Exercising ethically
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Date: 15 April, 2008


"Cotton uses high levels of chemicals (around 16% of the world's pesticides), so look out for organic cotton exercise gear."


Exercise, especially when it’s out in the fresh air, seems like a perfect way of getting close to the environment.

However, exercise can involve a lot of ‘stuff’, some of it not particularly environmentally friendly. By Suzanne Elvidge


Finding eco running shoes is hard work. The only hi-tech ones I could find are made by New Balance, named one of the world’s most ethical companies, which makes 85% of its shoes in the UK.

You can also get completely recycled shoes, but they are not particularly hi-tech. When your trainers of any brand are worn out, they can be recycled into playground and sport surfaces.

If walking is more your sport, there are boots or shoes made with recycled materials.


When you are exercising, you need something to wear (believe me, you do – it’s still chilly out there). Cotton uses high levels of chemicals (around 16% of the world's pesticides), so look out for organic cotton exercise gear for men and women (don’t forget the sports bra).

And as for eco-alternatives to ordinary cotton socks, well the choices are almost endless – bamboo, bamboo and organic cotton, linen and organic cotton, recycled cotton, wool, hemp, recycled polyester, corn, even wood and seaweed socks.


You can even stay green with exercise accessories – you can get a jute and latex yoga mat (and apologies for the dreadful pun on that page, it wasn’t my fault) and put it into a bag made out of recycled drinks bottles.

Described as one carrier bag you can throw away, get fit with a recycled Frisbee. Or if your sport involves balls, go for second hand golf or tennis balls (the ones that aren’t being used for mouse houses of course).

Surfers are long known for their commitment to the environment, but to support this, you can now get hemp-covered surfboards made our of balsa wood.

Even skiing and snowboarding is turning green, with boards made out of sustainable wood at a wind-powered factory, skis made out of bamboo, and environmentally friendly wax.

Another green approach is recycling rather than buying new – see if you can buy what you need second hand on eBay, or find it on Freecycle.

And afterwards…

A shower uses about a third of the water of a bath. While you are in there, use biodegradable shower gel or good old fashioned soap.

If you use a solid shampoo or conditioner, it saves on packaging, or you could try soap nuts, which contain natural soap and seem to work on just about anything!

I turned my ankle yesterday training for The Helen's Trust Golden Gates 10k and Fun Run (you could even sponsor me if you feel generous, but only after you’ve supported Christian Aid Week), so I’m trying out arnica cream.

The one I’m using is made by Weleda, a company which is local to me and is working to restore the Arnica plant’s natural habitat.

• Read other ethical lifestyle articles


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