Before you buy your next pair of black yoga leggings (because you totally don’t have enough and if you get more then you’re totally more likely to work out this week) keep in mind that your yoga pants – as well as other clothes made from common synthetic materials – are causing the world’s oceans to fill up with minuscule pieces of plastic known as microfibers.
When you wash clothing made out of synthetic material (think spandex, nylon, rayon and polyester) tiny little things called micro-plastics are released and they end up in our oceans. Last year, Patagonia funded a study at the University of California, Santa Barbara to investigate the connection between washing machines and the release of microfibers. Researchers found that when synthetic jackets are laundered, they release about 1.7 grams of microfibers into the wash. And that’s just with one wash. Over time, with most people owning multiple synthetic clothing items, it adds up.
Even more alarming is the rising number of studies indicating that the synthetic fibers in our clothes could be poisoning our waterways and food chain on a massive scale. Microfibers have been found in abundance on shorelines where wastewater is released. In fact, microfiber waste is so common that Mark Browne from the University of New South Wales, Australia, found that microfibers made up 85% of human-made debris on shorelines around the world. And if you think this is just a trash problem, research has shown that microfibers are getting embedded into the tissue of marine life, AKA your favorite tuna roll.
So what can you do? A lot. Flex your purchasing power and flex it often. Avoid synthetic materials in your clothing (which actually cause them to disintegrate faster) and look for non-synthetic materials. Read the label of your clothes and buy clothes with natural fibers:cotton, wool, and silk. Look for clothes that are 100% cotton or bamboo. Prana, a popular yoga-clothes company, now offers yoga pants made from 50% hemp and 50% organic cotton, as alternatives to it’s 100% plastic-wear.
Or if you can’t live without your LuluLemon or your Nike leggings, Patagonia just started making a GUPPYFRIEND Washing Bag which is designed to catch microfibers so they can be thrown in a trashcan instead of washed down the drain.
As a concluding point, you have a lot of power as a consumer and leading companies such as LuluLemon and Nike will be forced to follow your lead once you begin stocking up on more natural clothing options that have less synthetic fibers.
Your yoga pants probably aren’t that chill for the environment, and you don’t have to give them up, but it’s never a bad idea to become more aware of what you’re wearing because one day you’ll probably be eating it.
Katrina Froelich is the Fashion Editor at Tough to Tame. She’s worked in the fashion industry for over four years, gaining experience in PR and Editorial work at companies such as GUESS and Forme. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org