Yoga Pants are Destroying the Planet

October 15, 2017 at 9:19 pm

Ironically, the pants people wear while meditating about world peace are polluting the ocean with microplastics

With New Agey names like Awake, Enlight, Balance and Align and a $100 price tag, you’d think those $100 Lululemon yoga pants  would be made of recycled, organic hemp in a fair-trade factory under a rainbow. But, alas, they’re made of 100% petroleum-based polyester, aka plastic.

And just like all other plastics, they end up in the ocean, via your washing machine.

Every time you wash your yoga pants, gym clothes or any other garment made from synthetic material, you’re shedding microscopic plastic fibers — called “microfibers” into natural waterways, which eventually make their way to the ocean.

University of Florida researchers are now discovering that more than 80 percent of the the micro-plastics found in the ocean are actually micro-fibers from synthetic clothing:

Funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), the researchers launched a two-year study earlier this year to discover the source of the micro-plastic pollution accumulating in the Gulf of Mexico.

When they set out they expected to find mostly micro-beads, tiny brightly-colored plastic balls found in body washes, face scrubs and other bath products, until the U.S. Government banned them in 2015, because they were harming fish and other sea life.

Instead, they found the majority of the pollution, 82%, is originating from our closets — stretchy yoga clothes, sweat-wicking athletic wear and synthetic jackets.

“Anything that’s nylon or polyester, like the fleece-type jackets,” University of Florida researcher Maia McGuire told the Associated Press.

Other recent studies are finding that microfibers, like other micro-plastics, end up in the stomachs of fish and other seafood like oysters.

Instead of outlawing synthetic clothing, the way micro-beads were outlawed, government advisors recommend making washing machine manufacturers responsible for solving the problem.

“It would be really great if the washing machine companies would get on board and come up with a filter to trap these microfibers,” said Caitlin Wessel, regional coordinator for NOAA’s Marine Debris Program. “I think there’s a big push right now — nobody really disagrees that marine debris is an issue that needs to be addressed.”

Wessel said the problem also needs to be addressed at wastewater treatment plants.

Patagonia, a clothing company that makes recycled polyester jackets and other synthetic apparel, responded to the news by saying it would support research into microfiber pollution and educate consumers about how to minimize shedding. They now offer a “GuppyFriend” washing bag, at cost, to catch microfibers so they can be thrown in a trashcan instead of washed down the drain.

Prana, another popular yoga-clothes company, seems to be catching on to the trend toward natural fibers as it now offers yoga pants made from 50% hemp and 50% organic cotton, as alternatives to it’s 100% plastic-wear.

Amazon has several good 100% organic cotton and 100% bamboo options:

It seems difficult to find yoga pants made of 100% hemp, but it doesn’t look difficult to make your own:

In a post titled “Is Your Yoga Fashion Destroying the Planet?” blogger Elissa Jordan offers a few tips on how to lighten our fashion footprint:

  • Look for natural fabrics and natural color practices, it’s no good to get a bamboo t-shirt if it uses the same old wasteful dying practices
  • Realize that natural fibers still use up a ton of clean water and good soil to grow, so only buy what you need
  • When you do need to buy something new invest in something that will last, change your habits from quantity to quality
  • Never throw anything away: when clothes lose their usefulness donate them to charity, cut them up for cleaning rags, meet up with friends for a swap, or make do and mend.
  • Wash clothes in cold water and line dry when possible. Not only does this save a ton of energy, it keeps clothes from falling apart and makes them last longer

“Water has become an issue to the point that people are waging wars against each other for access to more of it,” Jordan writes.

3.4 million people die each year due to lack of clean water, making it the world’s leading cause of death.

“Decide on your priorities,” she writes. “A fantastically tailored, brightly colored outfit to wear when you come to practice on your mat or a habitable world for your grandchildren, great-grandchildren.”

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