Yoga Pants are Destroying the Planet

Ironically, the pants people wear while meditating about world peace are polluting the ocean with microplastics

With New Agey names like Awake, Enlight, Balance and Align and a $100 price tag, you’d think those $100 Lululemon yoga pants  would be made of recycled, organic hemp in a fair-trade factory under a rainbow. But, alas, they’re made of 100% petroleum-based polyester, aka plastic.

And just like all other plastics, they end up in the ocean, via your washing machine.

Every time you wash your yoga pants, gym clothes or any other garment made from synthetic material, you’re shedding microscopic plastic fibers — called “microfibers” into natural waterways, which eventually make their way to the ocean.

University of Florida researchers are now discovering that more than 80 percent of the the micro-plastics found in the ocean are actually micro-fibers from synthetic clothing:

Funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), the researchers launched a two-year study earlier this year to discover the source of the micro-plastic pollution accumulating in the Gulf of Mexico.

When they set out they expected to find mostly micro-beads, tiny brightly-colored plastic balls found in body washes, face scrubs and other bath products, until the U.S. Government banned them in 2015, because they were harming fish and other sea life.

Instead, they found the majority of the pollution, 82%, is originating from our closets — stretchy yoga clothes, sweat-wicking athletic wear and synthetic jackets.

“Anything that’s nylon or polyester, like the fleece-type jackets,” University of Florida researcher Maia McGuire told the Associated Press.

Other recent studies are finding that microfibers, like other micro-plastics, end up in the stomachs of fish and other seafood like oysters.

Instead of outlawing synthetic clothing, the way micro-beads were outlawed, government advisors recommend making washing machine manufacturers responsible for solving the problem.

“It would be really great if the washing machine companies would get on board and come up with a filter to trap these microfibers,” said Caitlin Wessel, regional coordinator for NOAA’s Marine Debris Program. “I think there’s a big push right now — nobody really disagrees that marine debris is an issue that needs to be addressed.”

Wessel said the problem also needs to be addressed at wastewater treatment plants.

Patagonia, a clothing company that makes recycled polyester jackets and other synthetic apparel, responded to the news by saying it would support research into microfiber pollution and educate consumers about how to minimize shedding. They now offer a “GuppyFriend” washing bag, at cost, to catch microfibers so they can be thrown in a trashcan instead of washed down the drain.

Prana, another popular yoga-clothes company, seems to be catching on to the trend toward natural fibers as it now offers yoga pants made from 50% hemp and 50% organic cotton, as alternatives to it’s 100% plastic-wear.

Amazon has several good 100% organic cotton and 100% bamboo options:

It seems difficult to find yoga pants made of 100% hemp, but it doesn’t look difficult to make your own:

In a post titled “Is Your Yoga Fashion Destroying the Planet?” blogger Elissa Jordan offers a few tips on how to lighten our fashion footprint:

  • Look for natural fabrics and natural color practices, it’s no good to get a bamboo t-shirt if it uses the same old wasteful dying practices
  • Realize that natural fibers still use up a ton of clean water and good soil to grow, so only buy what you need
  • When you do need to buy something new invest in something that will last, change your habits from quantity to quality
  • Never throw anything away: when clothes lose their usefulness donate them to charity, cut them up for cleaning rags, meet up with friends for a swap, or make do and mend.
  • Wash clothes in cold water and line dry when possible. Not only does this save a ton of energy, it keeps clothes from falling apart and makes them last longer

“Water has become an issue to the point that people are waging wars against each other for access to more of it,” Jordan writes.

3.4 million people die each year due to lack of clean water, making it the world’s leading cause of death.

“Decide on your priorities,” she writes. “A fantastically tailored, brightly colored outfit to wear when you come to practice on your mat or a habitable world for your grandchildren, great-grandchildren.”

RELATED: Time for a Global Ban on Disposable Plastic?

RELATED: 10 Tips for Using Less Plastic





51 responses to “Yoga Pants are Destroying the Planet”

  1. Heather Lockwood Avatar
    Heather Lockwood

    Utilize fresh roadkill and make your own clothes from leather! ✌️

    1. Alice Campbell Avatar
      Alice Campbell

      The fall edition of Mother Earth News tells you how to tan your own deer hide.

    2. KenG. Avatar

      …and make sure to tan those hides with fluid made from natural household urine!

  2. Joe Schultz Avatar

    Synthetic spider silk can change all this. Patagonia and North Face are resting products now. Check out Bolt Threads.

  3. Radha Kauai Avatar

    By going vegetarian, we can reduce the impact of climate change, rainforest destruction, and pollution, while saving water and other precious resources. In fact, raising animals for food produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the cars, planes, and other forms of transportation combined. So go vegetarian/vegan and Worry about your yoga pants later

    1. Dead fish Avatar
      Dead fish

      Later when the ocean ecosystems suffocate in micro plastics?

