12 Sustainable Swimsuit Options To Dive Into In 2021

mbg Senior Sustainability Editor By Emma Loewe
mbg Senior Sustainability Editor
Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care."
12 Sustainable Swimsuit Options To Dive Into In 2021
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Looking for a sustainable suit that won't harm the planet? We rounded up some of our favorites for summer 2021.

What makes a swimsuit sustainable?

First of all, you should know that it's a lot easier to find a sustainable T-shirt or hoodie than it is a sustainable suit.

That's because our swimmers need to repel water, so they can't be made from cotton, hemp, or any other plant-based fabric that will absorb moisture (though a few small designers are now experimenting with crochet suits made from natural yarns).

Instead, swimsuits are often made from nylon (also known as polyamide) or polyester—two of the worst fabrics for the environment due to the amount of water, chemicals, and energy that goes into them and their lack of biodegradability.

These synthetic fibers also leech tiny pieces of microplastics when they are agitated or come in contact with water (so, any time we go for a swim or do laundry).

Microplastics can now be found throughout our oceans, and while their long-term effects on aquatic life are unknown, "the plastic becomes a platform for concentrated pollutants, which would otherwise be diluted in the water" marine microplastics researcher Dimitri Deheyn, Ph.D., previously told mbg of their potential risks.

Barring some major innovations, our swimsuits are going to shed plastic for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, we can at least opt for ones made from recycled materials.

Synthetic, moisture-friendly fabrics can either be made from virgin (new) petroleum-based materials or ones that already exist and have been broken down and spun into yarn. Recycled yard cuts down on the need for raw materials to be extracted from the earth and, depending on where their plastic material is retrieved from, they keep plastic waste out of the landfill or ocean.

These two recycled fabrics are the most common in swimwear:

  • ECONYL: Made from nylon recovered from old fishing nets, fabric scraps, or other forms of industrial waste
  • Repreve: Made from recycled plastic materials, including plastic bottles

If sustainability is important to you, you'll also want to buy from a company that is transparent about its supply chain. Using recycled materials isn't enough: A truly environmentally friendly company will treat its garment workers fairly, pay them a living wage, and provide them safe working conditions.

Takings steps to reduce and offset carbon emissions, running operations on renewable energy, and shipping in recyclable or biodegradable packaging are added bonuses for swimwear brands.

Based on these criteria, the following 12 companies are leading the way in earth-friendly suits this year:

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Affordable sustainable swimwear:

Dippin Daisys

Affordability and sustainability don't always go hand in hand, but Dippin Daisys is one company putting out eco-friendly suits at reasonable price points. Ninety-five percent of their swimwear is derived from recycled nylon, and their innovative re: purpose collection further utilizes waste materials by tie-dyeing fabric scraps into new suits. They are also in the process of rolling out a takeback program so people can send in old suits to be recycled and kept out of the landfill.

Sustainability perks: Made from partially recycled materials, repurpose fabric scraps, shipping bags are compostable in an industrial facility

Other perks: Affordable, come in many color options, made in the USA

Price point: $40 to $50 per top & bottom, $70 to $80 per one-piece

tie die bathing suit top with drawstring detail
Dippin Daisys

Summersalt

Summersalt is a direct-to-consumer swimwear company that was founded in 2017 and has since started selling sleepwear and activewear too. Their suits are made from 78% recycled material; 22% is virgin (new) elastane. The company has found that this combo makes for a more durable and long-lasting suit; a sustainability perk in its own right.

Sustainability perks: Made from partially recycled materials

Other perks: Affordable, come in many color and style options

Price point: $40 to $65 per top & bottom, $95 per one-piece

electric blue bathing one-shoulder suit top
Summersalt

Lively

Lively is known for doling out supportive bras and underwear, and the company now offers a small swim range with the same commitment to comfort and fit. Their suits are made from 80% recycled nylon, 20% spandex, and at $80 for a two-piece set, they're the most affordable on the list.

Sustainability perks: Made from partially recycled materials

Other perks: Affordable, comfortable fit

Price point: $40 to $50 per top & bottom ($80 for set), $65 per one-piece

black bathing suit top with thin straps
Lively

Size-inclusive sustainable swimwear:

Wild Isles

Wild Isles makes sustainable wireless tops exclusively for women with fuller busts, with sizes ranging from 28D to 38H. Their suits have a double-layer design—both of which are made with 78% recycled nylon, 22% spandex fabric—for extra support and shape retention. ("A design with side boob in mind," their site reads, "built to move the girls to the front and keep them there.") Their bestselling top, The Dottie, has a retro tie-back detail and hundreds of five-star reviews to its name. Wild Isles also gives you the option to opt into removable swim pads or go without them and save on fabric waste; a great idea that should become standard practice in swimwear.

