Synthetic Microfibers: Why You Should Avoid Them

synthetic microfibers

If you care about the environment you’ve probably been trying to live a plastic free life as much as possible. You might take a reusable shopping bag everywhere, always carry a reusable coffee cup, and lug your stainless steel water bottle with you. But there’s one source of plastic pollution that you may not have heard of: synthetic microfibers.

synthetic microfibers

There’s a growing awareness about how our lifestyle choices are damaging our planet. In the news lately, it’s hard to avoid images of the plastic in our oceans. So what’s the deal with synthetic microfibers?

The hidden danger

Even those of us who keep up with the environmental news might never have heard of one of the worst pollution sources of all: synthetic microfibers. They’ve been found in both fresh and saltwater life to an alarming extent. A study by researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara discovered that one fleece jacket releases an average of about 1.7 grams of microfibers per wash. The older and cheaper the garment, the worse it is.

The researchers went on to state, “These microfibers then travel to your local wastewater treatment plant, where up to 40% of them enter rivers, lakes and oceans.”

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Mark Browne, a senior research associate at the University of New South Wales, Australia, stated in a 2011 research paper that microfibers make up around 85% of human made debris on shorelines around the world.

What’s the problem with synthetic microfibers?

These tiny little fibres are just the right size for small fish to eat. Then bigger fish eat the small fish, and on up the food chain they go, bioaccumulating and concentrating toxins. Professor Sherri Mason, of the State University of New York Fredonia, described microfibres as “weaving themselves into the gastrointestinal tract” of one of the Great Lakes fish she studied.

 

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Many environmentally conscious companies recycle plastic bottles into fibres to make cloth, but the evidence suggest that this increases pollution (in a particularly insidious way), instead of helping decrease it. Synthetic microfibers are bad enough in themselves, but the worst part is that they absorb toxins such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which become concentrated in the animal’s tissues.

These toxins not only destroy the animals’ lives and habitats, they eventually move up the food chain to us.

What can you do?

First of all, shop for good-quality clothing and try to make it last. Look for natural fabrics, such as cotton, wool, and bamboo. Go plastic free.

You don’t usually need to wash outerwear, such as jackets, after each use. Manufacturers like Patagonia are searching for ways to produce high performance textiles from natural biodegradable materials.

In the meantime, you can wash your synthetic clothing (especially those made from polyester, such as fleece) in a superfine mesh laundry bag like the Guppy Friend, which catches the microfibres. A microfibre catching laundry ball is also in development.

Use natural microfibres

It’s not just clothes, it’s cleaning cloths as well. Bamboo microfibre is 100% biodegradable. You don’t have to worry about it accumulating in the environment, since it breaks down after a few years. We stock bamboo microfibre cloths from Resparkle. They do an excellent cleaning job and have natural antimicrobial properties that help keep them germ free and smelling fresh. They’re a great microfibre cleaning cloth choice for your plastic free lifestyle.

Want to lessen your plastic usage? You can check out more tips on our previous articles like Rethink the Plastic in Your Bathroom and How to Work Towards a Plastic Free Kitchen

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How to Use The Swag to Keep Your Fruit & Veg Fresher for Longer

The Swag Produce Storage Bag

Do you wish you knew how to keep fruit and vegetables fresher longer? We all should! It’s estimated that Australians throw away about 2.67 billion dollars’ worth of fresh food every year. How often have you bought some lovely salad greens, only to have them turn to slime before you were able to get around to using them?

So what’s the best way to store fruit and veg? It has to be plastic free, and it really has to work as advertised…

Introducing The Swag!

The Swag Produce Storage Bag

The Swag

The Swag was invented by Australian Peita Pini, who was tired of throwing away food and concerned about what all the plastic packaging waste is doing to our environment.

She got the idea for the name from the Australian bushmen’s bedroll that they carried on their backs as they walked around the bush looking for work.

In July of 2018 she received a $150,000 investment from the TV show Shark Tank to expand into the American market. The Swag produce bags are still manufactured in Australia, though, from fair trade materials certified by Sedex, which performs an audit once a year.

How The Swag is made

Peita learned how to keep fruit and vegetables fresher longer from her mum, who would wrap them in damp or dry towels to keep them moist while letting them breathe.

She improved upon this idea with her patented three-layered storage bag, which is made out of 100% unbleached and unseeded cotton.

The Swag fruit and veg bags are completely plastic free and does a much better job than her mum’s improvised method.

The outside layer keeps everything from drying out, but the real secret is in the middle layer. It’s thick and absorbent, holding water but also drawing water away from the bag’s contents.

The innermost layer stays dry, but also lets your fruit and vegetables breathe and dissipate ethylene (the ripening – and rotting – gas that fruits and veggies produce).

