Finding the right dive wetsuit can be quite challenging with the sheer number of “reputable” brands on the market these days. Finding a dive wetsuit that fits your needs and is made sustainably can seem almost impossible. Self-proclaimed sustainable dive equipment company, Fourth Element aims to provide consumers with the form, function, and sustainability that they desire in dive gear. While their products seem a bit on the pricier side with wetsuits starting at $384USD, this company’s sustainability message, efforts, and future goals may make this wetsuit worth the hefty price tag.
This wetsuit is aimed to benefit all divers by avoiding the use of neoprene, a fabric that can cause allergic reactions in some people. Instead of using this harmfully produced and possibly irritating material, Fourth Element’s Thermocline wetsuit is made primarily of Econyl, the brand’s name for recycled and regenerated nylon fabric from fishing nets. Econyl is completely unique to Fourth Element and is deemed to be reef safe. The fabric also is said to have an unusually long lifespan compared to its competitors, though the exact number of years it should last is not explicitly stated in the product description. Other materials included in the suit are elastane (better known as lycra or spandex) and polyester. Both of these fabrics are made of fossil-fuel-based polymers and contribute to microfiber shedding that harms both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Though this wetsuit utilizes material that helps remove harmful waste from the sea and repurpose consumer fabric waste, the presence of petroleum-polymer-based fabrics in this wetsuit prevent it from receiving a full planet for materials. It should be noted, however, that Fourth Element aims to completely remove these harmful materials from its products over time.
This wetsuit is made in Poland and shipped worldwide in recyclable packaging, but other details about what happens before the wetsuit is shipped are missing. This lack of manufacturing transparency should make consumers a bit skeptical about Fourth Element’s overseas labor practices and working conditions. It is evident, however, that Fourth Element is responsible for making their own Econyl fabric from wasted ghost nets and “other consumer waste,” though we do not know what that waste is. Where this fabric is made is unknown, so it is not safe to say that Econyl does not travel before being sewn together into a Thermocline suit. It is also unclear whether the company makes or buys their on elastane and polyester to create the remaining parts of the suit. Although the company tells consumers that they make this wonderful recycled fabric from what many would consider to be trash, their lack of transparency in the manufacturing sector leaves a lot of room for questions and skepticism.
Fourth Element, a responsible dive brand, creates and distributes the Thermocline line of wetsuits. The company, started by two passionate divers, has a set of realistic, albeit lofty, sustainability goals. The company recently launched the Oceanpositive line of products, which all follow a rigid set of sustainability guidelines before being named Oceanpositive. These products are made of at least 30% recycled materials, come from a sustainable source, or serve as tools to help reduce plastic pollution. Besides their Oceanpositive line, the company is working hard to reach the goals of: carbon neutrality by 2030, introducing recycling and repurposing schemes for their products in the next five years, and ensuring that 90% of Fourth Element products contain at least 30% recycled material by 2030. Currently, they recycle or repurpose all factory fabric scraps, order with small suppliers to avoid large amounts of waste, and ship via the sea instead of air when possible. Internally, the company also seems to be moving toward a greener work environment. Employees work remotely when possible to save carbon emissions and Fourth Element offices use over 50% clean energy. Fourth Element also claims to source materials locally, though this claim is not backed up by examples. The brand also gives back, partnering with research projects, ocean-focused charities, and other environmental institutions to help save our seas. Overall, it is clear that Fourth Element is taking steps in the right direction when it comes to going green. Only time will tell if they meet their sustainability goals by 2030, but with 45% of their products already comprised of 30% (or more) recycled materials, it is clear that they will at least get close.
What is Elastane? https://sewport.com/fabrics-directory/elastane-fabric
Thermocline Wetsuit Description https://fourthelement.com/product-category/wetsuits/thermocline/