Digital Printing

Better printing practices: the future of sustainable Sportswear design

by Nick Saraev | 20/10/2023
Better printing practices: the future of sustainable Sportswear design

Nick Saraev discusses the importance of sportswear design and how it plays a crucial role in environmental impact. Today, sustainable fashion is putting pressure on the entire sportswear industry to use more sustainable methods into their production.

In the bustling sports apparel industry, where the market size now reaches an estimated $319.4 billion, the process of sportswear design plays a significant role in environmental impact.

With the massive growth of the global sports apparel market – and even the entire clothing sector – we cannot deny how important sustainable fashion is. It not only encourages customers to make environmentally friendly buying decisions but also calls on the entire sportswear industry to integrate more sustainable methods into their production.
Today, the need for a less environmentally damaging approach to sportswear design is more urgent than ever.

Key Takeaways

  • Sportswear Design and Aesthetics Today

  • Sustainable Printing Technologies and Materials

  • Environmental Problems Associated with Conventional Sportswear Production

  • Challenges, Trends, and the Path Forward for the Sports Apparel Market and Brands

Sportswear Design and Aesthetics Today

Source: Piqsels

The intense competition in the sportswear industry is undeniably a primary cause of the emergence of sustainable sportswear, becoming one of the most significant consumer trends.

In a 2022 survey on climate change and environmental awareness, an astounding 73% expressed deep concern for climate change, especially its possible future impact on children's quality of life.

This rising trend is now being echoed by established brands across the industry, causing them to use natural materials. More and more, we see fashion giants incorporate sustainability in their business models, reacting to the increasing demand for environmentally friendly clothing.

There's an increasing demand for sustainable sportswear, which drives major activewear brands to display a brand's commitment to the environment in their manufacturing process. The sports apparel industry has recognized this, moving brands to minimize their environmental impact and ensure eco-friendly products by integrating new technologies into the production process.

Environmental Problems Associated with Conventional Sportswear Production

Sportswear production, like much of the fashion industry, faces numerous environmental challenges at every stage, according to a study published on the ResearchGate website:
Pre-production: High consumption of natural resources contributes to plastic waste, greenhouse gas emissions, and soil and water contamination from hazardous waste. Raw material prices also add to the strain.

  • Production: The process is marred by substantial greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Packaging: Quite often, this stage results in mounds of solid waste.

  • Distribution: The use of certain distribution channels, particularly in online shopping, can lead to further emissions.

  • Use and disposal: Here, there’s even more solid and hazardous waste.

Sustainable Printing Technologies and Materials

Embracing eco-friendly printing technologies is a significant step towards a more sustainable future – largely dictated by changing consumer trends. These innovations have revolutionized production processes in the sports apparel industry:

  • Utilizing water-based inks: These are free from harmful chemicals, producing quality prints without compromising sustainability.

  • Digital printing: This method significantly reduces the carbon footprint, as it only prints the required design.

  • Direct-to-film: Direct-to-film tech uses water-based inks, creating high-quality, durable prints.

  • Eco-friendly dyes: Using only recycled polyester or sustainable materials such as vegetable dyes presents less of a risk to the environment.

These innovative production processes prioritize the use of sustainable materials, underscoring the industry’s commitment to eco-friendliness.

Eco-friendly materials have gradually become vital in sustainable sportswear design. A growing number of sportswear brands are using synthetic materials sourced from recycled plastic bottles or offering products made from recycled nylon, which offers the same performance characteristics as virgin nylon.

The use of organic cotton in sportswear – in custom T-shirts, shorts, and other activewear – is another prominent example of adopting sustainable practices in the sports apparel industry.

Challenges, Trends, and the Path Forward for the Sports Apparel Market and Brands

Source: Piqsels

Using sustainable practices poses several challenges to sportswear brands, including the biggest market players. Fair labor laws can raise operational costs, which are even aggravated by material prices, transportation costs, and access to technological advancements.

However, despite these challenges, the future of sustainable sportswear is promising. Through continuous technological innovation and industry collaboration, achieving an eco-friendly sportswear market is within reach.


What is sustainable sportswear? Why is it gaining attention in the fashion industry?

Sustainable sportswear or sports apparel refers to clothing made from eco-friendly and recycled materials. It has gained attention due to the fact that more people are concerned about the environment – this pushed the fashion industry to recognize the urgency of mitigating environmental damage.

What are the primary benefits of using recycled materials in sportswear?

Aside from conserving key resources like water and energy, recycled materials equate to more commercial waste reduction in landfills – making such eco-friendly practices vital to a sustainable future.

What are the main challenges that the sports apparel industry and brands encounter when they decide to switch to sustainable printing practices?

Sustainable printing poses challenges such as higher expenses for fair labor practices, raw materials, technology, and transportation.

Header source: Unsplash

Sportswear Pro will be launching at The RAI Amsterdam, taking place on 19 - 22 March 2024. Sportswear Pro will showcase the very latest technologies and solutions for on-demand and customised sportswear production. From sample design and automated digital workflows, to innovative materials and integrated wearable technologies, the exhibition and visionary trend forum will present sustainable, faster and leaner production solutions to sports and activewear brands and manufacturers. Register your interest to visit here

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