just one thing: 100% recycled polyester.

Note they do have some trunks that are blended with recycled and virgin spandex, too. 

Seea’s suits are made from Repreve® (80% recycled polyester made from recycled plastic bottles, 20% spandex), Econyl® (80% recycled nylon, 20% spandex), and a textured fabric that will be made with recycled fibers (as of this year).  

Supply chain & labor practices:

You’ll be swimming in (hopefully) clear waters with an equally-clear conscience. Outerknown produces its trunks in a Fair Trade-certified factory that provides safe conditions and fair pay. 

Seea is a female-powered community that wants to celebrate waterwomen and their temple: the ocean.

Their materials are sourced from the USA, Italy, France, Canada, Brazil, and China and all of their garments are produced within 70 miles of their San Clemente, CA headquarters. 

Green business practices:

As born and bred adventurers, Outerknown is embracing sustainability as a journey, and is committed to constantly getting better with the help of their 2030 Sustainability Strategy. 

So far, this has meant improved circularity, increased use of renewable energy, and more.

With Seea, all women’s ethical swimwear can be sent back at the end of its life to be responsibly recycled/repaired.

Inclusivity:

Men, expect sizes 28-38, and women, sizes XS-L. We’d love for them to incorporate a larger range. 

Sizes aside, Seea is all about inspiring women to be their best selves. They’re also about “diversifying the lineup” and have produced a short film about how the 1960s civil rights movement made its way into the surf. 

While this seems like something of the past, 60% of African American children today can’t swim, compared to just 30% of white children. They also want to help change that.

Community & charitable giving:

No surprise here, but this ethical active swimwear brand regularly donates to organizations like Ocean Conservancy.

Available: Outerknown

Along with warm nights and long days comes a sometimes-loved, but often-dreaded, task: finding a swimsuit. We hope this guide to ethical and sustainable swimwear brands proves helpful! Image by peony #sustainableswimwear #ethicalswimwear #sustainablejungle
Image by peony

Like us, this independent, family-run business cares about our environment and community. 

peony is inspired by a life-long love affair with the ocean, which is what gave the sustainable swimwear brand its purpose. 

They’re a global leader for sustainable luxury swimwear for women, which includes bandeaus, hi-pants, one-pieces, bikinis, bralettes, and more. 

Materials:

Every single swimwear piece from peony is made from recycled and sustainable fabrics. For the printed fabrics, they use Econyl®, and for the textured ones, they use GRS-certified Repreve®. 

Even the lining (which makes up 50% of the total fabric content and is often overlooked), is made from recycled fabric, although they don’t elaborate about exactly what these materials are. 

Supply chain & labor practices:

This Australian sustainable swimwear brand is also committed to social ethics. 

They only work with suppliers that are SA8000 approved—ensuring ethical and fair conditions, no child/forced labor, and right to collective bargaining, among other things. 

Green business practices:

Wheat and cornstarch go into their version of a polybag, making them backyard compostable. 

Keep an eye out for their upcoming program launch to close the loop on their production processes so as to significantly reduce their environmental impact. 

Inclusivity:

Sizes run from 6-14 (AU), or 2-10 (US). This brand would really bloom for us if they included a more inclusive size range, especially on the upper end. 

Available: peony

Along with warm nights and long days comes a sometimes-loved, but often-dreaded, task: finding a swimsuit. We hope this guide to ethical and sustainable swimwear brands proves helpful! Image by Summersalt #sustainableswimwear #ethicalswimwear #sustainablejungle
Image by Summersalt

Did someone say ethical swimsuits for under $100?!

If you have affordable sustainable swimwear on your mind, check out Summersalt’s bold and brightly colored swimsuits.

Each piece is exactly $95, so you’ll have some extra cash to spare for an ice cream cone after your swim. 

Sandy bums at excellent prices are thanks to their “Honest pricing Always” guarantee. 

Swim, surf, or suntan in bikinis and one-pieces. They even carry a maternity swimwear collection and the cuuuuutest bikinis, one-pieces, and trunks for small swimmers

Sustainable swimwear for kids is important, too, especially since they grow up so darn fast and likely won’t fit in the same one next summer.

