We have a problem, a plastic problem. We know that all fabrics break down and release small filaments known as, “microfibers” during manufacturing, washing and wearing, eventually leaching into our environment and water systems. While natural fibers will disintegrate over time, synthetic fibers derived from petroleum have become a prevalent material used in clothing and textiles. The non-profit organization Ocean Wise reported that nearly 878 tonnes of synthetic microfibers enter our oceans annually. During 2015, 18% of microplastics, microfibers and nano fibers were produced by the USA and will triple by the year 2050… Yikes.
Extracting such filaments from our water systems is near impossible due to the variation in size and amount of micro-pollution, however you can make a difference in the amount of plastic pollution you produce by changing what you buy and implementing habits such as these while shopping:
Information is a tool, so be aware when looking for clothing brands that are promoting a sustainable initiative that diverge from their usual business model. Companies and clothing brands will sell an idea or a design to increase revenue, but if there is a lack of information, vague statements or insufficient credibility backing-up such advertising, dig.
For example, H&M’s “Conscious Collection,” is an attempt on behalf of the company to target eco-conscious customers by using “sustainability” in the collection’s statement. However, this is false. If H&M were, in actuality, committed to making a difference, they would change their entire business model to fit those standards. Instead, look for companies that provide proof of their certifications like, “Fair-trade” and “Global Organic Textile Standard” (GOTS) and exhibit consistent transparency with their customers.
Look at tags! Garments made of polyester, rayon, acrylic and nylon are fossil fuel-based fibers that release tiny plastic strands, known as microfibers, during manufacturing, washing and wearing.
Instead, seek out clothing made of natural fibers such as linen, organic cotton, wool, flax, etc. It is completely understandable that your wardrobe may not consist of only linen, organic cotton or other natural materials listed above, but the aim is to incorporate more eco-friendly textiles and slowly weed out the man-made fibers that cause harm to the planet and ourselves.
While not all local clothing shops sell eco-friendly, or sustainable garments, you as a consumer have the ability to influence the type of merchandise being sold. How? Small clothing shops listen. More often than not, the owners are more accessible and also have more to lose compared to big name brands and companies. You have a larger chance of being able to contact the owner of a shop downtown as opposed to big industry stores like H&M, JC Penney, ASOS, and Topshop.
On the other hand, visiting local thrift shops or consignment stores are cost efficient options when buying clothing or reused items, not to mention, the increased interest in thrifting has provided more online thrift shopping options. Donating used clothes is also a great way to up-cycle and keep clothing out of landfills.
Less is more. While that can be a hard pill to swallow, considering our consumerist habits and the constant manufacturing of new things, the fact is: material goods eventually bore and lose value over time. Clothing and products in general, are not built or created to last anymore because if we owned products that held up against the test of time, we wouldn’t continue to buy at the same rate as we currently do, putting companies out of business.
When you buy quality over quantity, you are buying an item for its durability and longevity, versus temporary satisfaction, which in the long run is more cost efficient to you, the buyer.
Photo: Lisa Fotios – lisa_indever