Synthetic Materials: What's In Your Closet?
You may have heard about synthetic fibers and the dangers they pose to our environment, specifically our waterways. But how much do you really know about these fibers and how can we work to move away from them? Most synthetic fibers are made from fossil fuels and are treated heavily with chemicals. The most common of these is polyester.
Acrylic is a type of plastic fiber and is arguably one of the worst types of synthetic fibers. This is because it takes various toxic chemicals to make, is resource intensive, and made with fossil fuels. This fabric also pills easily and is very sensitive to heat, so why would you even want it in your closet?
This stretchy fiber is often mixed with other fibers, both natural and synthetic, to make garments more stretchy and elastic. Much like acrylic, it is made with toxic materials and energy intensive in production.
Another elastic material - this is a wrinkle resistant and weatherproof material, often used for rain jackets. But, did you guess it? It’s made with toxic chemicals and is energy intensive. Noticing a trend?
Not just the most common synthetic, but one of the most common of all fibers. Polyester accounts for close to half of the overall fiber on the market. It’s cheap and versatile, making it a staple for the fast fashion industry. And of course, it’s made with toxic materials - petroleum (YUCK)!
Always check a clothing label, because regardless of what a brand is telling you, these synthetics love to be slipped into natural fiber blends.
PROBLEMS WITH SYNTHETICS
So if you hadn’t already figured it out, synthetic fibers are often made using toxic chemicals and are energy intensive. But those are not the only problems synthetic fibers create. Most synthetic fibers are made with plastics, so they are not biodegradable and they release microplastics into our waterways.
Did you know that 73% of fish in the ocean have microplastics in their stomachs? And did you know that 35% of microplastics in the ocean come from synthetic materials?
What exactly is microplastic? Microplastics are miniscule pieces of plastic debris as a result of the breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste. Microplastics and microfibers are so fine that they can’t be filtered, making them everywhere, and pose a major threat to the health of our marine life and to our planet.
One of the obvious solutions is to make conscious consumer choices and purchase clothing made with natural fibers.(hint* our products are 100% made from natural fibers)
But we don’t expect you to throw out your entire closet. Please don't, that would be wasteful. So how do I keep my clothing from leeching microplastics into our waterways?
- Wash your clothing less often. Unless it really smells or has a stain on it, it really doesn’t need to be washed. (even a stain can just be spot treated too)
- When it is time to wash, there are products you can purchase and use in your washing machine to catch the microplastics before they enter our water streams.
Patagonia sells a washing bag that catches the microplastics, called the Guppyfriend washing bag. Or you can install this microfiber filter on your washing machine to do the same.
While these are great options to help reduce your microplastic pollution, it’s simply a band aid on a bigger problem. Opt for natural fibers that are safer for you and the environment.