The biggest environmental threat to our planet and the future of humanity is the clothes you wear. Quite simply our governments should have made synthetic clothing illegal years ago.
In 2011 we knew that synthetic microfibres from clothing make up 85% of human made debris found on beaches around the world. About two thirds of the world’s clothes are made from acrylic, polyester, nylon, and polyamide. One wash load can shed up to 17 million pieces of microplastic. Each year this adds up to 2,300-5,900 tons in the UK alone. There is no way to stop these going into our environment and there is no way to get them out of the environment once they are there.
If you wear synthetic clothes then you are part of the problem. I hope Greta Thunberg doesn’t.
The answer is to go back to natural fabrics or use the synthetic materials that do biodegrade. Natural materials include: Cotton, wool, silk, linen, leather, fur, cashmere, bamboo, hemp, jute, alpaca, camel, kapok, angora, ramie, abaca and mohair. Biodegradable synthetics include: Rayon, Tencel, Lyocell, Modal, Excel, soy silk and cashmere, Pinatex, PLA, QMilk and Zoa. Beware of recycled polyester etc, even if it comes with green credentials. It is just as bad as non recycled polyester at shedding microplastics.
When buying natural fabric clothes always look at the label. What might seem to be 100% cotton may have synthetic lining or pockets and it is very difficult to escape synthetic stitching and buttons.
On the high street most clothing from most shops is fully or partially synthetic (often poly/cotton). Uniqlo have lots of cotton, linen and cashmere at sensible prices, but always check the label. Jeans are good and can be bought from £5 to several hundred pounds. A traditional waxed cotton jacket, such as a Barbour, is a good substitute to synthetic waterproofs, but some models are 100% cotton and others aren’t. Clothing made from Ventile is waterproof but expensive. And traditional clothes from the likes of Peter Christian are mostly natural.
Here are a few other British clothing suppliers worth looking at:
- Carrier Company from Norfolk. Utterly gorgeous clothes that really are objects of desire.
- Darcy Clothing. For the full Monty Don look. Exceptionally nice.
- Conker shoes. Just check that the sole is natural.
- Brora. Beautiful ethical clothing from Scotland.
- Palava. One for the girlies.
- Four pages of small ethical producers HERE.
The USA is a really good place to look. They are the kings of cotton and have an extensive outdoor culture and tradition. They created seersucker for sweltering hot climates and duck for the hardest durability. Look out for flannel, not only flannel shirts in a range of weights but also flannel lined trousers and jackets. They really keep you warm. A huge advantage of Brexit is that all this good stuff will become more affordable.
- Lands End. Well known, high quality, reasonably priced, especially in their sales.
- Levi. Gold mining clothes.
- Orvis. Fantastic quality and also really good shirts.
- Carhartt. Railway building clothes. Their WIP range is boutique stuff for hipsters. Their workwear is the real thing.
- Wrangler. Similar to Levi. Their Riggs workwear is the real thing.
- L L Bean. A huge range, great quality, sensible prices. Mail order only from USA.
- Filson. Simply the best. For the Alaskan gold rush. Reassuringly expensive. Tin Cloth is a legend.
Obviously it would be massively expensive to replace your wardrobe in one go. The trick is to only buy biodegradable from now on, starting with your everyday staples that get washed most. Then gradually working towards being an eco friendly citizen of the planet.
The best way to dispose of synthetic clothes is to burn them. The CO2 given off feeds plants, greening the planet and helping to feed children in Africa.