chasing answers newsletter #51
Happy belated Earth Day, Is our laundry part of the problem, A great place to begin learning about climate
“Let us permit nature to have her way. She understands her business better than we do.” - Michel de Montaigne
And Happy belated Earth Day!
Yes, I’m a day late, but that doesn’t make the info below any less useful.
Let’s get to it!
Is Our Laundry Part of the Problem?
My philosophy regarding clothing is the same as it is for vehicles. I buy them new and keep them until I have extracted every last ounce of usefulness out of them.
I pride myself on wearing my clothes until they absolutely can’t be worn anymore. I push the limits of what is appropriate, wearing clothing with holes, tears, stains, and anything else you can think of.
For the longest time, I assumed that in addition to saving money, I was helping the environment by not generating demand for more clothing and therefore saving the planet from the additional energy usage, resource consumption, and pollution resulting from said demand.
In recent years, despite their minuscule size, microplastics and microfibers have become a BIG thing. And it turns out that wearing my t-shirts until they are see-through may not be so great after all.
Microfibers are tiny pieces of plastic shed from clothing made of synthetic materials like polyester and nylon.
According to this Grist.org article, these microfibers make up as much as one-third of all microplastics in the ocean and have been found everywhere, from Mount Everest to the Mariana Trench.
These microfibers find their way into the food chain when they are consumed by plankton, which are then consumed by larger fish, which are ultimately consumed by us. Yes, microfibers have been found in human feces and our blood.
And as our clothing becomes older and has endured more washes, it is more likely to shed these microfibers. So continuing to wear clothing that is falling apart can do more harm than good.
According to the article mentioned above, some studies show that a typical load of laundry can release thousands, if not millions, of these microfibers. And this article by Goodonyou.eco goes even further, suggesting that the average load of laundry releases 9 million microfibers into wastewater treatment plants.
And while some states and countries are beginning to put laws in place to require washing machines to include filters or devices that would capture particles down to a specific size, the really bad news is that new studies show these microfibers can be released from certain types of clothing just from normal wear.
So what are we to do?
The first thought of many may be to stop making clothing out of synthetic materials. But this isn’t so cut and dry. In many cases, it’s easier to recycle clothing made of synthetic materials than clothing made of natural fibers like cotton. In addition, cotton is a resource-intensive crop, requiring large amounts of water and, when not organic, using large amounts of insecticides. So, it isn’t necessarily the best alternative.
There are companies working on synthetic materials made of more tightly woven threads and some working on coatings that would make the fibers slick, causing less friction and shedding.
In the meantime, the best thing we can do is be careful how and when we do laundry.
Don’t wash your clothes more often than they need it.
Use liquid detergent, which causes less friction than powder.
Make sure the washing machine is full. This allows for less friction and less shedding.
Wash your clothes for a shorter amount of time and at a lower temperature.
If you are washing something simply because it has a spot or stain, try hand washing instead.
There are a few items out there that claim to reduce the number of microfibers that get released from your washing machine. I haven’t tried any of these, but I have heard good things about all of them.
Cora Ball - A ball you simply throw in your washing machine with each load of laundry. They claim it can reduce microfiber pollution by 31%
Guppy Friend Washing Bag - A bag you throw your clothes in before putting them in the wash. It helps prevent and capture microfibers.
Lint LUV-R filter - A filter that mounts next to your washing machine and connects to your discharge hose, filtering the water before it reaches a septic system or wastewater treatment plant.
And if you're like me and try to win the "I've got the oldest clothes of anyone I know" contest, maybe get rid of them once they wear so thin that the local McDonald's won't let you in.
A Great Place to Begin Learning About Climate
If you’re like me and want to learn more about climate and all the different areas in the space, there is no better place to start than Terra.do’s Climate Change: Learning for Action course.
It is their flagship course and offers a 12-week deep dive into all things climate. There are so many different topics and opinions in the climate space that jumping into research on your own, with no one to help guide you, can be extremely confusing.
The way that Terra organizes and presents the data is incredible, and the amount of information in the course is off the charts. There is no way to get through all of the additional information they provide, on top of the required assignments, in the 12 weeks.
I took the course this winter and can’t say enough good things about it.
As a bonus, once you are a part of the Terra community, you can access job fairs, networking events, and future keynotes by climate experts.
They offer payment plans for the tuition and scholarships in certain situations, and if you use my name when applying, you can receive a discount (I do not get anything for this.)
If any of you are interested and would like to learn more about my experience, please feel free to reach out.
I hope you all have a great week!
As always, I would love to hear from you.
If you read something here that resonates with you, leave a comment.
If you would like to discuss something further, shoot me an email.
If there was something you absolutely hated, @ me on Twitter.
And if there is something you think I should be writing about, please let me know.
If you want to see more of my work, visit chasinganswers.co.
Thank you for reading, and if you liked what you read, please share.
"So continuing to wear clothing that is falling apart can do more harm than good."
Shit. This is news to me. Wearing clothes and washing clothes is a problem?!
So hand-washing clothes is better? But, how? I feel like there's more friction in scrubbing by hand??
I ordered the Cora ball! Hope that it is net positive for the environment ^_^;;