You probably clicked on this article because you care about the ocean. And good for you. (Seriously — that's great.) But, in case you don't have the whole recycling thing down to a science yet, we're here to tell you how you can shop consciously without funky packaging, itchy fabrics, or a "Save the Whale" t-shirt.
At The Business of Fashion's VOICES conference in November, consultant and sustainability advocate Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff reminded us that 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans each year, and that we use 1 million plastic bags per minute. More alarming stats: Of those 8 million tons, 236,000 tons are micro-plastics, which are smaller than your fingernail; by 2050, it's expected there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish; there are several masses of plastic that float across the oceans, like one between Hawaii and California that is twice the size of Texas. And, at some point in our lives, we'll consume fish that has digested plastic microfibers.
Now that we've gotten your attention, we're also here to remind you how big a role fashion plays in this mounting crisis, and which brands are trying to fix it. Various forms of plastic, like polyester, acrylic, and nylon, make up about 60% of our clothes. And each time we wash our clothes, hundreds of thousands of tiny microfibers of plastic come off of them — like lint — and make their way to the sewage system, which is then dumped into the ocean. Plastic, by the way, takes hundreds of years to degrade. But there are solutions.
It's a big undertaking, then, for any fashion brand to focus its sustainability efforts on the ocean. But more and more labels are choosing to regardless. Take PrimaLoft, Inc., for example, a company that produces insulation and fabrics used in outdoor clothing and workout gear that has developed an award-winning biodegradable fiber. It can biodegrade within a year, while polyester remains nearly completely intact. And then there are brands like Everlane, who just this year announced their ReNew collection, a line of virgin plastic-free clothes, along with its commitment to stop using virgin plastic (the opposite of recycled plastic) in their supply chain by 2021.
For your consideration, we've rounded up some of our favorite fashion brands that've made giant leaps toward cleaning up their production processes and protecting our oceans from harmful, and mostly invisible, fibers. Yes, these brands are cool (and sure, some are a little bit expensive) but the difference between these labels and mainstream retailers is that they also draw creative inspiration from the ocean — they just don't hurt it in return.