I have a fuzzy problem, and it has to do with some of my most beloved “performance” outdoor clothing. Like many Pacific Northwest and environmentalist folks, I was happy with the idea that my fleece clothing was made from recycled plastics … what a great way to divert something from the waste stream. And it’s a great fabric … easy to work with for home sewing, durable, doesn’t ravel or run if you get a small hole in it, the moths don’t eat it in the closet, and it stays thermal even when wet so it’s good for outdoor use.
But it turns out to have a dirty secret, which I’ve been aware of for the last couple years … every time you wash these artificial fabrics micro plastics are released into the water and end up in our ecosystem … something that just can’t be good for our seas and oceans.
Since I became aware, I have avoided purchasing any more fleece fabric or clothing, but then I realized the problem is not limited to fleece but includes pretty much all artificial fibers in clothing, to different extents.
OK, so I should only buy natural fabrics. Turns out to be easier said than done. I’ve been looking for a wool vest for skiing for my son for years now, but each one I find is lined in fleece. In fact, I simply can’t find snow and ski gear for my family that isn’t made out of artificial materials.
According to Patagonia (who says they are working on researching solutions to this problem) there are a few things I can do:
- Only buy what I need, and use it for as long as possible.
- Wash performance clothing and gear as little as possible.
- Use a filter of some kind (I’ve ordered the guppyfriend bag from Patagonia)
OK. I can wear stuff until it is standing up on its own and sending chemical messages with its odors. I can wash it in the guppyfriend bag and then scrape the microfibers into the trash instead of letting them go into the water system.
And I think this issue needs a systematic fix. People of goodwill, taking individual action, can’t solve this by themselves. So I really hope some bigger fixes can be found!