There’s a lot of talk these days about how to save the oceans. Businesses, cities, and even entire states are banning straws to help fight pollution. Stores — including my local thrift store — are starting to ban plastic bags. Heck, there are even people going plastic free in their lives to help the epidemic. According to The Guardian, plastic popping up in oceans is a problem that not even recycling can fix. But the problem is much closer to home than you might think. In fact, it’s in your closet. If you want to help the oceans, you should buy better clothing.
Pollution is a problem. At the most basic level, I think we can all agree on that. You’re likely pretty aware of the plastic bags that you throw out or the straws that you grab pretty much daily for convenience. What you might not know is that clothing is a part of the plastic pollution problem. (Say that ten times fast.) I’m not talking about throwing away clothing, either. I’m talking about doing your laundry.
Let me break it down for you. All clothing are made of materials. Some are natural (think: cotton, wool, silk), while others are manmade (think: polyester, rayon, acrylic). It’s those manmade materials that you need to watch. Each of those fabrics are created with a tiny touch of plastic to help bind them. When you wash these materials, tiny little microscopic pieces of plastic go into the water, down the drain, and eventually into the oceans.
But tiny, microscopic pieces can’t be bad, right? Wrong.
According to Green Peace, up to 700,000 fibers can come off one single item in the wash. The publication reports that 30 percent of the ocean’s plastic pollution comes from microfibers, which eventually end up in animals stomaches, meaning that we ingest them as well. How’s that for a full cycle of plastic pollution for ya?
There are ways for you to save the oceans, though. All you have to do is to opt for natural materials.
Synthetics are not so great (read: terrible) for the environment. Thankfully, there are plenty of other materials out there to choose from. Because natural materials are, well, naturally made, they don’t need plastics to hold them together. That means that there are no microplastics coming off of them in your washer. It’s really that simple, my friends.
The catch is that you won’t find the natural materials in fast fashion stores. Synthetic materials are cheaper to make. Think of them as the McDonalds of the food world. Super cheap and not great for you. Nylon, polyester, rayon, spandex, elastane — all synthetic, cheap, and terrible for the environment.
Next time you’re shopping, try checking the tags for natural materials like cotton, linen, silk, wool, or cashmere.
You might have to pay a little more for your items, but it’s for a great reason. Not only will your clothing likely last longer, but it’s also saving the oceans from microplastics. My favorite place to find these fabrics are the thrift store. You can find natural fabrics for way less than retail. Not to mention that they’re likely in incredible condition, since the materials hold up so well.
That doesn’t mean that you have to throw out all the clothing you already have though. Because that would, you know, create pollution. You can actually get bags for the laundry that reduce the amount of microfibers that escape per wash. All you do is unzip the bag, put your synthetic materials inside, and do your wash normally. Enough detergent and water will get through, but the microplastics will not get out.
Next time that you’re out shopping, try reading the labels and not just the price tag. Natural materials are available and it’s a foolproof way to save the oceans.