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MICRO VS. MACRO | Can personal style save the environment and the world?

Updated: May 29

From where we sit at Sankari Studios, yes, it can.

a gray t-shirt disintegrating to dust

As global citizens, we are very much aware of modern threats to the planet, especially to our oceans. You probably are, too. From what kinds of packaging to avoid to what kind of fish to buy, our choices as consumers, protectors and activists are driven by the environmental education we’ve received and shared. We do our best with what we know.

Even so, there is new information all the time. To tee up, we refer to that iconic exchange between Mr. McGuire and Benjamin in The Graduate (1967): “There’s a great future in plastics.”

Mr. McGuire was half right.

We know know that “plastics” writ large are bad for the environment. There have been a lot of changes since 1967 to move away from their use. Your grocery store may use only paper sacks. You avoid beverage products with plastic six-pack rings. And you are certainly not using disposable water bottles.

There has been a well-publicized push to ban microbeads in cosmetics. But there is another product that funnels 16 times the amount of plastic to our oceans than microbeads.

It’s microfiber, and it’s ending up in our ocean, via our digestive systems.

According to our friends at*, microfibers are tiny strands of plastic less than 5 millimeters long that are shed from clothing made of synthetic materials like polyester, nylon and acrylic. The bulk of this shedding occurs during the washing and drying of garments; half a million tons of those plastic strands make their way to oceans and waterways. They’ve been detected in humans, ingested via the fish we eat, our drinking water, and sea salt.

These microfibers also absorb toxins, which make their way to our mouths, through our bodies, and back into our water systems. And these fibers are very prevalent in modern clothing. Since we can’t all buy new wardrobes, what do we do?

Wash less. Only wash clothing when you really need to.

Lower the temp. Gentler wash cycles release less fibers.

Pack in it. More clothing in the washer means less friction, and less shedding.

Air dry. The dryer makes clothing more likely to shed fibers.

Make it count. Buy fewer, better clothes. Synthetics shed more than higher quality garments.

This list is just the tip of the proverbial microfiber mountain. There’s a lot more to talk about here, and Remake it covering all of it. We think them for their tenacity, and recommend visiting to see other ways the clothing industry is being disrupted, and what you can do to help.

Who knew joining a movement could start with your favorite jeans?

*Remake is a global advocacy organization fighting for fair pay and climate justice within the clothing industry.

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