The result is that your precious produce is kept in a perfect environment: humid but not wet, with a perfect amount of airflow.

The Swag Starter Pack - Keeps Fruit & Vegetables Fresh for Longer
The Swag Starter Pack – Keeps Fruit & Vegetables Fresh for Longer

How to use The Swag

When you first get your Swag bag, machine wash it and then dry it inside out in the sunshine. This will fluff up the middle layer and make it absorb water more easily.

After that using it is simple. When it comes time to store your fresh produce, wet your Swag from the outside and squeeze out the excess water.

The outside and middle layers should be damp, but the inside should be practically dry.

Place your fruit and veg inside, close the flap and store in the refrigerator. Don’t wrap anything in plastic – that will cancel out the benefits. You want to let the air flow.

And there you are. Who knew learning how to keep fruit and vegetables fresher longer would be so easy! With the Swag you should get a minimum of two weeks delicious life out of your fresh produce – maybe longer.

Available sizes

The Swag fruit and vegetable bags come in three sizes:

  • Small: perfect for small fruit like grapes and strawberries; and small veggies and herbs
    • 37 cm wide by 38 cm high (including the flap)
    • 37 cm wide by 24cm high (not including the flap)
  • Long: designed especially for longer veg like celery, silverbeet and leeks
    • 52 cm wide by 38 cm high (including the flap)
    • 52 cm wide by 24 cm high (not including the flap)
  • Large: for anything and everything! Cut veggies keep well, along with whole fruit and veg.
    • 42 cm wide by 52 cm high (including the flap)
    • 42 cm wide x 38 cm high (not including the flap)

Tips and tricks

  • Check your Swag every so often to make sure it’s still damp. If not, just sprinkle some water on the top – no need to take it out of the fridge.
  • Don’t store very ripe fruit in your Swag – the ethylene it produces will accelerate spoilage for everything else in there. Eat it, cook it or store it in a fruit bowl on the counter.
  • Don’t put bananas in The Swag. Store them on the counter or peel and freeze.
  • You can put cut fruit and veg in The Swag with no worries. You don’t have to wrap them in cling film, just toss them in there with everything else.
  • When you first get your produce home give it a good swish or soak in a sinkful of cold water with a splash of vinegar added. Then dry and put in your Swag.
  • When you buy fresh food, take the old food out of the large Swag and put it in a small one – or use the colour coded red bag. You’ll know that you need to eat them soon.

To get your hands on The Swag and save your fruit and veg from going off so quickly, jump on over to Hello Charlie and start shopping!

Main image credit: The Swag

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17 Tips for Plastic Free July

tips for plastic free july

tips for plastic free july

It’s Plastic Free July and I’m inviting you to join the challenge.

The challenge is simple… refuse single-use plastic in July.

It may seem daunting, but there are lots of little steps that you can take to reduce your use of single use plastic. Here’s 17 ideas to get you started:

1. Say no to teabags. Did you know that most teabags have plastic in them to stop the bag ripping when it’s dunked in hot water? Go with looseleaf tea instead. As a bonus, you’ll get a better cuppa. Loose leaf tea uses better quality leaves than the powdery stuff that gets shoved into tea bags.

2. Choose reusable coffee cups. Take your cup with you when you get a takeaway. You can do this with takeaway containers, too. Getting noodles for dinner? Take your own container rather than getting a throwaway plastic one.

3. Skip the packaging at the fruit and veggie shop. Instead of buying bags of prepacked apples, buy them loose and reuse produce bags. If you’re the handy type, you could make your own produce bags. If you’re not, check out Onya’s reusable produce bags.

plastic free july banner
Image Source: Plastic Free July

4. Buy in bulk and freeze. I love chickpeas and I buy them in bulk. I do a batch in the pressure cooker then freeze them in portion sizes in old jam jars. I make soup and freeze them in jam jars or mason jars. I even make and freeze stock in jam jars. Even though I work full time, I still make time to do this kind of stuff. In the end, it saves time because I shop less, and I can grab stuff from the freezer when I need it.

5. Skip the straw. Each year, Australians discard millions of plastic straws.  As The Last Straw suggests, sip, don’t suck. If you must suck, try a reusable glass straw or stainless steel straw instead.

6. Take a water bottle with you! My kids know that I hate buying water. Hate it so much that I make them go into the toilets and drink out of a tap (not the toilet!) instead of buying bottled water. We’ve got water bottles floating around everywhere at our place – bedside tables (so the cat doesn’t knock over water glasses in the night), in the car, in schoolbags.

