Blue as far as your eye can reach, at the same time intimidating and comforting, a source of life as well as mystery. Beneath the surface, the oceans hold a rich ecosystem that connects us all, no matter where we are. Producing at least half of the Earth’s oxygen, the oceans hold the answer to a healthy future.
However, fashion is compromising this future.
This World’s Oceans Day (June 8th) is the right moment to discuss synthetic fibers and why we avoid them.
What are microplastics?
As we have written before, everything on this Earth is connected. Our choices impact the environment in many different ways. Yet, the biggest impact of clothes comes from how we produce them. At the core of that, our choice of fabrics plays a key role.
The fashion market is dominated by synthetic (man-made) fibers. Polyester, the world’s most popular material, holds around 55% of the share in the global fiber market. Other synthetic materials include nylon, rayon, acrylic, and spandex (lycra). These materials are derived from coal, air, water, and petroleum. In other words, they come from fossil fuels and are plastic-like.
The plastic-like materials in our clothes come with many problems. Their production is CO2 heavy and uses enormous amounts of water and toxic chemicals. The materials are not good for your skin either, as they don’t allow it to breathe. However, one of the biggest concerns with petroleum-based synthetics is that they shred microplastics.
Microplastics are tiny bits of plastics that are less than 5 mm (0.20 in) in length that get detached from bigger pieces of plastic. That includes plastic-like fabrics in our clothing. These pieces are so small that they usually pass through our water filters and end up in nature. Despite their size, they have an immense impact.
How microplastics harm the environment
The bits of plastic that end up in nature cannot biodegrade; instead, they bioaccumulate. Floating around our seas and oceans, fishes and other marine animals easily eat them, sometimes confusing them with food. Scientists are only starting to better understand what this means for the ocean’s ecosystem. Yet, many studies have already demonstrated microplastic’s long-term and toxic effects on algae, fish, turtles, crabs, and other creatures. Affecting just one species can have a derogating domino effect on the entire ecosystem.
Unfortunately, it does not end there.
Other animals, including humans, feed off the marine life too. The plastic never disappears but ends up in our bodies too. Moreover, as our production of plastic grew over the decades, the oceans are now so saturated with microplastics that they are now found in tap water and salt around the world. Bottled water contains them too, and so do beer, cow’s milk, and the fruits and vegetables we eat. Consequently, scientists have found microplastics in human blood, lung tissue, and the placenta.
Because we have evidence that microplastics can harm and kill small organisms, there are strong reasons to be concerned for human health.
Reducing the plastics from our wardrobe
When we wear and use petroleum-based synthetic materials, they shred plastic fibers, which are a kind of microfibers. The fashion industry adds about 176,500 metric tons of synthetic microfibers to our oceans every year. That makes it responsible for 35% of total microplastic pollution.
All synthetic fibers contribute to this pollution, though not all at the same rate. The lower the quality of clothes is, the more they will shred plastic. Materials like fleece shred a lot, while tightly woven garments may not shred nearly as much. Thus, avoiding certain materials and going for high-quality clothes is one way we can reduce the industry’s impact. Another way we can do this is by caring for our clothes better. Researchers found that using gentle washing detergents at low temperatures helps them shred fewer microfibers.
However, if you have been with Savannah Morrow for a while, you will know that we always start with our own actions before asking others to change their own.
We always give an advantage to natural, organic, and biodegradable fabrics. Those we use have low water and carbon footprint, come from renewable sources and directly support the livelihoods of people involved in making them.
By doing this, we hope to give you better options and help transform this industry to be healthier and safer for everyone.
We firmly believe that our clothes should celebrate and elevate the beauty of nature rather than take away from it.
Do you have any questions about the fabrics we use? Feel free to reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will be happy to talk to you.