Many people and organizations are working very hard to save our rivers, waterways, and oceans from becoming a trash heap and keeping them clean for generations to come. The effort is an easy one to get behind.
But will people remain enthusiastic about these efforts if they have to give up their yoga pants?
Researchers on the Gulf Coast have found that a growing number of microfibers — shreds of plastic even smaller than the micro-beads targeted by a federal ban — are going down our sinks and shower drains and ultimately making their way to the ocean.
And our undying love for comfortable clothing is killing off marine life.
Athletic wear such as yoga pants and fleece sheds microscopic plastic fibers when it’s washed. Our wastewater systems then “clean” the water that comes through, but these microfibers are so small they get swept off into our natural waterways, eventually reaching the sea.
Researchers with the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium are now preparing to launch a two-year study to see what kind of microscopic plastics can be found in the waters from south Texas to the Florida Keys.
“What do we do about it is the multimillion dollar question,” University of Florida researcher Maia McGuire told the Associated Press. “The consensus seems to be that we need improvement in technology in washing machines and wastewater treatment plants in combination, in order to try and filter out these fibers. There’s just so much we don’t know.”
Other studies have found high concentrations of plastics pollution, including micro-beads, in various waterways. The brightly colored plastic spheres were banned from rinse-off cosmetic products in 2015 because of the potential threat to fish and other wildlife.
But these more recent investigations have found microfibers in the stomachs of marine animals, including seafood such as oysters. All of the research points suggests plastics may degrade but not disappear.
And Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every single hour, according to Recycle Across America. Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide.
“It is so damaging to the environment. We know that it’s damaging to marine life, it’s damaging to the fish that we eat, and we have to come up with a better approach to packaging,” said LifeZette’s Editor-in-Chief Laura Ingraham on her radio program, “The Laura Ingraham Show,” Thursday. “We don’t need all this stupid plastic. I’m not saying the government should ban it. But when you notice with your own eyes how bad the plastic has gotten at the beach, you know it’s bad.”
Giving up (at least a few pairs of) yoga pants, running tights, and some of your fleece may yield other positive results. Psychologists have long noted that we never know what wearing more traditional clothing may bring — more confidence, a new job, a different energy about us, perhaps even a new love, as we tend to alter the way we behave and carry ourselves by the clothes we wear.
So by trading out your wardrobe, you might also be saving the ocean — one pair of yoga pants at a time.
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