Why Choose Sustainable Wetsuits?
High-quality, sustainable products can be expensive, so you might wonder why you should choose them in the first place.
But let’s dive (get it?) into the basics first: are wetsuits environmentally friendly?
Well, remember: what are wetsuits made of?
That’s right, plastic.
Neoprene refers to polychloroprene, a synthetic rubber or petrochemical fabric from the 1930s.
The wetsuit material is durable, flexible, heat-resistant, and 100% waterproof—but incredibly detrimental to the environment.
Neoprene isn’t biodegradable or renewable, but is neoprene toxic?
Maybe not in its finished, wearable form, but it’s certainly toxic to create.
Neoprene production process emits chloroprene, a toxic chemical that’s harmful to humans and animals, causing damage to the lungs, liver, kidneys, and immune system.
Choosing eco-friendly wetsuits helps put an end to harmful production practices and chemicals that damage you, animals, and the environment.
How We Chose The Best Eco-Friendly Wetsuits
We’ve gone to the end of the surf to find the best sustainable fashion alternatives for your favorite extreme water sports.
But with so many different wetsuit brands and options, how did we find the best eco-friendly wetsuits?
Just like when we assessed standard sustainable swimwear brands, we used the following criteria:
What is the eco-friendly alternative to neoprene?
When it comes to neoprene’s sustainable alternatives, there are actually three options:
First, there are natural rubber wetsuits made by the eco-friendly neoprene manufacturers Arizona’s Yulex® (FSC-certified) and Taiwan’s SHEICO Group (EcoPrene).
These options emit fewer emissions than traditional wetsuits and are theroetically biodegradable, but usually not, since the natural rubber is often mixed with some recycled synthetics.
Next up is Japanese limestone neoprene, made by Japan’s Yamamoto Corporation. It’s argued to be more durable and sustainable, but some sustainable brands (including Patagonia) disagree, since limestone is still a non-renewable resource.
Finally, there’s recycled neoprene, which makes use of existing neoprene wetsuits that would otherwise likely go to waste.
Supply chain and labor practices:
Sustainability doesn’t stop at high tide.
Brands with transparent, ethical supply chains with fair working conditions are a must.
Carbon commitments & green practices:
Utilizing alternative neoprene production methods to cut emissions, water usage, and energy consumption has us stoked.
Recyclable or biodegradable packaging, carbon offset programs, and repair programs are other great initiatives to make a difference.
Because neoprene recycling is still difficult to come by, we would like to see more brands offer take-back programs for recycling wetsuits at the end of their surfing days.
Many of these brands have additional size options for different body types, like medium-tall or large-short.
Community & charitable giving:
Most of the brands on our list contribute to social and environmental causes in some capacity, like beach clean-ups or donating to surf organizations and making other contributions.