A few years ago, we came out with a style of tee that was made of 100% polyester. At the time, I saw it as a win-win situation for us and our customers. The tee was so soft, comfortable, cheap, and durable. It took our printing dyes well and held up in the wash. But after learning more about fashion and fabrics, I now will no longer print our tees on polyester. Here's why ...
Polyester is a synthetic fabric meaning that is a non-natural, non-biodegradable fabric. The process to make polyester is very harmful to our planet and the people who manufacture it. And the impacts do not lessen as this material is passed on to consumers. Polyester is pretty much made of plastic, which releases millions of microplastics into the environment.
What are microplastics and why are they harmful?
Microplastics are pieces of plastic less than 5mm in size. In fashion, they're often called microfibers, but they're essentially the same thing. Polyester (& other synthetic fabrics) give off millions of tiny microfibers into the air, water, and our environment. When you wash a polyester garment, thousands of microfibers shed into the washing machine, which leads straight into our oceans and become ingested by our wildlife. Also, just simply wearing polyester garments sheds microfibers into the air, which we directly breathe in.
Ingesting these microplastics are extremely harmful for obvious reasons. It's plastic. Specifically, it can cause hormonal disruptions and health issues.
What is the solution?
Sometimes it’s hard to get away from using polyester in garments (i.e. it’s the best choice for swimwear and these types of things). Besides, certain cotton comes with its own list of environmental impacts, which is a conversation for another post. Overall, I think the best answer to this question is to approach everything as a conscious consumer.
1. Ditch fast fashion! Learn about where your clothes is being made, how it's being made, who is making it, and what it's being made of! We live in a time where fashion is truly a revolution and you are supporting certain global values just by what you buy.
2. Share your values & your knowledge! Whether you are a famous influencer or not, you have a voice. Platforms like Instagram and TikTok allow you to use that voice to inform others.
3. Buy less! Support brands who are ethical and sustainable. This will most likely mean higher price tags on your end, but it's worth it. Instead of spending $50 to buy 3 shirts from a big box store (of which you'll probably wear once and toss out), spend $50 to buy 1 ethically and sustainably made shirt. Find pieces that are versatile and have long lifespans. Your closet will shrink, but will be so much more meaningful to you.
It may be a nearly unattainable goal to ditch polyester completely, but if we just be more conscious about what we do put in to our closet and onto our bodies, I think we are well on our way to creating true change!
At Mahina Made, we still have a ton of work to become the ultimate sustainable and ethical brand I dream of being, but it’s the little decisions like this that get us on our way! And ultimately, we may not be able to do all the things we want, but I truly feel if we all do what we can, it’s already a win!