Fourth Element Women’s Hydro Leggings

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Amanda Williams
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Fourth Element is a company that specializes in clothing made for scuba diving, surfing and other water activities. Their women’s hydro leggings are designed to be worn under a wet or semi dry suit, or just as a UV shield for water sports. These leggings cost $76, which is on the pricier side, but I did see that they had similar products at a lesser cost. It appears that they are trying to become more sustainable, but I think more information is needed about how they make their products and where they get their materials. Since Fourth Element is a smaller brand, I want to give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to lack of information on their website, but I am also aware that the reason for the lack of information is that they are not as sustainable as they say they are. To prove they are sustainable and to avoid greenwashing more information about this product and the company is needed. 

What it's made of:


These leggings are made with 85% recycled polyester and 15% elastane. Recycled polyester is created by melting existing plastic down so that it is able to be remade into new polyester fiber. Polyester is made from petroleum so it is nice to see that Fourth Element is finding ways to used recycled polyester to extend the lifecycle of previous made products. The other material is elastane, which is a synthetic fiber more commonly known as spandex. Spandex fabric is made of plastic and rubber, and the majority of spandex is made from petroleum or other non-renewable resources, making it unsustainable. The down side of mixing elastane with recycled polyester is that it is hard to recycle after being used. I was unable to find where they source the recycled polyester and elastane from. There is a lack of information regarding where they get these materials from which raises a red flag and more transparency is needed.

How it's made:


This product is part of the Ocean Positive Collection, which is Fourth Element’s campaign to reduce the amount of plastic produced in the world. Eight million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean every year, so as company that produces products relating to the ocean they want to see this number decrease. To be considered Ocean Positive, the product must be made from at least 30% recycled materials, come from a certified sustainable source, and must be a tool to help reduce plastic pollution. While they don’t provide a definition of a sustainable source they give Yulex rubber as an example. The products are also packaged in compostable bags made from sustainable cassava starch and are a replacement to plastic bags made from petroleum. All their items are either shipped in a cardboard box or a heavy duty paper sack. As for the hydro leggings themselves, I was unable to find any information on the website about where or how they are made. They do state that they work with smaller suppliers to ensure less waste, but I was unable to find who these suppliers were. With no transparency in their supply chain it is hard to know how sustainable Fourth Element’s production process really is. 

Who makes it:


Fourth Element was created in 1999 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. Jim Standing and Paul Strike created this brand after talking about how they wanted high quality clothing that had a simple, diving-oriented style. Since then, Fourth Element has grown and their products are sold around the world. The company headquarters are located in Cornwall, UK, and the headquarters run on 60% electricity from solar power. Fourth Element hopes to continue to reduce their impact by getting carbon emissions and plastic usage to net zero by 2030. They also have initiatives to ship products via sea instead of air and source locally. The company’s sustainability focus revolves around their Ocean Positive products. I would be interested to look at a product this company makes that is not ocean positive to see how sustainable those products are and to see if the trade off is a lower cost for the product. I was able to find on their website that 45% of all their products are made with at least 30% recycled materials. These recycled materials include plastic bottles and old fishing nets. Their goal is to double the amount of products made with recycled materials by 2030. Fourth Element is also planning projects over the next 5 years to allow for more repurposing, repairing and recycling of their products. While this sounds great there seems to be few updates or facts that show these changes are being made. More transparency in progress and their environmental impact is needed for this to not be considered greenwashing.