The fashion industry is one of the biggest contributors to global pollution. High levels of water consumption and pollution are having disastrous effects on our beautiful oceans. The time to change our consumer habits is now! So how do we turn our polluted rivers into streams of consciousness? Let’s take a look at some of the main issues and 5 easy ways to help combat them.
The main issues
Products like synthetic clothing release microfibres when washed. This contributes to about 35% of the primary plastic that’s polluting our oceans. When we wash our clothes, microfibres are released into wastewater which treatment plants can’t filter. These microfibres then attract organic pollutants. When all of this is washed away into the sea, it’s consumed by marine life. As microfibres continually enter our food chain, both animals and humans are at risk of serious health problems.
Textile factories are another concern. Huge volumes of toxic wastewaters are dumped into nearby rivers which flow directly into our oceans every day. These waters contain substances like lead, mercury and arsenic. Its’ toxins are extremely harmful for marine life and for the people living near river banks. And eventually, the effects extend to all of us around the globe.
The runoff of pesticides and fertilisers from cotton production are also contaminating our rivers and lakes. These pollutants are affecting biodiversity and have already had disastrous impacts on major ecosystems. The Aral Sea in Central Asia and the Indus Delta in Pakistan are just a couple of the ecosystems highly affected.
How can we help?
You might look at these issues and feel as though you’re helpless to make any real difference. The global impacts of the industry are just too overwhelming! We know that one person is usually powerless against them. But with a little bit of knowledge and a willingness to change our consumer habits, we can all make a huge difference as a collective in the fight to save our oceans and our planet. Here are 5 easy changes we can make:
#1 Supporting the idea of a circular economy
When clothing is made for a circular economy, it’s created using long-lasting, sustainable materials. This means that we can wear our clothes for a much longer period of time than we normally might compared with fast-fashion items. If we choose to shop with awareness and buy less, not only will we save money in the long run, but we’ll minimise waste. Let’s start shopping with the intention of keeping fashion pieces in our wardrobe for longer.
To a fashion-conscious person who loves to switch up their style, the idea of minimalistic purchasing can be boring and uninspiring. This is where thrifting (buying and selling second-hand items) comes in useful. There are so many easy-to-use platforms for anyone to buy and sell their clothes when they no longer need them. Sites such as Depop, eBay and Vinted make it easy for us to find quality second-hand clothing at affordable prices. And you might be surprised at how many distinctive designs you come across that aren’t often seen in mainstream fashion. Going to a thrift store can also be a fun way to explore vintage fashion and unique trends, with the added joy of guilt-free shopping! If you’re unsure of how to make the most of thrifting, there’s so many helpful guides to get you started.
#3 Choose eco-friendly fibres
Paying attention to the materials used in our clothing is crucial in protecting our oceans and our planet. Many of the fibres used in mainstream fashion such as cotton, leather and polyester have notably negative impacts on the environment. By avoiding these and choosing clothes that are made of ‘eco-friendly’ fibres like organic cotton, recycled wool, and silk, collectively we can make a huge difference to our environment.
#4 Repair damaged clothing
One of the main reasons that so many of our clothes end up in landfills is our tendency to throw them out because of general wear and tear. Repairing damaged clothing can be a great incentive to learn a new skill and there’s so many ways to make it fun! With countless Youtubers showing us their tips and tricks, why not learn to sew and stitch and maybe even up-cycle clothes into something entirely new? For all of the creatives out there, this can be a chance to do something positive for the environment and gain inspiration for those weekend DIY projects.
#5 Spot cleaning
The use of detergents and over-washing clothes in laundry machines has so many harmful effects on life in our oceans. To reduce some of the damage, we can avoid washing clothes unnecessarily when we notice a little stain on our once-worn sweatshirt. Instead, we can use eco-friendly liquid detergent to target the stained area and line dry the clothing.
The importance of protecting our oceans is at an all time high. With very little time left to act before the damage becomes irreversible, we each have a responsibility to do our part! By making a few small changes to the way we approach our love of fashion, the impact can be tremendous. A great place to start is by increasing the lifecycle of every item of clothing. With a little extra attention and care, we can all take steps in the right direction. A healthy ocean means a happier planet, so let’s support both!