In addition to affordable ethical swimwear, the St. Louis-based brand also sells everything you’d need pre and post a long day in the sun: travel wear, activewear, and sleepwear. 

Materials:

Not to be confused with cheap “sustainable” swimwear made with sub-par materials, Summersalt’s “beach-proof” fabrics are made of 78% recycled polyamide sourced from post-consumer materials, like retired textiles and ocean-salvaged plastic. 

The rest is a highly compressive Lycra which they claim gives their suits 4x the compression and shape-retention of average suits. They conducted live wear tests in over 100 hours of chlorinated water to prove their claims.

They do note that sunscreens containing avobenzone may stain their suits.

We recommend steering clear of reef-bleaching avobenzone anyway; try some reef-safe all-natural zero waste sunscreens instead.

Supply chain & labor practices:

Summersalt has relationships with their long-term manufacturing partners and regularly visits them to ensure they continue to prioritize ethical labor practices and environmental sustainability. 

Most factories (which are located across China and Asia) are WRAP certified (or equivalent), and some are also backed up with certifications from GOTS, GRS, and BSCI. 

Green business practices:

Not only do recycled materials make it into their budget-friendly sustainable swimwear, but they go into their recycled packaging, too. 

Inclusivity:

Summersalt designs its suits to fit real women, thanks to their data-backed fit.

After taking over 1.5 million body measurements of 10,000 women, they created a wide range of styles to (swim)suit everyone. 

Take their style match quiz to find one that provides the perfect cup support and butt coverage for your beachy bliss. 

Available: Summersalt

Along with warm nights and long days comes a sometimes-loved, but often-dreaded, task: finding a swimsuit. We hope this guide to ethical and sustainable swimwear brands proves helpful! Image by Boden #sustainableswimwear #ethicalswimwear #sustainablejungle
Image by Boden

Boden’s a big brand.

While this doesn’t always bode well when it comes to sustainability, Boden is an exception. 

The Boden promise, to us and our planet, is clothes that are made well, fabrics that don’t shrink, and threads that stay threaded. 

Every garment is backed up by an “ultra-marathon of testing” to make sure they’re in it for the long haul, and they hope we’ll be wearing one of their ethical swimsuits for years to come. 

They have durable swimwear for the whole family—including ethical swimwear for kids and recycled men’s swimwear. 

Materials:

With 500+ swimwear products, unfortunately, you’ll have to backstroke several laps to find those that are made with sustainable materials. 

In particular, look for the planet-friendly section or badge on each product page. 

This includes swimwear made with fabric that includes recycled materials (although they don’t specify the recycled content %). 

Others just feature a lining made with recycled plastic bottles.

Supply chain & labor practices:

Committed to a beautiful backstory, Boden ensures their clothes are produced in safe working environments. This is a big undertaking, as Boden works with 150 factories in 15 countries.

Large supply chains are usually a red flag for us because even the best-intentioned brands (usually) won’t be able to trace their entire products’ lifecycle.

To quell our concerns, their Chinese manufacturing partners are SMETA audited and do not use any forced labor. 

All suppliers also sign a Responsible Sourcing Commitment to provide workers with additional protection.

This is based on the Ethical Trading Initiative’s Base Code, internationally recognized and based on ILO standards. 

Green business practices:

Boden has a lot of sustainability initiatives in the works. By 2023, all cotton will be either BCI-certified, organic, recycled, or fair trade. 

By 2025, their entire swimwear line will be sustainable and made with 100% recycled or regenerated materials. They’ll also be using 100% TENCEL modal by then.  

Their shipping bags are currently 80% recycled. 

Inclusivity:

We love the size range of these suits: US 2-20/22. They also offer a long and short fit, accommodating for usually ignored torso heights! 

Community & charitable giving:

Through a partnership with Scope, Boden sends all unsold garments to charities and people in need. 

They also support the work of New Life, a charity that supports parents of terminally ill children, and HERproject, which provides their women workers with education about health and nutrition


Along with warm nights and long days comes a sometimes-loved, but often-dreaded, task: finding a swimsuit. We hope this guide to ethical and sustainable swimwear brands proves helpful! Image by Wolven #sustainableswimwear #ethicalswimwear #sustainablejungle
Image by Wolven

Wolven’s trademark motto is “Make Sustainability Sexy”.