Sustainability perks: Made from partially recycled materials

Other perks: Sizes up to 24, made in the USA

Price point: $95 per top, $75 per bottom

ruby red bathing suit top with front tie detail
Wild Isles

BOLD Swim

Instead of recycled materials, BOLD Swim opts to use Amni Soul Eco fabric for their sustainable suits—a synthetic yarn that has been designed to quickly biodegrade. Compared to traditional nylon and polyester that can take hundreds of years to break down, this fabric fades into organic matter within five when placed in a low-oxygen environment like a landfill. (So you don't have to worry about it degrading while you're wearing it.) This carbon-neutral, BIPOC-owned company also offsets its shipping emissions and uses packaging that's compostable in a backyard or industrial facility. Oh, and their suits are beautiful and go up to size XXXL.

Sustainability perks: Biodegradable fabric, carbon-neutral shipping, compostable packaging

Other perks: Sizes up to XXXL

Price range: $130 to $180 per two-piece set, $160 to $190 per one-piece

bright orange bikini bathing suit top
Bold Swim

Mara Hoffman

Mara Hoffman was one of the first high-fashion designers to commit to sustainable production practices. Best known for her colorful swimwear, Hoffman uses recycled nylon or polyester for all of her made-in-the-USA suits. The brand's extended style range runs up to size XXXL.

Sustainability perks: Made from partially recycled materials

Other perks: Sizes up to XXXL, come in many color and style options, made in the USA

Price range: $120 to $175 per top & bottom, $250 to $300 per one-piece

bright red one piece bathing suit with front tie detail
Mara Hoffman

Sustainable one-pieces:

Beth Richards

Swimwear brand Beth Richards operates out of Canada and pays all employees a living wage. Their new collaboration with designer Roopa Pemmaraju is full of breezy suits made using an 82% recycled polyester, 18% elastane fabric. The one-pieces, in particular, are super cute, with flattering silhouettes in styles that evoke European days poolside.

Sustainability perks: Made from partially recycled materials

Other perks: Made in Canada

Price range: $110 to $135 per top & bottom, $250 to $260 per one-piece

floral print one piece bathing suit in soft blue-pink color scheme
Beth Richards x Roopa

Otherwild

Otherwild's Hirsuits are androgynous one-piece swimsuits designed for a range of bodies and gender identities. Inspired by early 20th-century swim costumes, these unlined suits are made from an 82% recycled polyester, 18% spandex blend and come in sizes ranging from XS to 4XL.

Sustainability perks: Made from partially recycled materials

Other perks: Sizes up to XXXXL, made for all gender identities

Price range: $88 per suit

one piece gender neutral bathing suit in black
Otherwild Hirsuit

Deta Knit

Deta Knit's one-piece suits are designed to be worn from brunch to beach. They are made from a unique ribbed yarn that looks like a woven but is waterproof. Deta Knit uses a conventional polyester-nylon blend but cuts it in a machine designed to limit fabric waste. All their suits are produced in downtown Los Angeles.  

Sustainability perks: Low-waste manufacturing process

Other perks: Made in the USA

Price point: $120 to $125 per top & bottom, $230 per one-piece

tight knitted one piece bathing suit in blue color
Deta Knit

Sustainable swimwear for men:

Fair Harbor

Siblings Jake and Caroline Danehy started Fair Harbor as an ode to the beach that they grew up on. Disheartened to see plastic waste watch up on its shores, the duo designed a mesh-free boardshort made from recycled plastic material, with 12 plastic bottles to a pair. They come in a variety of colors and styles depending on activity level, and the company offers a recycling program for old suits.

Sustainability perks: Made from partially recycled materials, have a swimsuit recycling program

Other perks: Comfortable, mesh-free design

Price point: $64 to $88 per pair

men's swim trunks in dark blue with red and yellow stripe
Fair Harbor

Patagonia

Patagonia offers a wide range of boardshorts that incorporate recycled materials. Many are Fair Trade certified, and they're all made with the company's trademark commitment to durability. Patagonia's Worn Wear resale platform also offers a number of used styles at significantly reduced prices.

Sustainability perks: Made from partially recycled materials

Other perks: Fair-trade certified

Price point: $69 to $119 per pair

men's swim trunks in pink and blue floral pattern
Patagonia

Outerknown

Surfer Kelly Slater's activewear company Outerknown was one of the first to use recycled ECONYL yarn back in 2015. Today, they have an extensive collection of men's swimsuits made from recycled spandex and polyesters, too—each one sewn in a fair-trade-certified factory. And since they come from Slater, you know they're designed to stand up to even the choppiest of waters.

Sustainability perks: Made from partially recycled materials (some are fully recycled)

Other perks: Fair-trade certified

Price point: $68 to $145 per pair

men's swim trunks in blue and black wave pattern
Outerknown

How to take care of your suit.

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While you should always check the label on your swimsuit, hand-washing in cold water and air drying will typically help it maintain its shape and color for longer. It's also the more environmentally friendly move. If you are machine-washing, look into getting a GuppyFriend or Cora Ball that can trap microplastic particles before they get into waterways.

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The bottom line.

Bathing suits are almost always made from synthetic materials, but you can find more sustainable ones made from repurposed plastic waste like water bottles and fishing nets. These days, there's an eco option at every size, style, and price point, so we can all splash sustainably.

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