This Is The Swim You'll Want To Be Wearing All Summer

I came across Vitamin A swim when I was browsing for the perfect non-fussy bikini that was simple, stylish, but most importantly, sustainable. I kept hearing about Vitamin A, a company that similarly believes sustainability can be sexy. They too, felt strongly that bathing suits should be effortless and that they shouldn’t harm the environment. It seems crazy to wear a bathing suit in the ocean that would add to the destruction of it, so Vitamin A ensures the suits they create leave a positive impact on this Earth. They’ve become a favorite swimwear brand of mine that openly share their sustainable practices with all of their customers and followers, not to mention the swimsuits fit beautifully. I had the pleasure of chatting with Enya, a member of the Vitamin A tribe, on all the ins and outs of this company so you too can see what goes into making this sexy, sustainable swimwear! Enjoy!

1. How do you think you tapped into markets beyond the sustainable world? How do you maintain the “cool” factor while being eco-friendly?  

We believe that sustainability and style really go hand in hand! Our eco-conscious production practices are part of what make Vitamin A sexy and cool. This is the essence of the Vitamin A brand, and something that doesn’t change for us. 

 We were one of the first brands nearly 20 years ago, to come up with a new concept of sexy and bring about a new direction for color palettes. Prior to Vitamin A, we were only seeing bright colors - fuchsia, purple, turquoise, jade, and black - in the swim industry. Neutral palettes didn’t exist yet, so Vitamin A was one of the first to really introduce a softer and more simple aesthetic.  So later, when we integrated the sustainability aspect into Vitamin A, it was another platform, but the aesthetic was already there - it became another point of association for our customers and others in the swim industry! 

2. What criteria does the company have for choosing factories to work with?

All Vitamin A bikinis and bodysuits are produced locally in California, which dramatically reduces our emissions for transporting and delivering raw materials! And by keeping the vast majority of our work local, we’re able to closely monitor any of the processes we can’t do ourselves to ensure our sustainable standards are being met. We're able to take the time to get to know the people who make our goods, and we’re proud knowing that our manufacturing team maintains a high standard of ethics and environmental responsibility.

For some of our products that cannot be made here in California, we partner globally with fair trade artisans to produce our materials ethically, meaning Vitamin A production outside of the US is providing women with fair-wage jobs in safe working conditions! We also visit their factories and remain in constant contact with our partners to ensure that they are meeting our same high standards.

3. What can we do as consumers to prolong the life of our swimwear and is Vitamin A working on a way to close the loop on waste after use?

Our first fabric was actually created out of industry waste! Vitamin A’s EcoLux fabrication was the first in our industry and the model for all of our sustainable fabrics. So we‘re constantly working to close the loop on waste – this means keeping that waste out of landfills and recycling it within the industry, innovating with plant-based fabrics, and also looking for ways to recycle worn garments (we’re not quite there yet, but trust us, we’re working on it!).

Prolonging swimwear:

Wear More, Wash Less
When cared for properly, Vitamin A swimwear will last for years. We recommend a gentle, low-impact approach. Unfortunately, when you wash anything made from synthetics (even if its recycled) it sheds microfibers that can be pollutants if they wind up in the ocean. Here are some environmentally-conscious tips on how to care for your swimwear:

Swim Cycle
Rinse in cold water to shed fewer microfibers. We love hand washing with Bikinis Over Everything, an eco-friendly bikini cleanser. 

Use an all-natural biodegradable soap, such as Dr. Bronners, to spot-clean only necessary areas (it’s much better for your bikini and the environment than chemical-packed detergents or bleach).

Slip your bikini into an eco-friendly bag (like GUPPYFRIEND) designed to keep any loose microfibers from entering the water in your washing machine. It keeps our ocean water clean and will help your suit receive more delicate care.

Make sure to cold rinse your swimsuit after each wear, even if you don’t go in the water.

Stay Dry
Skip the dryer (and the green house gas emissions) and hang dry your bikinis. Avoid direct sunlight and lay your suits flat in a cool, dry place for a drying method that requires zero energy. 

Take Turns
We know you have a favorite bikini, but the key to making it last longer is to wait until it’s completely dry to wear it again. If you’re planning to spend a few days in a row dressed in a bikini (lucky!) plan on bringing a couple different suits to wear.

4. In your opinion, what is the most unsustainable part of the fashion industry? What is Vitamin A doing to combat this? What about ethically?

The least sustainable part of the fashion industry is the pure fact that it’s based on petroleum products, which are materials derived from fossil fuels. At Vitamin A, we’re working on utilizing plant-based swim fibers to create our designs, while also shifting all of our beachwear to biodegradable products, recycled cotton, organic cotton, tinsel, linen, and silks.

