Lifestyle, Plastic Free Challenge, Stewardship
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How to Use Less Plastic in Your Wardrobe

Clothing Hanging on a rod

This post is part of an on-going series about going plastic free one area of your life at a time. See the other posts here and sign-up for Nikkey’s newsletter to recieve new plastic free challenges as they come out. This challenge is inspired by her work with eXXpedition on a microplastic research voyage through the Pacific Ocean. 

Your wardrobe may have more plastic than you know.

This wasn’t something I’d thought a lot about until I started to learn about microplastics. It turns out one of the ways we all, likely unknowingly, contribute to the problem is through our laundry. When any synthetic fabrics (think fleece, nylon, polyester etc.) go through the wash tiny plastic microfibres break off and disappearing into our waste water systems. These systems are unable to filter out these particles and they ultimately end up in the ocean. It’s estimated between 200,000 – 1,000,000 pieces can break off a single item of clothing each wash. These microfibres act as sponges and carriers, binding to all sorts of harmful chemicals like DDTs and PCBs along the way. Once in the ocean they’re mistaken for plankton and eat by fish, entering the food chain.

That is just one example of how our warddrove effects the envinroment. As you may remember in Shanna’s fast fashion post, many clothing industry practices are troublesome.

So how can we keep plastic our of closets and the ocean? Check out the swaps below.

Synthetic Fabrics > Natural and Organic Fabrics

See above for environmental impacts. Another thing to consider is that synthetic fabrics are made up of and treated with chemicals that can be toxic and absorbed through you skin. 

Where to find alternatives:
Any conscious clothing lines. Sitka, Ten Tree and Patagonia are all transparent about their materials, environmental impacts and offer alternatives. 

Cost association:
Moderate upfront, minimal long-term. Clothing made of organic materials will cost more but last longer.

Important to note:
There are a few tips for washing synthetic clothing to reduce the amount of shedding in the video below. You can also use something like a Guppy Bag to reduce the amount that ends up in your waste water. 

Plastic Zippers + Buttons > Cork, Coconut, Metal Etc.

Plastic fasteners will outlive the garmet (and you).

Where to find alternatives:
Eco-conscious clothing companies like the ones mentioned above, Ten Tree and Sitka both offer fastener alternatives made out of materials like cork, wood, leather, coconut and more. 

Cost association:
Moderate upfront, minimal long-term. Clothing companies using alternatives are likely higher priced higher because they have higher quality materials (and ethical labour) than fast fashion items but again, they will last you longer.

Hiking in Sitka Clothing

Nikkey wearing Sitka.

Fast Fashion Chains > Capsule Collections + Thrift Stores

The fast fashion industry produces cheap garments not made to last but the impacts of the synthetic materials and industry pollution will. 

Where to find alternatives:
Eco-concious clothing companies and fashion lines that offer capsule collections with pieces created to be timeless and versatile. One of my favourites is VETTA. Or shop at second hand stores, especially for technical clothing items like ski jackets that need to use plastic and synthetic materials to perform.

Cost association:
None to moderate. If shopping second hand you’ll be saving money. If purchasing high quality timeless pieces you’ll spend more upfront but save in the long run. 

Cotton on spool

Plastic Sunglasses > Wood, Metal or Composite Sunglasses

Cheap plastic sunglasses are treated like disposables items, we lose and break them at an alarming speed and unconsciously add to our plastic footprint. 

Where to find alternatives:
There are a ton of conscious eyewear lines out there now, a couple that I like are Blue Planet Sunglasses and Proof Eyewear. You can also shop second hand for vintage, timeless styles.

Cost association:
Moderate upfront, minimal long-term.

Plastic Clothes Hangers > Wood or Wire Clothes Hangers

Billions are produced every year, they’re rarely recyclable and treated as a disposable item

Where to find alternatives:
Department stores, thrift stores and online.

Cost association:
None to minimal. If you’re swapping for wire or second hand the cost difference from plastic will likely be nonexistent. If you’re swapping for wood they will cost more upfront but you’re more likely to keep them and move them place to place with you over time. 


None of these swap tips should have you running to dump out your closet but rather they’re there for you to keep in mind when making future purchases. Swapping items in your closet is a much longer term process than making changes in your bathroom or kitchen. It will take time, effort and research but I promise you it’ll be worth it!

Have any questions or other tips and tricks? We’d love to hear them in the comments!

Our next challenge will be in two weeks, sign-up here to be notified by newsletter.

1 Comment

  1. The more you know! This will be my next project. I’m hoping to see more eco-concious brands become more mainstream over the years! After watching True Cost, I ditched the fast fashion scene and try to repair what I have…but I hadn’t given much thought to microplastics!


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