Alright, we are getting close to the end of the zero waste challenge. Well done, so far!
Now, this might actually be one of the most important habits to change. It is often overlooked, and by doing a simple change, we can all create a significant impact.
I am talking about microfibers. The primary source of microplastic in the ocean.
What you wear is what you eat!
Unless you spend most of your life living in a tropical climate, and you only wear a sarong or some shorts, chances that the clothes you wear are made from crude oil (plastic) are very high.
I know this may seem weird to think of the soft fabric on your skin to be made from plastic. But nowadays a notable percentage of our clothes is made from synthetic fibers.
Since the skin is our biggest organ in the body, it can easily absorb the chemicals from our garments. The number of chemicals can be as high as 8000, and they are known to be endocrine-disrupting phthalates in vinyl. Carcinogenic in Gore-Tex, skin-irritating in Spandex and Lycra.
Now, this is not even scratching the surface of the problem the clothing industry brings along. It is, after all, the second most polluting industry in the world. But this is for another time.
Washing our clothes/ What is a microfiber?
If this is all new to you, don’t stress it was new to me a year ago as well. You can learn all about microfiber in this article here!
When we are washing our clothes, tiny fibers break off. These fibers are harmless to the environment as long as your clothes are made of natural products, such as:
When these fibers are released into the wild, they will biodegrade and eventually compost and turn back into soil. The problem we have with synthetic clothes is compared to the size of the small fiber, very big.
Whenever we wash a load of our synthetic garments, such as:
- yoga pants
- many more…
(Just pay close attention to the label, and you will be surprised to find out that most of our clothes contain a percentage of synthetic fiber such as:)
- rayon (is not considered environmentally friendly)
A whopping amount of up to 250.000 – 700.000 fibers can shed in one single wash load. That sounds like a lot, right?
What can we do?
These fibers are too small for the treatment plant to be caught, so they escape and end up in our waterways and, eventually, in the ocean.
This is where they cause an even bigger problem. From the smallest animals in the ocean= phytoplankton all the way up on the food chain. Until it ends up on our dinner plate, like fish or shrimps. You are going to eat small fragments of your clothes.
This picture displays the move of microplastic, which essentially is the same as microfiber.
This may not only be your clothes since we know that any plastic breaks up into microplastic. So what once was your shopping bag is now in the fish you eat. What once was your favorite yoga pants, well, have a guess!?
The effects of microplastic and microfiber are linked to
- birth defects
- developmental issues
- hormone issues
Humans are being studied and some studies claim that it merely hasn’t been long enough. But we do know that the chemicals used to make these fibers are causing a list of health problems.
There are some simple steps we can take to protect the environment and stay healthy!
- when washing your clothes wash them cold (fewer fibers break off during cold cycles )
- set the spin cycle lower
- use an efficient washing machine and consider installing a lint filter
- use a laundry washing bag that catches microfibers
There is only one washing bag that is designed to catch microfibers. The guppyfriend.
Read about the guppyfriend here.
Not only does the guppyfriend catch the microfibers, but it also makes your clothing last longer.
Alternatively, you can install a lint filter on the outside of your washing machine to collect the fibers. Make sure to dispose of the collected lint correctly and do not wash the guppyfriend or the lint filter as this will be counterproductive to the process. We want to catch the fibers to bind them and rule them all. Perhaps fill up a glass jar with your fibers.
Eventually, you might be able to stuff a teddy with it. ( I am not sure if that is such a good idea).
There are many ways how you can reduce microfibers from ending up in the ocean and eventually on our dinner plate.
Buy a guppyfriend!
Wash only your synthetic clothes in the laundry bag, which you can buy from Patagonia here in North America.
Wear your clothes until they actually need to be washed.
Buy only natural fibers!
Make sure to check the label and try and buy as many natural fabrics as possible. I know it’s not always easy, especially when you are buying socks.
Hey, and before you go, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter and learn more ways on how you can go zero waste too.
Would you like to see where you are at in your zero waste journey?