Just one look at their sacred geometry-inspired swimwear and activewear, and you’ll agree they’re doing a pretty good job. 

Not only are the vibrant colors and beautifully unique patterns sexy, but they’re super sustainable, too.

When a single product can be used several different ways, it’s better from a planetary and pocketbook standpoint. 

Wolven knows this, which is why they have a one-piece swimsuit that can be worn 8 different ways!

This holds true for their activewear, too. 

While the rest of the bikinis and one-pieces from this sustainable swimwear USA based brand aren’t as multifaceted (although most are reversible and can be worn up to 4 different ways!), they are perfect for a sustainable day in the sun. 

They have a large selection of swimsuits for women and a single pair of sustainable boardshorts for men. 

Materials:

By donning a Wolven suit, you can head to the ocean while cleaning it up at the same time.

More than 6.4 million tons of plastic trash tries to catch a wave every year, which is why Wolven is capturing it to transform into their ethical and eco friendly swimwear. 

Their swimsuits are made with mostly GRS-certified rPET (recycled polyester), along with spandex for that grab-in-all-the-right-places fit. It’s OEKO-TEX-certified to be free of nasty chemicals. 

Other products are made from modal, which is carbon neutral and made from the pulp of sustainably-harvested beech trees. 

Supply chain & labor practices:

The swimwear is ethically produced in China, by a manufacturing partner that’s certified by WCA to ensure fair work hours, health and safety standards, living wages, and solid environmental practices. 

Their other garments are produced in LA.

Green business practices:

Why China?

It’s the place to produce for anything made with recycled fabrics. 

By keeping supply chain operations there, instead of bringing materials to the US, they’re able to cut out their transportation footprint and minimize the amount of deadstock fabric they produce. 

Thanks to a partnership with Climate Neutral, their import shipments from China are 100% carbon neutral, as is your new recycled swimwear! 

They also use eco-packaging that’s biodegradable and/or recycled. 

Inclusivity:

Swimmers of all shapes and sizes can feel included and supported by Wolven. Their sustainable swimwear sizes go from XS to XL and there are models to represent each size. 

Community & charitable giving:

Like us, Wolven is a contributor to 1% for the Planet. For each sale, they remove a pound of waste from the ocean.

Available: Wolven

Along with warm nights and long days comes a sometimes-loved, but often-dreaded, task: finding a swimsuit. We hope this guide to ethical and sustainable swimwear brands proves helpful! Image by Patagonia #sustainableswimwear #ethicalswimwear #sustainablejungle
Image by Patagonia

Here’s a name that might be familiar: iconic outdoor clothing maker Patagonia, a company well aware of its inevitable environmental impact but “committed to trying” to become a truly sustainable business.  

They specialize in using sustainable fibers, such as organic cotton (which they’ve been using for decades now!), hemp, linen, and recycled polyester or nylon, in just about all their sustainable outdoor clothing.

That includes their athletic-inspired ethical swimwear for men and women, including wetsuits, trunks, bikinis, and one-pieces.

Best of all, since they’re such a large, established company, you can easily buy Patagonia’s sustainable swimwear (or just about any eco friendly attire from socks to backpacks and everything in between) at most brick-and-mortar outdoor retailers.

Materials:

All solid-colored swimsuits are made of recycled nylon and spandex.

Their Wayfarer board shorts (sold in both men’s and women’s styles with choices of different inseam lengths) are made of 100% recycled DWR-coated nylon.

Patagonia instead uses Yulex plant-based rubber for 85% of their wetsuit material (the other 15% is still petroleum-derived). The rubber itself is FSC-certified and produces 80% less climate-altering CO2.

Supply chain & labor practices:  

As part of its vow to practice Corporate Responsibility, Patagonia tracks and publicly shares every step of its spiderweb of manufacturing through The Footprint Chronicles

This also means adhering to the California Supply Chains Act of 2010 SB 657.

All garments are certified FairTrade sewn by skilled workers across the world, all of whom are paid a living wage. 

