November 27, 2013

Why We Should Continue to Wear Lululemon.

Last weekend, I taught my usual Saturday yoga class clad in head to toe Lululemon.

The irony was not lost on me. Less than two weeks after having written my most popular post to date explaining why I no longer shopped there, here I was looking like I had walked out of the showroom.

No, I hadn’t reneged on my vow to no longer buy from there. I didn’t think they made me look particularly “yogic” or “hot” either. The truth is, I wore them because they were clean and in good condition. I don’t plan on throwing them away or donating them—at least not yet.

As I write these words, I am prepared for the sort of questions this might raise, especially since others have said that they will no longer even wear their old Lululemon items and are pondering what to do with them. Why am I continuing to wear a brand whose practices I have very vocally criticized? Am I not a hypocrite? By wearing these clothes, am I not supporting them?

These are all good questions to ask, but here’s the truth: it’s far more environmentally-friendly to  wear what you have than to throw out clothing and replace it with new items. In most cases, it’s even greener to do that than donate them to charity.

Almost a year ago, I wrote a piece about my decision to say no to disposable fashion when it came to my clothing. While I did not mention it there, Lululemon and many other brands had been off my list for awhile.

While doing research on the “green” clothing industry, I was both amazed and appalled to learn just how much of a negative environmental impact the clothing industry has. While many of us only think of “carbon footprint” when it comes to driving, flying or how our food is raised, the truth is, the clothing industry’s overall footprint is bigger than any of these.

This largely because of how vast the clothing industry is. Its environmental impact can involve anything from the way that clothing fibers are raised and/or manufactured to the types of machinery used and of course, the conditions that the workers labor in.

While natural fibers are not without their consequences (cotton, for instance, is the most pesticide intensive crop in the world), synthetics can be even worse because they take up space in landfills, which tends to be permanent because most are not biodegradable.

When they do start to breakdown, they can release chemicals into the soil and ground water.

I looked at the labels of my Lululemons and other athletic gear and noticed that nearly all of it was 100% synthetic. Worse still, the source of these synthetics were petroleum-based. In a nutshell, my yoga pants are probably going to be around long after my earthly remains or dust.

Donating these clothes to my local Goodwill or charity shop sounded like an option but like Elizabeth Cline points out in her excellent book, Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, thanks to the rise of cheap, disposable fashion, Goodwill and other shops are so inundated with so many clothing donations that in some places most of the donations end up being tossed.

Plus, replacing them with new clothes was not problem-free either. All clothing, no matter how environmentally-friendly it claims to be, has a carbon footprint. (Granted, they tend to be much smaller than conventional companies, but it’s still a footprint nonetheless.)

Therefore, when faced with the options, my best and “greenest” option was to wear the clothing I currently have until it wears out. Perhaps when they finally do bite the dust, I can find some place or organization that will reclaim the fabric and make something new out of it, but that’s probably not likely.

Eventually, they will be replaced by greener, ethically-made choices, but I am hoping they will continue to hold up for awhile.

While I still believe that everyone has the choice to decide where they wish to shop and what companies to support or boycott, I hope that those who, like me, have decided to no longer shop at Lululemon or any other company for that matter will not toss their goods in the garbage or donate them to a big name charity shop in the hopes that someone else will buy them, especially if the main reason they are doing so is for environmental reasons.

If you simply do not want to be seen in them any more, then consider donating them directly to someone you know will wear them. Chances are, someone out there will appreciate them.

At the very least, the environment certainly will appreciate it as well.


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

{Photo: Wikimedia Commons.}

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Jun 27, 2014 9:18am

This is a great piece, but there are a ton of yoga companies out there making natural fiber yoga apparel. But most all of it contains spandex, which is awful for the environment, and if you want a tight fit there's no way around that. You could just take a sharpie and cover up their logo, and then you'd be all set 😉

jennahasnoidea Feb 19, 2014 5:53am

Clothes Swaps are the best option. refresh your wardrobe with FREE CLOTHES from your friends who also probably have similar fashion taste, donate anything left over to charity. Voila! new wardrobe!

Tina Nov 27, 2013 2:53pm

I like your article! I can't say I own anything from lululemon, but, as far as cheap fashion goes- I am still occasionally guilty of purchasing from big chains that are not- in my personal opinion- ethical nor environmentally friendly. My choice has also been to just wear them until they give out, have holes in them, or I no longer fit them. I also think that although many of the readers here and an increasingly larger number of the public are becoming more educated on company practices and where their items come from, it is still very difficult to understand and control the very fabric of where these items start from and how they become the mass produced products they are. The footprint each step has not only on the environment, but also the people and communities who source some or part of the manufacturing process are also largely connected be it a negative or positive impact. Choices arise from the knowledge that you obtain yourself and may or may not be accurate in the grand scheme of things. I guess in short I could've compressed this down to, 'it's a bit more complicated than we know' but I wholeheartedly agree with you and I don't think you are a hypocrite for keeping or wearing your old lulu pieces 🙂

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Kimberly Lo

Kimberly Lo is a yoga instructor and freelance editor & writer based in Charlottesville, VA. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework, travel, and photography. Connect with her on Facebook.