    2. Grace Avatar

      Actually, organic farming is a hugely inefficient drain on the ecosystem, nut millks are HUGE water wasters, as in California where the almond farms contributed at least half of the draught that is now fueling these fires… and South American countries that used to subsist primarily on quinoa are now starving since it’s become so outrageously trendy. I try to buy bamboo everything. It’s honestly just a superior fiber to begin with, despite being made from a completely self renewing grass.

      1. mel Avatar

        bamboo is fabulous for wood and as a plant but to turn it into cloth is actually a toxic process as well. i was so bummed to learn this..

    3. Chris Avatar

      By not having kids, you can do 60+ times as much as going vegan. And, not having kids is 17x saves 17 times more than every other thing you can do (vegan, all solar, led lights, cold water washes etc.

      1. weldboy Avatar

        Not have pets 15x more energy saving than not having kids so if you truly want to save the planet have your dogs and cats put down and never have another

        1. pam Avatar

          Better than not having kids or pets or going vegan or completely green, the way to save the most energy is to turn yourself into fertilizer.

        2. I.M. Pistoff Avatar
          I.M. Pistoff

          I’d sooner have pets than the like of you. Put yourself down.

    4. Gale Toko-Ross Avatar
      Gale Toko-Ross

      We can take more than one action at a time…at the same time, it’s important not to be overwhelmed by the plethora of possibilities that could help in various ways.
      Worth noting that near the end of the article, there’s an ad for waterproof fleece pants…interesting.

      1. Sara Burrows Avatar

        We can’t control which ads Google selects. There are amazon links to non-plastic pants in the article, which we selected.

    5. Alexa Avatar

      Yes, you are so right! Thank you for the reminder 🙂

  4. Jenny Avatar

    WHEN is the world going to wake up and realize how harmful plastic beads are? Plastic beads and synthetic jewlelry beads dying! The dying and making process for synthetic stone beads must be at least as harmful as this clothing stuff!? Many yogis and new agers are vegans and stuff, but yet decorate themselves in eronvirement unfriendly cheap jewelry. And palstic beads are such a waste of money and simply a stupid thing, yet markets are full of them, and not only for kids. Many pieces looking like metal are simply pastics. People are blind in their vanity. I´ve stopped YEARS ago and tried to talk about this, with absolutely no success in my home country. I think I can wear a pair of leggings made of recycled bottles since I never buy knick-knacks.

    1. Karen Avatar

      The plastic beads they spoke of were not jewelry but were micro beads found in face and body washes.

      1. Betty Avatar

        Read her entire post. I don’t think she was confusing the beads….

    2. A Avatar

      Are you saying beads are more harmful than pants and because no one listened to you you get to wear plastic pants? In today’s world you get to do anything you want at the expense of all of us and our future. Go right ahead, you have that freedom. Not sure why you’d want plastic on your skin though. plus the article said it’s 80% that comes from clothing.

  5. Mike Carnohan Avatar

    Our company makes its yoga pants from 80% recycled polyester (primarily from water bottles) for this very reason. You can read about similar responsible fibers for clothing by looking up REPREVE polyester.

    If you are interested in eco-poly yoga pants, check out our line at Alpha Thread.

    1. Teresa Avatar

      recycled polyester clothing still sheds microfibres when washed

  6. Laura Mutsaers Avatar

    You can find hand painted, unique bamboo leggings in our Etsy shop or on our website Our studio is located in Nelson, BC where we pay ethical wages and create local jobs. We want to see change!

    1. Mel Avatar

      i was excited to learn about your company, then disappointed to see now plus sizes in you designs. what a shame.

      1. Jack Avatar

        Plus what? Why not minus some of yourself?

    2. Ben Sampogna Avatar
      Ben Sampogna

      Like! From your friend in Kamloops (and former brief Nelsonite)

  7. Thom Foote Avatar

    Microfibers not only wind up in the oceans, they are present in “biosolids”, composted municipal waste that is sold to commercial landscaping companies which uses it in its “organic” compost and “organic” garden soil. We are completely polluting the very soil we need to grow our food in.

  8. Jack Avatar

    That’s great and I’d love to go eco friendly, however, as usual it’s far beyond overpriced! There’s always a reason why one solution is better than the other. So, everyone yogi get nude with it! Lol!

  9. David Avatar

    How does collecting the micro fibres in the washing machine and putting them in the trash make things any better? There is no “away” to bin things.

  10. John Ritchie Avatar
    John Ritchie

    By going vegetarian we can reduce rainforest destruction? lol oxymoron much? lol

    1. barcelence Avatar

      Rainforest devastation is caused because cow breeders want expansion of pasture.

      1. Ecolove Avatar

        That wouldn’t be necessary if farmers would practice silviculture. The problem is not that we eat meat, the problem is that we eat too much, all the time and waste it all.Tons of food is wasted in developed countries while other countries starve because of global trendiness.