7. Use a wooden comb. I’ve had a bamboo one for years. It’s lightweight, and easy to carry, plus it’s gentle on my hair.

8. Aim for no waste lunches. Use stainless steel containers, glass containers, even reusable safe plastic lunchboxes. That may not sound like Plastic Free July, but the idea is to refuse single use plastic (because we get that kids are kids!). And reusable plastic is so much  better than plastic baggies or glad wrap.

9. Say no to snacks. Individually wrapped ones, at least. Why not learn to make some of the snacks that you buy individually wrapped? Think muesli bars and mini cupcakes. Send kids to school with yoghurt that you’ve bought in bulk and put into reusable containers. Say no to individually wrapped cheese portions and cut them squares off a bigger block. Buy potato chips in big bags and pop them into a smaller container for kids. You’ll save money by buying in bulk, too!

Infused Fruit Waters
Image Source: DepositPhoto

10. Don’t buy juice! Rather than buying popper style juices, get them a refillable bottle instead. Or squeeze your own juice. Or even better, go with water instead. Or you could even try infused fruit waters, which taste great but don’t have all the sugar of juices. And before you scoff, and tell me that your kids would never go for that, let me tell you that I serve fruit water at kids parties and they’re always a huge hit!

11. Take a bag. Grab some reusable bags to go shopping with (preferably not the ‘green bag’ style ones that you get in the supermarkets as these are actually made with plastic). Try something like the Envirosax, which I’ve had for years and still use and love.

12. Use a razor with disposable blades, rather than a disposable razor.

13. If you surf, think about using a bamboo surf wax comb. When you lose your plastic one, it immediately becomes part of the ocean’s plastic waste problem, but if you lose a bamboo one – no impact, dude.

14. Go eco with your dental care. Choose a biodegradable toothbrush, like the ones from Pearlbar or Go Bamboo. You can even choose biodegradable dental floss and floss picks.

15. Think about using cloth nappies and training pants, even if only part time. Nappies, even eco disposables, contain plastic and there’s not yet a fully biodegradable nappy.

16. Buy cleaning products in boxes, not bottles. Using a laundry powder, you can choose ones that come in a cardboard box, that is more easily recycled. Whereas if you use liquid, it comes in a bottle.

17. You can also think about buying cleaning products in bulk and refilling containers you already have. Or choose cleaning products that have concentrated versions that use less packaging. Check out Melbourne brand, Resparkle, with their unique refill pod system.

What are your ideas on how to go plastic free? Comment below and share your best tips with me!

Eco Tip – Ditch the Single Use Plastic Straws

There’s nothing better than slurping down an ice cold juice or a smoothie with a straw. Straws are great for babies and toddlers, too, as many babies learn to use a straw early on and this allows them to drink independently from a sippy cup.

Single use plastic straws, however, are a bit of an issue.

  • They’re not biodegradable.
  • They’re not BPA free.
  • They are used in their millions every day. It’s estimated that McDonald’s alone uses 60 million straws per day, worldwide.
  • They are the number one item washed up on beaches.
  • You can only use them once.
  • They’re not recyclable.

This doesn’t mean that you need to give up drinking straws forever, though. There are alternatives!

Glass straws

Yes, you heard right. There are glass straws available. They look pretty cool, and because they’re clear, you can easily see whether they’re clean or not.

However, being the mother of two boys who bit and chewed everything, I can completely understand if you’re reluctant to give a glass straw to a child. Check out these super-strong Pyrex glass straws from Raw Blend. Pyrex is 6 times stronger than normal glass – perfect for kids!

Biodegradable paper straws

Available in heaps of colours and designs, paper straws are a great disposable alternative to plastic straws. They’re ideal for parties, and you can colour co-ordinate them to match your party theme.

Paper straws are great. They’re biodegradable, so you don’t have the litter issues like you do with plastic straws. If they do get into the waterways, they break down. They’re naturally BPA free, so they’re better for our health.

The problem is that these are still a single use item. They’re better because they’re biodegradable, but we’d be doing even better if we used the item over and over again.

Stainless steel straws

Which is where stainless steel straws come in! These will last forever, they can be washed in the dishwasher, they’re fully recyclable and they look pretty cool too.

I think the only problem with these is that you can’t see through them for cleaning, but this is easily solved with a straw cleaning brush that you can just run up and down the straw. Easy peasy.

Bamboo straws

You can even buy drinking straws made from bamboo. They’re not particularly easy to find at the moment, but as bamboo becomes more popular, I have no doubt that we’ll be seeing more of them.

Bamboo straws are great – they’re natural, they biodegrade, and bamboo grows very quickly and without pesticides. They’ll last for ages, and then you can compost them. What a great idea!

If you’re looking for alternatives to plastic straws, check out the range of stainless steel straws here at Hello Charlie.

Helpful links:

http://www.plasticfreejuly.org/the-last-straw.html

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