A Vegan's Guide to Ethical Swimming

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Vegan Society member, Annie Button, discusses how to enjoy swimming whilst staying true to our vegan and eco-friendly ethics.  Person swimming

With outdoor swimming becoming increasingly popular for its benefits to both our mental and physical health, many of us are looking for ways to enjoy a dip while staying true to our vegan and eco-friendly ethics.

From sustainable swimwear brands to vegan suncare essentials for any time of year, it’s possible to reduce your environmental impact while swimming at your favourite spots. You’ll want to swim safely and respect the environmental impact your swim might have. However, there is a great selection of swimming costumes, shoes, bags and other essentials out there that align with vegan values.

Whether you enjoy a bracing dip close to home or you're heading off for some winter sun, ‘blue spaces’ are reportedly the healthiest when it comes to our wellbeing. This blog explores some great vegan swim-gear options, plus how to swim safely with your eco-friendly conscience intact.

Swim with a clear conscience

For committed vegans and swimmers with a respect for nature and the environment, learning how to have a cruelty-free and eco-friendly experience is key. Even as we head into the colder months, swimming is a great exercise and, in addition to enjoying indoor swims at leisure centres, the beach, open-air lidos or natural swim spots are often very appealing.

Natural swimming pools continue to grow in popularity in the UK thanks to a growing trend for outdoor and wild swimming which has endorphin-boosting benefits to our mental and physical health. While chlorinated pools have their place, nothing compares with the joy of swimming in a natural pool. Many swimmers, given the opportunity, do prefer to swim in pools and places that are safe, beautiful and free from chemicals, such as chlorine, or hazards, such as plastic pollutants and industrial waste.

Opt for eco-friendly swim gear and vegan-friendly brands

Recognising the popularity of outdoor and natural swimming, innovative swimwear brands and companies have emerged for swimmers looking for environmentally friendly products and cruelty-free accessories. For your next pool session or winter holiday, the good news is that brands are also making it possible for vegans to curate ethical ensembles, from stylish swimsuits made with recycled materials to goggles containing no animal products. If you know where to look, it’s possible to find some great sustainable swimwear too.

Many swimming products contain animal-derived materials or use manufacturing processes that harm the environment. If you’re unsure, avoid swimsuits made from Lycra containing Spandex, a fibre derived from harmful chemicals. Seek out high-quality swimwear made from recycled nylon or natural, vegan fabrics like organic cotton. In general, when shopping for accessories (such as goggles, snorkels or swim caps), watch out for leather or latex rubber, which contains animal milk. Opt for plant-based silicone or PVC-free plastic alternatives.

For traditional vegan swimwear (bikinis and swimsuits), Selenacare is a great choice. Asda has a good variety of environmentally friendly and vegan swim bags that are registered with the Vegan Trademark, for both adults and children. Although anything from this list is popular, particularly at the start of the new school year, visit the George website for further details of products, including:

  • a two-pack of swim bags in black, navy, red or green
  • a Batman rucksack and swim bag
  • a Minecraft Dungeons swim bag
  • a PVC glitter swim bag
  • a reflective rucksack and swim bag
  • a Spiderman rucksack and swim bag

Likewise, New Look has a number of products that are vegan-friendly and, for anyone keen to purchase something, check on the New Look website, or on shopping tags, to see if the swim product is registered with the Vegan Trademark. In addition to costumes, these shops have a wide variety of vegan shoes, as well as an assortment of bags suitable for your swim stuff.

Consider accessories such as vegan sandals made from sustainable materials like cork, or wide-brimmed hats woven from organic cotton or hemp. Don’t forget vegan-friendly towels, hats and other beach basics made from sustainable materials, such as Melissa Shoes’ range of colourful flip flops and Superdry's vegan flip flops - currently discounted at 50% off.

Invest in vegan sunscreen and protection

Another consideration for an outdoor and ethical swim should include vegan suncare and there are plenty of brands to choose from. Standard sunscreens contain animal ingredients as well as chemicals, like oxybenzone, that can bleach coral reefs. Choose reef-safe, mineral-based suncare. With some savvy shopping, vegans can choose an ethical swim wardrobe. You’ll look great while keeping a clear conscience about your impact on animals and the environment.

You might also want to bring along a beach umbrella with a metal frame and a canopy fabricated from recycled plastic bottles. And check out options for recycling used swim hats and goggles; some manufacturers will also take these back. With a bit of research, you can find vegan and eco-friendly alternatives for all your swim and beach gear essentials.

Stay safe wherever you swim

Although the UK is blessed with beautiful beaches, rivers and outdoor swimming locations, it’s important to swim safely whenever you venture into any natural body of water, either at home or abroad. With or without the presence of a lifeguard, knowing how to swim safely in open water is a crucial consideration.

Take safety precautions when choosing a swim spot and check the tide times if you’re swimming in the sea. Steer clear of sites near agricultural run-off and keep an eye out for blue–green algae, which can be toxic. You should also pay attention to swim signs and lifeguard guidance about rip tides or other potential dangers, such as weeds or underwater hazards.

While swimming in natural environments does provide incredible benefits, like improved circulation and endurance, make sure you acclimatise slowly to avoid cold water shock to your system. That said, a much-wanted swim in a secluded lake or on a stunning sandy beach can be a magical experience. Whether you’re swimming outdoors in an organised group or on your own, the positive boost to your mental health can be really beneficial, from reducing stress levels to inducing feelings of calm.

Respect the environment and natural bodies of water

If you’re passionate about swimming in the sea, river or lakes and you respect the environment, you’ll appreciate a heads-up on the quality of water you’re about to dive into. With some pre-swim research, you can be forewarned about any signs of chemical spillage and check for up-to-date sewage pollution alerts. It’s wise to know the water quality rating because bacteria levels can fluctuate. Also, avoid swimming after heavy rainfall, which can wash pollutants into the water.

In addition, you can read cautionary tales about polluted waters and campaigns that work hard to battle the risks to the world's oceans stemming from:

  •  the overuse of plastics
  • overfishing
  • exploitation of marine resources
  • the dangerous rise

If you’re keen on outdoor swimming throughout the year at lidos, indoor pools and beaches or seeking some winter sun abroad as the summer comes to an end, it’s possible to be an ethical swimmer at any time of year. If you choose swim gear carefully and respect the site where you choose to swim and have fun, vegans can enjoy the water without harming the planet.

If you want to know how to go vegan, your aim is to avoid exploiting animals for food or clothing, so when you’re swimming at home or on holiday, there are many ways to reduce your impact on the environment where you’re having a dip and its local inhabitants.

About the author: Annie Button is a freelance writer based in the UK. Annie writes for a variety of prestigious online and print publications. A vegan for 12 years, she is a member of The Vegan Society. Visit Annie's website to find out more or follow them on Twitter @anniebutton1994


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