Are you polluting the ocean with plastic, just by washing your clothes?
It’s sad but true. Microplastic–tiny, microscopic pieces of plastic–is polluting our waterways, and one of the leading sources is our clothing. More than ever before, our clothing contains synthetic materials, and it’s easy to forget that synthetics are mostly just plastic.
According to a 2018 study, 30 billion particles of microplastic are released into the ocean each year–and that’s just from Vancouver. Plus, this is after treatment centres filter out 1.8 trillion plastic particles in waste water.
When the plastic enters the water, it is eaten by sea creatures assuming that it’s plankton. Not only does this harm the animals and clog their poor digestive systems with toxic materials that can’t be digested, but it makes its way up the food chain, to us. When we eat seafood, we’re likely also eating microplastic. And when we drink water, we’re also likely drinking microplastic. No thanks!
1. Buy far less clothing. We buy and discard clothing at a terrifying rate.
2. When you buy a new piece, choose those made from natural materials. They’re harder to find but worth it.
- 100% cotton, linen, hemp, wool, and silk are all great choices (and remember, organic cotton is much better than regular, for the planet)
- Semi-synthetic fabrics such as bamboo fabrics, Modal, Tencel, etc, are still thought to contribute to microplastic pollution, as far as I can tell. (FYI: If anyone out there is an expert on this, I’d love to hear your thoughts.)
3. Keep in mind that it’s not just clothing: yarn for knitting, accessories, undergarments, blankets, towels, and so on, all count.
4. Wash your clothing less often and in cold water, if you can help it. I’ve actually heard a really cool tip about putting your jeans in the freezer, to kill germs, rather than washing them. (If anyone has done this I’d love to hear your experiences!) I’ve also heard of bags that you can put your synthetic clothes inside to wash them, but I haven’t tried this yet myself.
5. Spread the word! We can all make a BIG difference if we make some small changes. And we can make an even bigger difference if we tell people what we’re doing, so they can make a difference too.
Favourite (Canadian!) natural material clothing brands
I’d like to preface this by saying that buying used is always wonderful! Try to check the label to see what it’s made out of.
In my experience, it’s easier to find kids’ clothes made out of natural materials. Here are some of my favourites.
- Parade Organics: Vancouver-based, organic cotton with the cutest rompers
- Simply Merino: Vancouver-based, 100% merino wool basics with the best undershirts
- Mini Mioche: Toronto-based, organic cotton, with the best choices for everyday outfits
- Petit Vilains: Vancouver-based, cotton and linen, with the sweetest styles for special occasions
Many, but not all, of these companies’ products are made from natural materials. Please check each to be sure.
- Kotn: 100% ethical cotton, great basics
- Free Label: great basics
- Azura Bay: the prettiest organic and ethical lingerie
- Amanda Moss: mostly cotton and linen; dressier styles
- Betina Lou: mostly cotton and linen; dressier styles
- Jennifer Glasgow: mostly cotton and linen; dressier styles
- Ursa Minor: mostly cotton and hemp; dressier styles
- Obakki: mostly cotton and silk; dressier styles
- Sitka: mostly organic cotton and wool; casual clothes
- Tentree: plants trees for every item sold; casual clothes
Do you try to choose clothing made out of natural materials? Had you heard of microplastic before? Let me know in a comment below; I’d love to hear your thoughts.