Staff regularly travel to the mills and factories to ensure they’re upholding Patagonia’s own Code of Conduct and ILO Labor standards (e.g. no child labor or human trafficking). 

Green business practices:

For a really in-depth look at Patagonia’s sustainable business model, read founder Yvon Chouinard’s memoir People-Go-Surfing–The-Education-of-a-Reluctant-Businessman–Completely-Revised-and-Updated-9780143109679″ target=”_blank” aria-label=” (opens in a new tab)” rel=”noreferrer noopener nofollow” class=”rank-math-link”>Let My People Go Surfing. 

They’ve got a lot of good stuff going on, including recycling poly shipping bags in store (until they can phase them out for a biodegradable alternative) and offering lifetime repairs through their Iron Clad Guarantee.

Stay extra cool in the summer sun with Patagonia’s pre-loved Worn Wear section, which also keeps our planet cool! 

Inclusivity:

Patagonia’s swimwear is suited to the sea and everyone who enjoys it. XS-XL sizes are available for women, and 28”-40” W sizes for men. 

Community & charitable giving:

As a founding member of the 1% for the Planet program, Patagonia gives 1% of every sale or 10% of pre-tax profits (whichever is more) to various environmental groups. 

They’ve also been known to get politically active when public lands have come under legal threat. To encourage customers to get involved in local activism, the Patagonia Action Works connects individuals to nearby grassroots initiatives and movements.

Available: Patagonia

Along with warm nights and long days comes a sometimes-loved, but often-dreaded, task: finding a swimsuit. We hope this guide to ethical and sustainable swimwear brands proves helpful! Image by Natasha Tonić #sustainableswimwear #ethicalswimwear #sustainablejungle
Image by Natasha Tonić

By weeding out unsustainable materials, we’re only left with the best, like Natasha Tonić, maker of hemp swimwear and one of the most ethical swimwear brands in the USA. 

The brand wants us to buy better.

This means minimalist, durable, wearable, versatile, sustainable, and timeless swimwear.  

Let’s touch on versatile.

Their swimsuits are designed to be season-less with the ability to be worn as activewear, bodysuits, and even sustainable lingerie. 

Women’s one-pieces, rashguards, bodysuits, and bikinis are available in a range of different style collections including, “Yin & Yang” and “Woman is a Force of Nature.” 

Materials:

NT is hemphatically embracing one of our favorite sustainable fabrics: hemp. 

Hemp as a plant produces a lot of fiber, doesn’t need a lot of water or pesticides, cleans and replenishes the soil, and removes larger-than-average amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. 

Hemp is naturally UV-resistant and antimicrobial, too, making it an ideal fabric for swimwear. 

Natasha Tonić’s hemp is produced using biodegradable softeners.

There are no acids, formaldehyde, or chemical finishes involved. Only low-impact dyes are used, which are free from heavy metals and water-soluble. 

Many of the suits are blended with OCS-certified organic cotton and some have a bit of Lycra or elastane. 

Supply chain & labor practices:

This ethical swimwear brand sources its fabric locally in the USA. 

The final suits are largely made in a Chinese factory that is a member of the Fair Wear Foundation. They also have an LA-based factory that employs mostly-female workers who are paid in accordance with California labor standards. 

Green business practices:

While they transport their US-based materials domestically using 100% electric, they get it to China using ocean freight, which is much more eco-friendly than air freight. 

Surprisingly, this produces fewer emissions than shipping a product by standard truck from Los Angeles to San Francisco! 

Every sustainable swimsuit-lingerie-activewear piece is made-to-order by hand over the course of about 5 days. This minimizes waste and allows for the perfect fit. 

Inclusivity:

Sizes run from XS-XL. 

Available: Natasha Tonić

Along with warm nights and long days comes a sometimes-loved, but often-dreaded, task: finding a swimsuit. We hope this guide to ethical and sustainable swimwear brands proves helpful! Image by Kitty and Vibe #sustainableswimwear #ethicalswimwear #sustainablejungle
Image by Kitty and Vibe

Summersalt has some competition because everything from Kitty and Vibe is under $95. 

But that’s not the only reason we love this cheap sustainable swimwear brand that exists to “awaken and fuel self-love for a kinder world.” 

