What brand of activewear defines you?

What does clothing like glossy workout wear, moisture wicking synthetics for training, microfibres and polar fleece have in common?

They are the source of over 80% of man made material lining our shorelines worldwide.

Ecologist Mark Browne is a man on a mission. He identified fibres from man made textiles – polyester, nylon and acrylic as responsible for more than 80% of shoreline refuse. Armed with this knowledge, he naturally approached large, Big Brand clothing manufacturers using these materials to offer to research alternative fibres that would stay with their textiles and not end up in our oceans and waterways.

No response.

No response.

No response.

One such large clothing manufacturer who markets their brand as ethical and responsible were happy with their textile products, and preferred to continue to use some of their profits to support environmental causes.

A little, ‘back to front’ don’t you think? Does throwing some money at something make it ok that you do the wrong thing in the first place? Not really.

It should be noted that the identification of these materials applies to man made fibres in all industries, including carpets and upholstery.

Mark’s landmark study was published in 2011, it’s not new news.

It is only when consumers vote with their dollar at the register that we see real change.

Large businesses have the resources to create products that we want and that serve our communities and are respectful of our planet.

Why wouldn’t they do this?

As with all industry, manufacturers only make products that people buy, and they do it as efficiently as they can. (No long term strategy in products sitting on the shelf).

It’s the power of you.

Take the Ban the Bag campaign as a perfect example. The world has known of the devastating effects of plastic bags for a long time. The supermarkets have held out all this time, and plastic bag manufacturers have been fully aware of the effects of their products before anyone else. Have we seen them change their product range, modify formulation or offer alternatives? No. They made their bags thinner and thinner and cheaper and cheaper to extract as much value as they could from their toxic factories.

Naturally grown fibres without toxic chemicals, and not by products of petroleum manufacture, are the alternative. Things like cotton, merino wool, Tencel, (some of) the chemical free bamboo textiles (chemical status can be tricky to determine).

The power lies with us as consumers. So, send them a strong message by buying products that you know are good and well for your health, and the health of our environment – they’ll get the picture. And, don’t stop. Keep them honest. Exercise your right to conscious choice, and hold them responsible for providing this – or create yourself.

The other elephants in this room are the white goods manufacturers. An important area we can control is filtering waste water from the laundry, to capture those man made fibres before they reach our oceans. Mark approached washing machine manufacturers with the same concept and they were dismissive. You see, it’s all business. The better the filtration system they install in their machines, the quicker the filter is filled and requires cleaning. Manufacturers don’t want to rely on consumers to periodically empty their filters, as people forget, they ignore alerts or calendar entries and this leads to the possibility of blockage and overflow – difficult to warrant, and leading consumers to choose brands with less ‘maintenance’. There are a couple of clever filtration designs by savvy engineers but washing manufacturers refuse to warrant machines with retrofit filters. (Huge opportunity for a smart white goods manufacturer to differentiate their product…)

The commercial carpet cleaner who cleaned the carpets across the road from us recently, and promptly emptied the contents of their machine in the gutter reminds me that appropriate disposal from carpet cleaning will also reduce our footprint.

SO much we can do to ensure our health, the health of our families, and shift towards a healthier planet for our children to raise their families.