Last week, to my wife's dismay, I ruffled through our drawers, throwing out all the clothing I could find that was made of synthetic fibres.
When any clothes get put in the washing machine, tiny fibres come off them. They get into the wastewater system and ultimately, the ocean. It is well known in science that these 'microplastics' are readily consumed by small marine organisms, threatening to poison our food chain.
Back in the day, our clothing, carpets and upholstery came mainly from wool, silk and cotton. These are all natural, biodegradable materials that don't cause problems at the end of the chain when they get into the ecosystem.
While we know that cotton is a thirsty plant and often is associated with a large amount of pesticides, it can be grown organically. Cotton also does not involve the vast amount of industrial wastewater associated with synthetic textiles in china, that gets poisoned with 72 toxic chemicals that are linked to human health problems.
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The simple fact is, that for most applications, natural fibres outperform synthetics anyway.
I am sitting here wearing two layers of merino wool which I purchased from the Icebreaker outlet store - so they were affordable. They are much warmer than a polypropelene alternative and can be worn for several days without getting stinky - even for me. I also have on a pair of organic cotton pants and shirt from Sitka, plus a pair of wool socks.
The New Zealand wool industry, once the backbone of New Zealand's economy and identity has been eclipsed by dairy - a much more intensive form of farming which harms the environment far more than sheep, simply because the animals are bigger and defecate into our waterways more. A big part of this shift to dairy is the drop in demand for wool - carpets in particular - which have been seriously hurt by the rise in synthetic alternatives.
Wool carpets, unlike the cheap synthetics that we see these days, also purify the indoor air. It absorbs contaminants like formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide for up to 30 years without releasing them.
So if you want to keep jobs in New Zealand, reduce the impact on our waterways and live with less toxins on your body or in your house, support local businesses like Opus Fresh and Icebreaker, demand wool carpets for your house, natural fibres for your furniture and clothes.
Do you have examples of synthetics that could be replaced by natural materials? If so, please email me or share in a comment below.