Plastic probably isn’t the first thing you think of when you're scheduled to hit the gym, pavement, barre or mat - especially when you’re busy willing your sleepy head off your peace silk pillowcase. Just us? Anywho, the purpose of Plastic Free July flies a big blatant flag to remind us just how often we use plastic in our everyday routine. Yes, you can reduce, reuse and recycle while you pump iron, you little multitasker.
Let’s start with a scary bedtime story (that is sure to get that BPM up). According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the world is producing twice as much plastic waste as two decades ago, with the bulk of it ending up in landfill, incinerated or leaking into the environment. Only 9% of plastic is recycled. Well, 15% is collected for recycling, but 40% of that is disposed of as residues. Feel ill yet?
Plastic consumption has quadrupled over the past 30 years, driven by growth in emerging markets and currently accounting for 3.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And, despite global efforts, we’re wasting more - a lot more. And for a country like Australia, surrounded by beautiful beaches and waterways inhabited by the most unique creatures on the planet - there is now an estimated 30 million tonnes of plastic waste in seas and oceans.
Nearly two-thirds of plastic waste comes from plastics with lifetimes of under five years, with 40% coming from packaging, 12% from consumer goods, and 11% from clothing and textiles. The silver lining is that these 3 categories fit squarely into how you work out; the cute outfits you wear and who you buy them from, how you hydrate during after the workout, and the equipment and props you use to get those toned buns.
So, if you want to keep flaunting those washboard, bikini-ready abs on beautiful, natural beaches, lakes and rivers - here are 5 plastic free exercise swaps you can do to reduce your impact wherever and whenever you work out.
Hot, sweaty tip: if your idea of a workout is hiking and camping through our natural facilities, make sure you’re clued in on the 7 Leave No Trace principles. That’s what we call happy campers.
Plastic Free Swap #1: Polyester tights for natural fibre clothing
For the reasons mentioned above, it’s important to get as close as you can to plastic-free workout gear. Don’t worry, your bum can still look like a million dollars without surplus spandex.
The benefits of natural fibre leggings, sports bras and tanks don’t stop at the environment. You know how some of your exercise clothes reek of gym lockers as soon as they get a drop of sweat on them? Think of your polyester or nylon tights like a plastic bag… plastic bags don’t breathe. What do you think is happening to your poor little pores under all that plastic? Yep, acne in crazy places!
We recommend sussing out what your favourite brands are using in those best-selling leggings. When in doubt, Girlfriend Collective is steadfast in ethical manufacturing and using recycled materials, Nagnata uses predominantly GOTS-certified organic cotton and Merino wool in their collections, and Butter Butter not only focuses on materials, but packaging and factory standards.
Plastic Free Swap #2: Plastic bottles for reusable water bottles
Probably one of the greatest catalysts for the impending apocalypse. Plastic water bottles! Forgetting your water bottle at the gym could very well mean staring down the barrel of a vending machine full of non-recyclable plastic. Imagine for every forgetful person and their every workout - there was a plastic bottle used. Gross!
Instead of wasting a few dollars on a 7-11 drive-by, try looking for reusable water bottles that are just too pretty to leave behind. And, set a reminder if you’ve got a week’s worth of work on your mind. We love Porter Green and their beautiful pastel range of stainless steel water bottles that come in at 1L for your every workout. Or, Klean Kaneteen has a range of designs with Klean Coat™ powder coat finish that is durable, chip-resistant and safe for people and the planet.
Plastic Free Swap #3: Hair ties for eco-scrunchies
With countless lost hair ties in the wild (literally), while they may have snapped on you - they haven’t exactly broken down and started fertilising your veggie patch. Plus, those pesky ‘elastics’ have done more damage than good to your hair in the process.
This is why we, NIDRA, make our famously eco-friendly, and devilishly good-looking scrunchies for the good of your hair, and the planet. They are made from 100% Organic Ahimsa Silk (which is much more ethical than other silks on the market). All our scrunchies are made from off-cuts from our pillow cases which are responsibly sourced in India and designed and made in Australia. Plus, the Eco-Elastic inside our scrunchies is made from GOTS-certified cotton and natural rubber from FSC Forests, so you can feel good about your hair staying put while you’re in a back-bend. And to seal the deal, all our products are packaged and shipped in materials that are completely compostable. Take a look, here.
Plastic Free Swap #4: Plastic props for eco-friendly substitutes
Plastic abounds in the gym and the pilates studio, and while the natural world is your oyster - we get it, nothing quite gets the blood pumping like some of your favourite classes. From your sweat towel to your yoga mat, there are ways and means of reducing, reusing and recycling.
Swap that sweat towel, rag-type thing with something good for your face, and the earth. Gym Face towels are made with recycled bottles and microfibre to minimise bacterial growth, keeping them cleaner for longer, and yogi enthusiasts Alo offer an ultra-absorbent, microfiber tech towel, you’ll have on hand (and face) for a lifetime.
As for your yoga mat, we’ve found a pretty definitive list of mats made from everything from natural, biodegradable rubber to cork and recycled materials - and are latex-free.
Plastic Free Swap #5: Post-gym beauty plastics for natural ingredients
So now that you’ve mopped up your sweat with a recycled sweat towel, put your hair up with a peace silk scrunchie and replenished yourself via your stainless steel water bottle, it's time to leave the gym looking just as cool, calm and collected as when you entered.
Ditch the BO and the plastic, with the swap of the season; natural deodorants. No Pong takes the cake with a range of naturally derived ingredients for every type of skin type, while Ethique’s Botanica keep sweat and smells away with magnesium hydroxide, zinc oxide and bamboo (which absorbs 200% of its own weight in sweat and oil).
To keep that skin dewy and fresh, we recommend a good sunscreen post-workout to ensure your skin stays moisturised and safe from UV rays. We Are Feel Good Inc offers clean sunscreens free from fragrance, PABAs, parabens, oxybenzone and octinoxate, and Grown Alchemist offers a lush vegan and cruelty-free sunscreen with broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection with SPF 30.