5. For someone new to the sustainable world, what are some key small steps they can look out for when shopping to ensure they’re investing in a good company?

Consumers should look out for certain environmental endorsements, partnerships, or support of certifiable organizations that will indicate if any certain company is dedicated to eco-causes. For example, Vitamin A is a member of 1% - meaning we pledge to donate one percent of our annual sales to environmental non-profits. 

 We should also be sure to read our labels! Keep an eye out for where products are being made and what kind of materials are being used. Swimwear that’s made domestically will have less of a carbon footprint.

6. What are the next steps for Vitamin A?  How do you see yourselves evolving in the next five to ten years?    

We recently launched our newest BioRib fabric this season, which is made from organic plant-based fibers – meaning there’s zero impact on the food chain, 20% less CO2 emissions, and lower water consumption! We’re currently working on expanding on this concept with more biodegradable fabrics and continuing to innovate with new sustainable options. We’re also excited to be launching exclusive product collaborations with some of favorite retailers with the concept of “sustainability is sexy", to further share our mission with other brands in the industry! 

The Last Straw

2018 was a popular year for the little plastic straw. Something that seems so insignificant is popped into every single one of our drinks, whether we need it or not, without the slightest thought on its purpose or necessity. Think about it, if you ask for a glass of water, almost always it’s accompanied by a big plastic straw that we often discard before we even take our first sip. So what switched? There were viral videos of sea turtles with straws being stuck in their nostrils and people began to pay attention to the the little straw and began wondering how else straws were negatively harming our planet and what we could do.

The thing about the plastic straw is that it’s tangible. We all see its overabundant use in restaurants and bars, have used it to stir a drink for one second then tossed it to the side only the repeat the same procedure for our next drink and the drink after that, with one or two straws in each water we order in between. Why the sudden overuse of them? While they were originally created for making things a little easier to drink, in the 1930s they gained popularity when  an inventor wanted to make it easier for his daughter to drink a milkshake. From that, the straws are mass-produced by a system selling people things they don’t really need, for the most part. Consumers of course took advantage of it and now we’re left with another over-consumed product with of course, inevitable backlash. We can see the waste. On our beaches, straws are often one of the top ten items collected globally on the coastlines

It was once quoted that in the U.S. alone, 500 million straws are used EVERY DAY. That seems like an incredible amount that’s hard to picture exactly how many that truly is. Here are some figures to put it into perspective… “500 million straws could fill over 127 school buses each day, or more than 46,400 school buses every year.. 500 million straws per day is an average of 1.6 straws per person (in the US) per day. Based on this national average, each person in the US will use approximately 38,000 or more straws between the ages of 5 and 65.” While I’m not 100% that this stat is entirely accurate, it goes without saying that whatever the number is, it is high and there is something we can do about it. 

So what can we do? There are a ton of alternate options out there, here are my favorite options ranking from best to last:

  • No straw (no waste)

  • Bamboo straw (sturdy, dishwasher safe, light)

  • Metal straws (sturdy, dishwasher safe, easy to clean, not good for hot beverages)

  • Glass straws (sturdy, easy to clean, but breakable)

  • Paper straws (trendy and fun but don’t last and wasteful to produce)

    • Why the hate for paper? It’s similar to the debate between plastic and paper bags. 

    • A study done last year by Denmark’s Ministry of Environment and Food found that paper bags need to be reused at least 43 times for its per-use environmental impacts to be less than that of typical plastic bag used once. 

    • You choose between plastic, reusable and less energy to make but not biodegradable or paper, harder to reuse, a ton of energy to make but biodegradable…Truthfully, neither is “good”

There’s a few things to note when talking about banning the straws. For one, a large population of our world needs them. It’s easy for anyone who isn’t physically challenged to say “no straw”, 

“I don’t use those”, “who would need a plastic straw”, or to even look down upon people who order them. When I saw the video of the turtle, I knew I would try my best to say no when the opportunity presented itself, pretty much always, but I vowed to myself to never shame anyone who forgot to say “no straw”. Check out this article by Alden Wicker of EcoCult. She talks about the necessity to address the issue of plastic waste but to be flexible with the movement and open to people who actually need the straw. Banning something that certain people’s lives depend upon is ridiculous and we should by no means shame anyone. With my decisions I make about the sustainable movement, I hope to influence many people in my community to do whatever they can. We need to keep this in mind. 

I loved Alden’s idea about an opt-in system when talking about the straw ban movement. Instead of the waiters at restaurants automatically putting a straw in every single drink, they always need to have them on hand and you have to say when you order “I need a plastic straw”. That in itself will heavily cut down the amount wasted at each restaurant yet no one who actually needs one will (hopefully) not be looked down upon. 

