We’ve all heard about the detrimental consequences of fast fashion. But have you ever wondered how much damage our oceans in particular suffer as a result? From microfibres to plastic packaging, our oceans are constantly polluted by our non-ocean-friendly fashion choices.
Our survival, along with countless other species, is hugely dependent on the ocean. It is therefore vital that we do as much as we can to protect it from harm, and one way to do so is ensuring that the fashion we consume is ocean-friendly. So, next time you’re buying, what do you really know about the brand’s commitment to the ocean?
Does the brand avoid harmful chemicals?
Globally, textile dyeing is responsible for 20% of industrial water pollution. But how can a bit of colour cause so much damage? Because of the 200,000 tonnes of dyes that end up in our oceans – that’s why. What’s worse is that before raw materials even get to the design stage they’ve already been treated with about 8,000 synthetic chemicals to turn them into textiles. For example, cotton accounts for 16% of all pesticides used – that’s a lot of chemicals going into the production of your favourite t-shirt.
So, how does all of this affect our oceans? Often, the contaminated water goes untreated and makes its way into the Earth’s water systems. The often carcinogenic dyes then pollute the wildlife within our oceans.
Support brands using waterless dyeing methods and low-impact or natural dyes
Invest in more ocean-friendly textiles, such as bamboo or lyocell, which don’t need pesticides to grow
Only buy clothes made from organic and certified cotton, if that’s your fabric of choice
Does the brand avoid plastic pollution?
Every year, an estimated 12 million tonnes of plastic bombard our oceans. Unfortunately, the fashion industry is far from innocent in all of this. A 2016 study by Plymouth University found just one clothes wash can release 700,000 microplastic fibres into our oceans.
These fibres, according to The Guardian, block animals’ digestive tracts and impact organisms’ ability to absorb energy from food. Although tiny, they are therefore affecting entire food chains.
Packaging also poses a problem, with brands still supplying consumers with single-use plastic. When 300 million plastic bags enter the Atlantic Ocean alone every single year, and millions of animals die as a result, plastic packaging just seems lazy and cruel.
Invest in clothes made from natural fibres like cotton, linen, and hemp which shed less plastic
Support brands like nu-in who use recyclable and responsibly sourced cardboard packaging, and 100% biodegradable and compostable bags
Does the brand limit their carbon footprint?
Fast fashion’s relationship with carbon emissions is a terrifying one. According to Unearthed, each year, worldwide, textile production emissions exceed those of international flights and shipping. They contribute to an unthinkable 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2.
Pebble Magazine explains that this is because of the vast amounts of energy consumed in the production, manufacturing and transportation of garments. Furthermore, many countries involved in these processes are powered by coal, the largest contributor to climate change as a result of pollution.
But it’s not just the Earth’s air being polluted with the detrimental consequences of the fashion industry. Our oceans are too. They absorb large quantities of CO2 from the air and as a result, the acidity of our oceans is rising.
This has a knock-on effect on thousands of species, as corals can no longer build skeletons, meaning marine life can no longer form habitats in them.
Good On You suggest supporting brands that…
Produce their clothing near their warehouses to reduce CO2 emissions
Minimise waste in every way possible
Invest in clean, renewable energy in their supply chains
Overwhelmed by how to make your fashion choices ocean-friendly?
Doing your research before investing in a brand is important. But it can feel daunting and overwhelming, especially if you don’t really know where to start. That’s where apps like Good On You come in.
Supported by Emma Watson, the app rates brands based on their commitment to people, animals, and the planet. Environmental factors that help them do so include carbon emissions, impacts on water, microfibre pollution, and chemical disposal.
By informing users of how environmentally sound a brand is, the company encourage consumers to “Wear the change you want to see”.
“We have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy.” Emma Watson, Good On You
There is a lot of work to be done higher up within the fashion industry. This includes regulations being implemented to avoid the water and plastic pollution of our oceans. But we are not helpless. We can drive the change.
As consumers, we have the power to dictate what we will and will not support. We can choose to avoid brands which negatively impact our planet and support those which make gorgeous garments whilst being ocean-friendly.
Together, we can help to reverse the harmful consequences the fashion industry is having on our oceans.