  11. Linda Malone Avatar
    Linda Malone

    Athlete is the worst! Absurd prices for plastic junk they try to sell you as “green,” because it’s made from recycled water bottles!

  12. Thaís Avatar

    Thank you for posting all this information.
    I think if the title was not only about yoga pants, the post could reach even more people and bring attention to not only yoga pants, but also to jackets, sports wear, and anything that sheds microplastics.
    Thanks again!

  13. Ron Alcalay Avatar

    Good article! Let’s kick the petroleum-based plastic habit once and for all. Recycled poly just makes people think they can keep using and recycling water bottles. Bamboo fibers are made in a polymerization process that creates a plastic soup from the natural fibers and then releases all the chemical effluent into rivers and streams (which is why Patagonia won’t go near it). “Clean bamboo” is like “clean coal,” an oxymoron, no matter what the bamboo peddlers will tell you. At Vital Hemp, we’ve been making clothes from soft hemp fabric for fourteen years. Hemp has been used for thousands of years for textiles. It is the original linen, and blends well with other natural fibers, such as organic cotton and eco-friendly fibers, such as tencel. Our 100% hemp men’s anywhere pants are great for yoga, because they wick moisture, stay dry and are anti-microbial. The hemp crop uses little water and doesn’t need pesticides. We make everything in the USA, with family-owned businesses that survived the garment industry’s move overseas. Check us out at Thanks for your support!!!

    1. Bruuno Avatar

      I don’t wear yoga pants but I engage in activities such as trekking, bicycle touring, backpacking. I stopped wearing cotton ages ago after close calls with hypothermia. What natural fibers if any will not kill me?

  14. SK Avatar

    Sounds like we need to avoid any human-made/industrial manufactured fabrics. It’s all well and good to tell us as consumers not to buy them but if they’re already made, the damage is more than half done. Are there any countries regulating, limiting, or prohibiting the production of these?

  15. marie Avatar

    dont buy liquido active! they help destroy our precious environment in other ways:

  16. marie Avatar

    over the summer, Líquido Active decided to ignore signs not to enter a particular lake with an extremely fragile ecosystem here in colorado. they also failed to get a permit to commercially photograph models there. they are an excellent example of a company destroying the planet… for “cool” instagram photos. the images were later removed after people began calling them out. there are literally like 4 signs on the hike up to the lake that say “do not enter the water.”

  17. rachael webb Avatar
    rachael webb

    Try Asquith…thy’re ethical, organic cotton/bamboo that last and wash well

  18. Camille Avatar

    This article is amazing. Can I repost with all proper credits and links?

    Let me know,
    Thank you!

    1. Sara Burrows Avatar

      Yes as long as you link to the original article/mention name of our website 🙂

  19. Madelon geluk Avatar
    Madelon geluk

    I have been doing toga since the 1970s, never ever even considered wearing these things.
    Here is an alternative.

    1. Madelon geluk Avatar
      Madelon geluk

      (Yoga not toga, sorry)

  20. Jeff Avatar

    From linked US News & World Report article:

    “The effects of microfibers in the food chain remain under investigation…”

    So, at this stage, we neither have evidence for any related health effects on aquatic life, nor of any environmental damage.

    1. A Avatar

      We do have lots of evidence. All kinds of marine animals dying from it. I think the quote refers to how the plastics in the soil affect our food. It all comes back to us in the end. Like mercury in fish. I don’t understand which proof you need and why you’re trying to deny sth here. There is a lot of knowledge out there already.

  21. Felicia Avatar

    Can we put filtration in the washers to catch it all like our dryers catch lint?

  22. Lily Avatar

    Recycling plastic bottles into pants at least give new life to something that cannot decompose in our lifetimes. They feel great and use eco printing techniques without wasting water like cotton and bamboo does. If natural fibers aren’t organic they also use a ton of pesticides to produce which is toxic to our water as well. Check out for sustainable options that are beautiful.

  23. Nicho Avatar

    One more of many pollutants that sooner or later end uo inside a fish thus also inside humans. Causing a huge plugging of arteries and clogging the entire circulatory system.

    1. A Avatar

      Nicho are you imagining this or do you know of it happening already? That sounds awful… I guess nature is going to get her planet back some way… I haven’t been wearing almost any plastic clothing in over ten years. I sweat in it and i believe in clothing that will desintegrate naturally. Trying to buy used or organic if buying clothing at all. What should we do with all those pants that have already been produced though? The recycled bottles option doesn’t seem sustainable to me either. Hard for me to understand people still sell this idea on here. I understand it’s hard though to question sth that also gives identity.

  24. Abigail Haddock Avatar

    May 1-14th 2018 There is a challenge to not use, buy or throw away plastic for two weeks. Simply make other choices. This is a great activity for the whole family. Go to for more information.