World Ocean Day: How to Make Summer Sea-Swimming as Environmentally Friendly as Possible - The Gloss Magazine

World Ocean Day: How to Make Summer Sea-Swimming as Environmentally Friendly as Possible

Do our swimming habits need a sea-change? asks Holly Hughes …

One of my favourite things to come out of lockdowns was the return to nature and the uptake of sea swimming. I was overjoyed to see gaggles of people of every age and circumstance clustering on shores, clutching steaming cups of tea.

Yet in all of this happiness, in all of the Saturday morning camaraderie and Tuesday night community, something troubled me. As sea swimming grew in popularity, I witnessed an age-old story unfold – the story of capitalism, the onslaught of consumerism. Sea swimming became commodified: an activity of must-have accessories, from smartly cut bathers to the snug flex of a changing robe.

The irony is as blunt as that first icy dunk. The very thing we are doing to reconnect with nature is now becoming part of a fast-fashion culture of disposability that is actively destroying and polluting it. The disposable coffee cups cradled after a dip are added to oceans that, by 2050, will contain more plastic than fish. Streamlined swimwear that gives us the confidence to strut down the steps of the Forty Foot is a permanent, synthetic scourge on the planet, releasing thousands of microplastics into our oceans even before they go to landfill.

And so, as June blooms and we converge on piers and beaches, I’d like to talk about how we can perform our own restoration on the ocean. How we can do to the sea what she does for us – give us new life, keep us healthy, cleanse of the bad, and fuel our faith in the good. Here’s how to make your summer sea-swimming as environmentally friendly as possible.


Don’t buy anything. I know, I’m a broken record. But there is no such thing as buying our way out of the climate crisis. Purchasing any product that you do not need – no matter how resplendent its eco-credentials, how many plastic bottles it reuses, or seals it protects, or people it employs – is bad environmental behaviour. So, if in doubt, don’t. Particularly when it comes to swimwear. Swimwear made from synthetic materials like polyester, nylon, and spandex, depletes oil resources, its production causes environmental pollution and its failure to decompose at end-of-life means that it’s destined to sit in landfills or ocean floors, adding to the estimated eight billion tons of plastic that already exist on the planet.


For these reasons, consumers needing new swimwear have two options. First, for the infrequent swimmer who doesn’t require the durability of synthetic fabrics, choose garments made from natural materials like hemp. Organic Basics is one brand making swimwear from natural fabrics. For avid sea-lovers, choose longlasting swimwear made from Econyl (a regenerated nylon fibre made entirely from waste products). Kahm is a fabulous Donegal business creating Econyl swimwear while other EU-based brands using Econyl include Batoko, AllSisters and Underprotection.


However, this superhuman fabric doesn’t address the issue of the microfibre pollution which occurs every time you wash your swimmers. Research has shown that 90 per cent of protected marine environments in Ireland are polluted by microplastics mainly coming from clothing and fishing equipment. Gently handwash synthetic garments in cold water to reduce the amount of microfibres your bathers release into water systems. For the changing robe enthusiast, recycled and eco options exist and are absolutely worth your research and interest. Lots of robes are now made from 100 per cent recycled materials and organic cotton. Irish brands with eco-offerings include Sundrift, Cois Farraige, and Orca Board.

Sea swimming became an activity of must-have accessories, from smartly cut bathers to the snug flex of a changing robe.


Cycling, running, or walking to your nearest swim spot is truly the best way to honour our oceans. Plus, if there’s one thing I know to be true in this world, it’s that a swim feels infinitely better after exercise. Failing that, even carpooling can create a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions, as well as fostering that delicious sense of sea swimming community.


Protecting our skin can come at an environmental cost if we are not careful. Oxybenzone – the ultraviolet filter in sunscreen – stunts the growth of coral ecosystems and is toxic to symbiotic algae that give coral its colour. It also disrupts the ability of marine life, from dolphins to sea urchins, to properly develop and reproduce. To address this, avoid any products that contain oxybenzone or octinoxate and instead choose natural mineral alternatives (look for zinc-based products) that also are free from microplastics. Cosaint and Biofresh are two Irish-made options that are cruelty and paraben-free.


Is it any wonder our Irish seas are overrun with plastic when Ireland remains the worst plastic polluter in Europe? Now, I firmly believe in a post-swim snack and warming beverage. However, making sure these are in reusable containers – KeepCups, jam jars, Tupperware, beeswax wrappers. Avoiding unnecessary single-use waste is a small but truly effective way to clamp down on plastic pollution. Invest in a great flask, pop your favourite mug into your swim bag and choose homemade snacks over plastic-wrapped convenience foods.


I think many of us are now at the stage where we keep an emergency set of swimmers and towel in the car at all times. Taking this one step further by adding reusable rubbish bags and gloves so that you can do a quick, two-minute scavenge after every dip is a great way to make sure that, not only does your swim do no harm, it actively does good. If you’re an inland dweller, remember that these tips are as applicable to any blue space or body of water where you swim. It isn’t a case of if rubbish or microplastics will eventually end up in our oceans, it’s a question of when.



Sign up to our MAILING LIST now for a roundup of the latest fashion, beauty, interiors and entertaining news from THE GLOSS MAGAZINE’s daily dispatches.

Choose Your Categories

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This