Whilst the summer heatwave in the UK may have done wonders for your cyclist tan, it has had some serious environmental impacts on our wildlife and has warned us of the consequences of climate breakdown.
In a recent survey by the World Economic Forum 9/10 people said they wanted to make more sustainable choices but in a world where we’re so readily bombarded with information, knowing how to live a more sustainable life can feel like trying to build IKEA furniture without the instructions. If the wonky desk I’m currently sitting at is anything to go by, this feat can be both challenging and exhausting!
How do I live more sustainably?
I’d like to start by saying that living more sustainably doesn’t mean you have to make grand, life changing choices. Nor does it mean that you are required to give up things you love, living more sustainably can enhance your life – cycling is the prime example of that.
The easiest way to live more sustainability is to focus on the things that we come into contact with everyday such as food, fashion, transport and nature. Making sustainable choices in any one of these categories, collectively can have huge impacts. For example, due to a demand for fast fashion the fashion industry now uses more energy than both aviation and shipping combined! It’s about time we took back control and reversed this trend.
Cycling is often at the centre of sustainable travel initiatives and over the last number of years cycling apparel brands have been trying to follow suit by producing more sustainable and environmentally friendly products. When it comes to cycling apparel, here are a few pointers to help you become a more eco-friendly cyclist.
1. Consider what materials the product is made from.
The first thing to take into account is the social and environmental impacts the manufacturing process of an item may have. For example, traditional cotton requires enormous amounts of pesticides and water to produce which can have a huge environmental impact and pose a health risk to those who work around it.
When you’re thinking of investing in cycling clothes, consider purchasing a piece made from recycled fabrics or natural organic products.
For example, Altura’s Kielder Jersey is made from 100% recycled polyester fabric, sourced from post-consumer plastic waste. Studies have shown, recycled polyester can reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions by 50%! Alternatively, other fabrics that receive green brownie points include merino wool, recycled nylon, recycled cotton, organic hemp and bamboo.
2. How is the product shipped?
There’s nothing more disappointing than taking the time and thought to purchase a more environmentally friendly product, only to have it delivered wrapped in plastic! THINK OF THE TURTLES! Look out for companies that are transparent and have this information readily available on their site.
Altura uses recyclable and biodegradable plastic bags to package their items and micropack clay instead of silica gel pads to absorb moisture during storage and shipping. They have also begun using uncoated, recyclable cardboard product tags attached with thread avoiding single use plastics wherever possible. Sometimes it’s the little things that add up!
3.Choose products that will go the distance.
Choose slow fashion over fast fashion. This means buying from brands that are knowledgeable about the design process and care about ensuring that each piece of kit lasts. A good way to see if a clothing brand trusts that their apparel is quality made and long-lasting is to look for companies that offer a warranty or a free repair service for any damage that occurs for at least two years after the product has been purchased.
When investing in products, also consider those that could serve a purpose in your day-to-day life (outside of cycling). For example, Altura’s All Roads Lightweight Rain Jacket is also great for hiking, walking the dog, going to the shops etc. similarly, most days I don’t leave the house without the Chinook Backpack. Sometimes we don’t need two rain jackets, we just need a quality one that serves many purposes.
4. Wash your clothes less.
Every time you wash your clothes, microplastic fibres make their way into the waterways and even end up in our food chains! Now, here me out – I’m not campaigning that a group of smelly cyclists emitting BO is going to save the planet but rather that by supporting certain products you can achieve both – smelling divine, saving on your energy bill and being kinder to the planet.
Look for products that need to be washed less regularly e.g. those that have antimicrobial coatings, high wick materials or technology, e.g. Q-Skin® odour control yarn, that combats the smell/ bacteria in a similar way.
It is particularly harmful to wash waterproof items, many contain PFCs (per- and poly-fluorinated chemicals) which in recent years have been linked to environmental degradation and potentially even contain carcinogenic properties. Unfortunately, these chemicals are also very effective at repelling water and have been widely used to make waterproof garments. Luckily many brands within the outdoor sector are taking a proactive approach and investing in finding alternatives. Support brands like Altura that have pledged to remove PFC waterproof products.
5. Transparency is key.
Clothing technology is constantly evolving, and whilst brands should be on a journey that aims to provide high performance products, with a net zero carbon footprint, and which also benefits the environment and the community, we must also acknowledge that no one is 100% there yet. Just like none of us were born with the ability to cycle – it takes years of stabilisers, scraped knees, confidence building and commitment. The key is being honest about this journey and its direction.
Here are some ways brands can be more transparent…
- Being honest about ongoing industrial issues, such as the release of microfibres and providing customers with information and aftercare options that reduce these environmental impacts when they purchase products.
Stating the percentage composition of recycled products in the description or having a company wide requirement that is visible e.g. to have to be classified as recycled it must contain 20% recycled products. This is important as technical products still often require a mixed composition of fabrics but it is equally important to acknowledge this. The same goes for communicating how the product will be packaged and delivered to you.
Showing accountability by clearly stating their environmental targets and when they want to achieve these targets by. Even better if they can provide a sustainability report that details the manufacturing process, investigates the company’s carbon emissions, and reviews its progress and future goals.