Founder Cameron Armstrong has always struggled with swimwear sizes (haven’t we all?!). Her tiny booty meant a constantly sagging bikini bottom. So she started her own brand, one that throws out traditional sizing and takes both hips and butt into consideration. 

They’re doing all that by turning one woman’s trash into another woman’s treasure with their recycled plastic swimwear.

Choose from several different bikini tops (scoop, underwire, plunge, bandeau, front tie) and bottoms (cheeky, side tie, high hip, and high waisted). They also have full coverage and one-piece options available.

Materials:

While most of K&V’s suits are made from a blend of synthetics (polyamide, nylon, elastane, Lycra), we’ll stick with their Willow Vibe collection, made from 100% recycled materials! 

Supply chain & labor practices:

All “Kitties” are designed in NYC, before being printed in Bogota, Colombia. F

rom there, they go to another family-owned Colombian factory, where they’re ethically sewn in small batches. 

We’ll reach out to find out more about working conditions and wages. 

Green business practices:

Kitty and Vibe is currently in the process of fully transitioning away from plastic packing to recyclable or compostable cardboard. 

Inclusivity:

Their size inclusivity doesn’t just stop with bikini bottoms for everybooty.

This woman-owned brand also hosts body-positive pool parties where you can show off your plus size sustainable swimwear. 

And their model selection is the most real we’ve seen in the world of ethical and sustainable swimwear. 

Speaking of real models, they want “kindness and your beautiful self.”

AKA they want you to model for them!

You can fill out an interest form on their website. No professional experience needed, all ages, styles, and sizes welcome.


10. ARO

Along with warm nights and long days comes a sometimes-loved, but often-dreaded, task: finding a swimsuit. We hope this guide to ethical and sustainable swimwear brands proves helpful! Image by Aro #sustainableswimwear #ethicalswimwear #sustainablejungle
Image by ARO

Wearable, flattering, and eco-friendly.

What more could you want from sustainable swimwear?

ARO’s bikinis and one-pieces are all of that and so much more. 

Their “effortlessly chic” swimwear is designed for a beach day but can also double as a shirt for a chill day indoors, too.

Materials:

ARO uses both upcycled and recycled materials. 

The upcycled fabrics come from deadstock from other companies. Their recycled fabrics are created by a blend of mostly-recycled fibers and are only used when deadstock isn’t available. 

Expect to see around 85% recycled fabric blended with about 15% spandex in most swimsuits. 

Supply chain & labor practices:

ARO has only one manufacturing partner located in Indonesia. We’ll be reaching out to learn more about the ethics of their supply chain. 

Green business practices:

ARO uses compostable packaging made from a bio-based polymer and corn and wheat PLA. 

It’s “certified for both home and commercial compost”, though they also state it takes 180 to fully break down, which means it’s not technically home compostable… We’ll be reaching out to clarify.

They also have practices in place to reduce manufacturing waste, particularly that of fabric offcuts, which their manufacturing partner turns into shopping bags for both employees (encouraging them to cut out single-use shopping bags) and organizations in need.

Their manufacturing partner goes further to educate about sustainability through their reduce-reuse-recycle program, in which they have educated all workers and the local community about proper recycling (with the help of local NGO Eco Bali).

Inclusivity:

In their words, “ARO’s luxe line is designed for all body types”, but currently their sizes only run from XS-L. It would be great to see a larger range and models representing all swimmers and sunbathers. 

As a self-defined luxury brand, they’re probably not the brand to check out when looking for sustainable affordable swimwear, but they do have a pretty impressive sale section.

Available: ARO

Along with warm nights and long days comes a sometimes-loved, but often-dreaded, task: finding a swimsuit. We hope this guide to ethical and sustainable swimwear brands proves helpful! Image by Made Trade (Bold Swim) #sustainableswimwear #ethicalswimwear #sustainablejungle
Image by Made Trade (Bold Swim)

Made Trade has made our list before. Several times, actually.

The ethical online marketplace is a one-stop-shop for literally anything and everything under the sun.

From dinnerware and home decor to scarves and sweaters, they’re like a fair trade gift that keeps on giving.

