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Solutions Reducing Microfibers: Our Choices Matter

CoraBall32Featured image The Cora Ball, developed by the nonprofit Rozalia Project, can be dropped inside a washing machine to snag free-floating microfibers before they go down the drain. It is claimed to be 26 percent effective.Photo Courtesy Rozalia Project

This article is a re-print of the article posted on NewsDeeply by Mary Catherine O’Connor
Check out that site for many, many great articles on timely topics.

(REPRINT from original) IN 2013, ECOLOGIST Mark Anthony Browne presented the results of some unsettling research to leaders from a handful of major apparel brands, including Nike, Polartec (a major supplier of polyester fleece) and Patagonia. Browne had published a report that implicated synthetic apparel as a possible source of microplastic pollution. Browne wanted the companies to fund research to evaluate how and why apparel sheds fibers, in order to mitigate the action, perhaps by redesigning textile processing or sourcing different material. They all declined except for clothier Eileen Fisher, which provided Browne with a small seed grant. The others said it was too early. They wanted a larger scientific consensus that their products were sources of plastic pollution.

In the years since Browne first approached the apparel industry, numerous additional studies have shown that synthetic microfibers shed by clothing and other manufactured products are being ingested by fish and shellfish, and can be found in food, drinks and even air. It’s still unclear whether microfibers pose a real threat to the health of humans or other living things. Yet, under the specter that they might, academic, nonprofit and apparel industry scientists have started to look at ways to stem the flow of microfibers into the environment.

Solutions to Shedding

One approach to reducing the release of microfibers into the environment revolves around altering textiles to make them less likely to shed fibers into the environment during everyday use or into water when they are washed.

Several years ago the European Union funded a three-year, €1.2 million project known as Mermaids that involved a consortium of European textile experts and researchers along with the anti-plastic pollution group Plastic Soup Foundation. In May 2017, Mermaids issued a detailed report recommending changes in manufacturing synthetic textiles, including using coatings designed to reduce fiber loss. Thus far, no manufacturers have announced initiatives to test any of the report’s findings or suggestions.

Before committing resources to testing new manufacturing methods aimed at reducing shedding, representatives of the apparel industry say they want to figure out how much different kinds of fabrics shed so they can appropriately target efforts to reduce microfiber pollution. And that’s a sticking point right now.

Some studies have sought to determine which fabrics shed the most. But parsing and identifying the exact types of plastics, especially microscopic fibers, found in environmental samples is difficult and requires expensive equipment that many researchers can’t access.

In early 2017, the Vancouver Aquarium, through its Coastal Ocean Research Institute (CORI), announced that it was launching a comprehensive microfiber study with the hope of eventually being able to trace microfibers found in the environment back to the specific brand and article of clothing from which they were shed. Funding for the project includes a $38,000 grant from Mountain Equipment Co-op as well as undisclosed sums from outdoor brands Arc’Teryx, Patagonia and REI.

Each of the retailers provided CORI Executive Director Peter Ross with samples of synthetic garments of various polymers, such as polyester and nylon, from their respective product lines. Ross and his team are running swatches of each sample through a battery of 90-day tests to see how they hold up to exposure to the elements. One set is placed in open air, where the swatches are exposed to wind, precipitation, temperature and humidity variations. One set is submerged in the bay water outside the aquarium, and exposed to biofouling, seawater, temperature variations, currents and aquatic life. A third set is submerged in fresh water.

The group is also using an infrared spectrometer to determine the unique infrared “signature” of each fabric sample based on the unique mix of dyes and additives, and cataloguing signatures both of intact samples and samples that have been through the exposure experiments. The hypothesis is that weathering in these various conditions will give the polymers characteristic signs of degradation, thereby changing their infrared signature in predictable ways.

One project goal is “to help us better understand how these fibers change over time with weathering,” explains Ross. Another is to create a spectral library that in the future can be used to identify the source (brand and apparel type) of microfibers collected from the environment.

“Having over 100 samples gives a great opportunity to look at a wide range of blends, different synthetic materials, weaves and designs,” says Ross. “And with the weathering studies, it’s going to create a really nifty study and database that will put us in a much better position to understand what’s going on with environmental samples.”

Katy Stevens, sustainability project manager for the outdoor gear industry consortium European Outdoor Group (EOG), is encouraging the textile industry to lead research on fiber loss, contending it is better suited than marine scientists to study textiles. She suggests the industry establish protocols for quantifying fiber loss from particular synthetic fabrics, then set standards aimed at keeping fiber loss to a minimum through changes to fabric manufacturing or construction.

