As awareness of the clothing and fast fashion industry’s environmental impact grows, I wanted to take some time to explore the issues related to fabric and clothing production, identify opportunities for thoughtful consumers, and to also perhaps answer some questions about recycled fabrics. I do not have to reiterate how important it is at this point in time to do all we can personally to reverse global warming and plastic pollution. It can seem that the power to change industry trends is not in your hands but global environmental consciousness is changing rapidly and we are making our way to more sustainable practices on a mass level. The daily barrage of news related to our looming climate crisis is nothing short of overwhelming and it can be difficult to zero in on what personal action we can take. As you will see by the numbers the impact of the clothing industry is staggering, but there are new solutions and hopefully big changes coming soon.
Today, textile production is the world’s second most polluting industry after the oil industry. The total greenhouse gas emissions from textile production currently stands at 1.2 billion tons annually and this is more than those of all international flights and maritime shipping combined, says the journal Nature Climate Change.
Polyester is now the most commonly used fabric in clothing, having overtaken cotton (which also has a huge ecological impact) early in the twenty-first century. For polyester and other synthetic materials, the emissions for production are much higher as they are produced from fossil fuels such as crude oil. To be clear ANY fabric that stretches or doesn't absorb water is actually made at least partially or wholly from plastic. Think swimwear, yoga pants, blouses, dresses, slacks, jackets.
I'm just going to say it again a little louder for the people in the back. Textile production is the world’s SECOND most polluting industry ONLY after the oil industry.
BUT CHECK THIS OUT
According to Science Direct and Down to Earth substituting virgin polyester with its recyclable counterpart offers up to a 90% reduction of toxic substances, a 60% reduction in energy usage, and up to a 40% dip in emissions. Those are really big numbers. So yes, wearing recycled swimwear and yoga pants IS a big deal, more so than I've ever thought.
In addition 60% of all clothing produced is disposed of within a year of production, according to Nature Climate Change. That is one garbage truck PER SECOND. We are buying disposable clothing and just like everything else that is cheap and fast it is primarily made by marginalized people in sub-par working conditions so besides environmental impact the humanitarian implications are also very disturbing. Because this is a major issue on a global scale 10 UN nations came together to establish the UN Alliance on Sustainable Fashion which aims to put fashion on a path to sustainability so you will be seeing a lot more recycled fabrics and better practices in your future.
Whether your garment is made from recycled or virgin polyester there is one very big problem that we have only just recently become aware of. Microfibers. They are EVERYWHERE, including ice crystals on the north pole, shellfish in the ocean and the fish on your plate. We still don't really know all of the environmental and health implications. But we do know that plastic is a carcinogen and has been linked to infertility.
Thousands to millions of plastic microfibers are shed from garments every time they are washed in a typical washing machine. There is a bit of research being done at the moment as to which fabrics shed the most and at what part of their life cycle. Fleece of course sheds a lot whereas other fabrics may shed most on the initial wash leading to a push toward pre treatment by manufacturers in the future. I am hoping soon we will have microfiber filters built into our home washing machines.
There are several ways you personally can reduce your wardrobe carbon footprint and your microfiber impact on the environment. One is to limit your clothing consumption by buying less and avoiding fast fashion, buying higher quality longer lasting clothes instead of a disposable wardrobe. You can also buy new to you clothing for a fraction of the price on apps like Poshmark and Thread Up. Another is to wash your polyesters in the Guppy Friend or using the Cora Ball to catch the micro fibers from washing into our rivers and oceans. Of course whenever available wearing recycled polyesters is key and if they are ethically handmade by your local bikini designer, even better. As many of you know Ranifly Bikinis are very durable, well made and built to last which is another great way of limiting consumption by purchasing a sustainable high quality product.
Our recycled fabric source is also doing what it can to clean up the ocean by recovering ghost nets and ocean plastics. Ghost nets make up 46% of the plastic in the ocean and are disposed of by fishing boats as trash in the sea killing hundreds of thousands of sea creatures a year. Comprehensively the recycled fabric we use is a solution to ocean clean up and sustainability. Read more about our fabrics & ghost nets on our Oceanscapes Mission page. The cherry on top is that in addition to recycled fabric we also print locally with water soluble dyes using the most ecological technology there are for printing plastic fabrics today.
The top photo and the one above is Kristin Hetterman, relentless ocean conservationist and Oceanscapes Photographer cleaning up the reefs and beaches of Lanai of these deadly ghost nets. The surf pants she is wearing are made from repurposed nets like these and printed with her Maui Wana design. They are part of our Oceanscapes collection that uses all recycled ocean plastics and gives back to Sustainable Coastlines who in turn educates children about ocean plastics.
Thank you so much for supporting our efforts to Malama Honua because we love her and want to create a bright beautiful sustainable future for the keiki of all of earth's creatures.