When one thinks of "plastic pollution," images of bottles and straws and bags are usually the first to pop into the mind. Yet now more than ever our clothes are made out of plastic... and it's a problem.
Polyester, nylon, acrylic, and other synthetic, plastic fibers make up about 60 percent of the material that makes up our clothes worldwide according to VOX. That means when we wash our clothes, little particles - less than 5 millimeters in length- leach into our waterways where the dirty washing machine water gets flushed to. And those waterways eventually make their way into our oceans, adding to the microplastic pollution problem our seas face.
What happens to microplastic in the ocean?
It gets eaten. No, seriously, scientists have found that these tiny bits of plastic have been accumulating in the food chain and being ingested by all sorts of marine wildlife. And who eats seafood? We do. You see where I'm going with this...
So what can I do?
There's a lot we - and manufacturers - can do. As consumers, we can:
Do capsule wardrobes help our planet?
A capsule wardrobe is a limited selection of interchangeable clothing pieces that are made of versatile, high quality pieces and that could be easily mixed and matched and never really go out of style due to their timeless fit. The concept is not new - it's been around for decades - but is now being widely talked by those who want to greatly diminish their impact on our planet via their wardrobes.
So is this type of wardrobe eco-friendly? Yes! Since you don’t have many clothes and wear every single piece you own, people tend to go for quality pieces (aka not anything made by the fast fashion industry) and reduce waste. Plus it saves you money, ka-ching!
Let me know if you want me to do a step-by-step guide on how to create a capsule wardrobe.
how sustainable is renting clothes?
I remember when it seemed the only clothing rental platform was Rent the Runway... and now we have Le Tote, Gwynnie Bee, and a slew of other companies (such as rban Outfitters, Macy’s, Banana Republic, and American Eagle) with their own clothes rental services. But how sustainable is this enterprise, really? A journalist from ELLE reported back in 2019 that the short answer is "we really don't know" because it didn't seem like anyone had done an in-depth environmental study of these sort of operations. Elizabeth Cline pointed out a big flaw in the whole idea of renting clothes: while it was true you were all using one garment, the "shipping impact of leasing your wardrobe could be neck-and-neck with that of a fast fashion shopper."
Researchers recently put out an article that agrees with her observations, coming to the conclusion after analyzing the environmental impact (aka greenhouse gas emissions) of five different scenarios for textile "ownership" and "end-of-life," including clothing rental, recycling, re-selling, or wearing items for more or less time before throwing them away. Similarly, the dry cleaning of clothes also has a significant impact.
SO what's the best solution to making sure my clothes have the smallest impact on our planet?
Maybe something that we've known all along... buy fewer clothing items (made of natural fibers), wear them for as long as possible (including patching them up), before reselling or donating them.
Hi! I'm Melissa, an Australian-based Latina science educator, podcaster, and freelance writer. I spend a lot more time on Instagram and Twitter, but blogging is my first love. Thanks for stopping by — I hope you stay a while.
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