Even with such a vast range of products, they still manage to only source the most ethical and sustainable from a global group of small businesses and artisans. 

From a shopper’s perspective, they make it easy to align with one’s values, whether you’re after something made in the USA, produced by a BIPOC or woman-owned brand, or handcrafted by a Fair Trade artisan. 

Your ethical swimwear purchase can tick these boxes (and more) thanks to Made Trade’s partnerships with small, ethical brands like Sensi Graves, Saturday Swimwear, BOLD Swim, Altar, Arielle, Wolven, and more. 

Materials:

With two pages of women’s ethical swimsuits and several different brands, there are several materials used.

Fortunately, Made Trade makes it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for, like ethical vegan swimwear for example. Use the VALUE filter to select “Sustainable” or “Vegan” based on the materials you’re after. 

For the most part, Econyl® and Repreve® will cover your bits as you perfect your butterfly stroke.

Other materials like recycled polyester and upcycled deadstock fabrics might also make an appearance at the beach bonfire.  

BOLD Swim uses biodegradable Amni Soul Eco® yarn, a polyamide yarn (so still petroleum-based) that fully biodegrades in 5 years (in landfill) compared with 50+ years for most synthetics.  

Supply chain & labor practices:

Again, lots of supply chains to mention but Made Trade simplifies things.

Each product includes where materials are sourced and produced (mostly Brazil, Portland, Oregon, New York City, and China). 

Some of the brands use fair trade practices, too.

While Made Trade does their own vetting, it doesn’t hurt to do some digging for seashells of your own before picking a brand.

Green business practices:

When you order American made sustainable affordable swimwear (or any other swimwear) from Made Trade, you’ll receive it courtesy of carbon-neutral shipping.  

Inclusivity:

Sizes vary with each brand but BOLD swim is BEST for an inclusive range of sizes (S-XXL). Sensi Graves is a close second (XS-XL). Both use models representing all people who enjoy a day at the pool. 

The majority of the swimwear brands are women and/or BIPOC-owned, too! Made Trade is also owned by a woman. 

Community & charitable giving:

Made Trade is a contributor to 1% for the Planet. 

Available: Made Trade

Conventional swimwear is typically made of virgin petroleum-based nylon, polyester, and lycra.

In other words, various types of plastic that will never biodegrade and fuel our need to continue drilling for more petroleum. 

The amount of plastic manufactured between 2000 and 2010 (including that for clothing) was more than that of the entire last century.

Read that sentence again. 

When you consider that fast fashion profits on poor design and planned obsolescence, it’s hardly a wonder we’re burning through plastic at a horrifying pace.

Most swimsuits are so cheaply made that they stretch out and fall apart (or worse, fall right off as you dive in the pool) practically every summer. If they don’t, trendiness tricks us into buying the latest summer’s style anyway. 

Mainstream swimwear is dead in the water.


Normally, we include a brief breakdown of our sustainable and ethical fashion criteria, but given the complexity of swimwear specifically, we’d like to start by really diving off the deep end into the most important of our criteria: materials.  

So, what constitutes sustainable swimwear fabric?

When it comes to sustainable fashion, the most ideal fabrics are organic ones that have the ability to entirely biodegrade at the end of their life.

These fabrics include organic cotton, hemp, linen, and bamboo. 

But when it comes to swimwear, whose sole purpose is to maintain fit and shape when wet, sometimes organic materials just aren’t durable enough.

Since sustainability = durability, the best sustainable swimwear is swimwear that lasts. 

Plus, it’ll save you money in the long run, so it’s a swim swim!

While some brands on this list are using small amounts of linen, recycled cotton, organic cotton, and hemp, the majority fell into the category of recycled swimwear brands

Recycled synthetic fabrics may not have quite as good an end-of-life outcome as compostable fabrics, but using recycled swimwear fabrics is still good for a number of reasons: 

  1. It reduces the need for crude oil harvesting. 
  2. It repurposes non-biodegradable plastic waste, reducing plastic build-up in landfills and oceans.
  3. It requires 90% less water and 85% less energy and produces 75% fewer CO2 emissions. It’s considered much more favorably on the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s home” target=”_blank” aria-label=” (opens in a new tab)” rel=”noreferrer noopener” class=”rank-math-link”>Material Sustainability Index.
  4. The process of recycling these fabrics is practically infinite. They can be made from melted plastic, then melted down and remade into new fibers for new swimsuits. This advantage, of course, relies on us as consumers to properly dispose of them. Let’s step up!