While I support the movement to use less straws, some feel the movement to falls extremely short. Sure, plastic straws are overused and create a lot of waste but many argued that this movement failed to address something bigger that is creating much more waste than the straw.  The commercialized fishing net, and other plastic waste in general. Straws are an easy target because many people can do without them. I don’t question the necessity of the plastic straw movement, I think any movement is a step in the positive direction but my argument would be that it shouldn’t stop there. 

Have you ever seen a commercialized size fishing net in the middle of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; the largest accumulation of ocean plastic? The patch is estimated to be 1.6 million square kilometers, twice the size of Texas and having 46% of the weight be taken up by fishing nets. Plastic tends to get stuck in these large gyres or patches and disintegrate with all the sun exposure and natural currents until it’s into tiny pieces, called micro plastics, that we oftentimes can’t even see. Years ago we would see occasional pieces of plastic found in sea turtles but now, with all the micro plastics forming and floating around, 100% of all sea turtles have some form of plastic they have ingested. 59% of all seabirds have plastic found in them and more than 25% of fish sampled from all around the world has plastic in it. That’s an issue that goes above and beyond the straw movement that we have to address. 

The plastic that litters our oceans are becoming much more of a problem. We can’t ignore it. Plastic debris, both micro plastics (particles less than 5mm) and macro plastics (larger than 5mm) are positively related to the mismanaged plastic waste generated by river catchments. To me, the straw movement was the catalyst for bigger change. While China for instance is the biggest producer of plastic waste, it also is now making huge efforts to avoid this. 

Other countries that are now coming into wealth like the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, are huge contributors to the plastic waste issue. With the rise of GDP levels in many of these East Asian countries comes benefits that we often overlook like the convenience of to-go Tupperware or the ease of a plastic bag to carry your goods, better yet, drinkable water in plastic bottles! But what these places don’t think about is the infrastructure needed to deal with the waste that comes from development. If we are to address the need for waste-management infrastructure in these five countries alone, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, it is estimated we can significantly reduce global leakage of plastic waste into the ocean by 2025, potentially by 45%!

So where does that leave us? 

Well, theres a few things I have in mind for trying to make a change..

This article, again written by Alden Wicker of EcoCult talked about her challenge going plastic-free on her recent trip to India. There was balance achieved between being a good guest, accepting where plastic was sometimes needed but doing the best she could, remembering to bring a water bottle, utensils, avoiding straws where possible and the like. But we have to remember these developing economies are vastly different from the U.S. Oftentimes to a waiter in India, providing good service is of utmost importance to them. Figuring out what “no straw” means while trying to remember how to speak English and treat your guest well comes with a huge learning curve.

When we’re visiting these East Asian countries we have to be supportive of the new cycle of growth they’re going through and dealing with. Improving governance and rooting out corruption for example. What we can do is influence them and work with them to realize the importance of tackling change now. They are blessed because they haven’t gotten as used to the readily available use of plastic as much as the Western society has. When we travel, we can reduce our plastic intake and show them it’s possible to live life easily without it. We can stop shipping our waste to them and deal with it ourselves. We can show them certain technological advancements that are making it easier to recycle plastics and show how they can discard it. And we can influence them to stop producing plastic altogether and use another biodegradable alternative at the same time.

While most of the plastic waste is coming from East Asia, we can continue to do our best efforts at home. Things like the three R's; reduce, reuse, recycle...and remember they should be in that order. 

  • Reducing our purchases (being conscious consumers)

  • Reusing things whenever possible

  • Recycling after you attempt to reduce and reuse. 

  • Eating less fish (less fish, less need for fishing, less fishing nets. Supply, demand)

  • Avoid plastic bags

  • Saying no to straws when we can

  • Voting for change

  • Marching for change 

  • Reducing meat intake

  • Composting

  • Paying for carbon offsetting

  • Switch to reusables

    • Reusable bags, Tupperware, coffee mugs, water bottles, etc. 

While 2018 was the year of the plastic straw, let's make 2019 the year of tackling all plastic. We’re addicted to it and with fighting addiction comes arguments, fight back, disagreements and disbelief. But the facts are there. The fish have plastic in them. The turtles are eating plastic and our world will suffer from that. Humans live off the Earth and the oceans are the veins that pump life into us all. Let us tackle plastic waste, something we have so easily lived without before the 1930s, and switch to a reusable, biodegradable material that closes the loop on waste and refreshes our oceans with life and air. The Earth’s ten-year challenge brought upon devastation from pictures of deforestation, ice melting, and oceans and rivers littered with plastic waste. Let’s reverse that trend and make pictures in 2029 that we’re proud of.