Recycled synthetics can encompass a lot of things, both polyester and nylon, but most ethical swimwear on this list is made from nylon, such as Econyl (produced by the Italian company Aquafil) and EcoLux™. 

Econyl is spun from recovered ocean plastics, primarily abandoned fishing nets, or ghost nets. These nets account for 1/10th of all ocean litter (about 640,000 tons of fishing nets every year). 

Since a mere one of these tons produces enough nylon fiber to make 10,000 swimsuits, there’s no shortage of material.

The innovations in this fashion field are really inspiring. Using these recycled alternatives means we’re not just reducing demand for more oil but also turning dangerous, indestructible trash into something useful. 

You’ll still find most companies on this list use a small blend of virgin Lycra, which is not considered a sustainable fabric but the argument here is for durability. 

The lycra helps increase the elasticity of swimwear so it maintains its shape and lasts much longer, which helps balance out the unsustainability of Lycra itself. Having said that, we’re eagerly awaiting some meaningful innovation on the sustainable of Lycra! 

In the same vein as our articles on ethical underwear and ethical activewear, we also looked for things beyond materials to determine the ethical integrity of these brands:

Supply chain and labor practices:

Safe and fair wages and local supply chains are a few ways that swimwear can feel really snug and socially ethical. Third-party certifications are another!

Green business practices:

In addition to the usual pro-planet practices, like recyclable/compostable packaging, carbon-neutral shipping, we were also happy to see made-to-order swimwear and options to return suits for repairs or responsible recycling. 

Inclusivity:

It turns out that 82% hate trying on swimwear and feel the need to “prepare” their bodies for that perfect fit. These brands show us that EVERYONE looks great in a cheeky bottom bathing suit. Some even have body-positive parties to celebrate!

Overall, there was a pretty inclusive size range offered (sometimes even data-backed). We were also happy to see a lot of women-owned swimwear brands!

Community & charitable giving:

From monetary donations to social and environmental organizations to donations of unsold swimsuits, we love to see the tide come full circle and a brand’s success translate to doing good elsewhere.

Are wetsuits and neoprene sustainable?

A quick note on this, just in case you’re in the market for a sustainable wetsuit. Headline is that neoprene is pretty nasty stuff.  

The most common environmental concern cited is that neoprene is made using petrochemicals, obviously something we all want to avoid as much as possible. Per Patagonia, it was originally used to line landfills so truly the antithesis of a sustainable material. 

So where does this leave us in our search for sustainable alternatives?

Here are the neoprene alternatives that are currently hailed as more sustainable, although unfortunately, it looks like the industry still has a long way to go to make meaningful change:

  • Natural rubber: plant based and made by either Arizona-based, Yulex (FSC certified) or Taiwan based Sheico Group (NaturalPrene). This is Patagonia’s choice of wetsuit material.
  • Japanese Limestone Neoprene: Made by Japan’s Yamamoto Corporation and considered more sustainable than traditional neoprene because it is made from limestone instead of petroleum and is argued to be extremely durable.

However, some (including Patagonia) disagree about the sustainability attributes of Japanese Limestone Neoprene, arguing it is still made from a non-renewable resource. Greenwashing, perhaps?

So clear as mud then… there’s still a lot more work to be done in the sustainable wetsuit department so opt for secondhand if you can. 



The time to sink or swim is now.

As a society, we need to take the plunge toward plastic-free oceans. 

We hope this guide to ethical and sustainable swimwear brands has been helpful in your search for summertime sustainability. Let us know if it has and how it goes if you try any of these brands.

Remember to use this list as a resource only when you need to upgrade. If you have a functional swimsuit already, keep using it until you can’t, then find a way to recycle it properly. 

Let’s all channel our inner Dory and just keep swimming toward a cleaner, healthier planet by supporting brands swimming against the tide!


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