The American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC) and ASTMInternational are involved in a standards-setting effort with EOG aimed at being able to pinpoint just how much fiber any given fabric or blend of fabrics will release in washing machines. Stevens says the EOG will work with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which most European brands use, to ensure compatibility so that textiles can be tested to a consistent set of protocols globally. The goal is to get a clearer understanding of exactly how apparel is contributing to microfiber pollution.

“Is washing even the biggest leakage point? We don’t know,” says Heather Shields, chair of a microfiber working group for AATCC. “If you’re wearing a backpack every day, how is that going to shed fibers from your fleece jacket?”

Once apparel makers know which fabrics are the worst shedders, the next step is to experiment with new approaches to yarn and fabric construction.

“[Shedding] has to do with the yarn twist. It has to do with the yarn fiber length, the fiber type, the yarn type as well as fabric density,” says Jeffrey Silberman, professor and chairperson of textile development and marketing with the Fashion Institute of Technology at the State University of New York. “There are a million different things that go into whether a fiber is going to [shed from] that fabric.” But, changes to the twist or using a different fabric content has a cascade of other impacts. “It affects the aesthetic, the performance, the cost of the product. It’s a humongous problem,” Silberman says.

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Apparel brands Vaude, Adidas and Polartec and WWF Germany are among the organizations that have embarked on a research program called Textile Mission, backed by a €1.7 million grant from Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research. For the three-year project, the partners are contributing material and subject expertise toward collaboratively developing new fabrics and technologies that will reduce microfiber pollution, but are also “practical and feasible and scalable within the regular outdoor and sports supply chains,” says Hilke Patzwall, Vaude’s senior manager of corporate social responsibility.

Biodegradable Fibers

Another approach to reducing microfiber pollution could be to substitute biodegradable fabrics for the durable plastics used in most synthetic textiles today.

Vaude is testing biodegradable fibers. It is already using Tencel, a brand of lyocellcellulosic (wood-derived) polymer, in place of petroleum-based polymers in some of its products. According to Tencel manufacturer Lenzing, the fabric has been certified as biodegradable in seawater, based on a series of ASTM testing standards.

Mango Materials, a Berkeley, California-based startup, has been developing a

Plastic- Turning Off the Faucet

The movement to stop plastic pollution is growing up.

Working with kids lately through the Blue Life Program I realize that they do not believe the problem is consumers and litter. They want to do beach, lakes, river and ocean cleanup – but they look straight in the face of where the problem originates.

assorted plastic bottles

Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com

Globally, we are beginning to make progress in engaging plastic producers in conversations about responsibility. We are all getting tired of the stories that blame consumers for litter. Lately we see more honest, data driven narratives that hold corporations accountable for their role in producing waste.

We still have a long long way to go, but the conversation is catching on globally. The challenges and solutions are important to the next generation of environmental stewards. Working with young people is full of a hopeful and optimistic perspective.

How did this happen so quickly? It’s because people like you have been stepping up, speaking out, taking action in your communities and contributing to a global groundswell – every single action adds up.

I hope you will FOLLOW our efforts on Facebook, Twitter and on the BLUE LIFE CONNECTIONS  website

SUPrepreneur – A New Breed: Jamie Uttley

I have been an entrepreneur all my life, before I had even heard that word or knew its meaning. Each time a challenge presented itself, I invented-created-imagined-designed a plan to solve it. When I taught school there was never enough money for any extras. You can bet I became a champion grant writer, creating an entrepreneurial sort of classroom. Lately I have been developing the Blue Life Journal for Kids and a curriculum to engage and empower the next generation of ocean stewards.

A weird thing happened about 8 years ago when I started this Elder SUP blog – in a way it has been an entrepreneurial adventure. Better – it has been a way to meet amazing people. That experience led me to coin the term “SUPrepreneur.” I plan to share a series of stories of people active and influential in the world of SUP that features their “not quitting my day job” foray into developing their small business direction.

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Meet Jamie Uttley

I am very fortunate to be connected with Starboard and their North American distributors, Trident Sports.  Through that connection I met a cool, hard-working, innovative woman – Jamie Uttley. She recently posted on Facebook a call for all of us to support each other as we start our small businesses. I DEFINITELY want to support her business. It’s small, really new and right up my alley.

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Jamie sells Pure Copper Water Bottles and Copper Straws both Retail and Wholesale. In her own words she explains, “I got my wholesale experience from my job at Trident, which I am grateful for every day! My website is www.coastcopper.com (or www.coastcopper.ca)” Check it out, you will LOVE her products.

There’s a bit of a story behind the bottles. Jamie explains, ” My husband’s mom is a Yoga/Ayurveda Therapist of 30+ years and she is often going to India to teach and travel. Last March, she brought us each a copper bottle and the rest is history!

Not only are they stylish and they are believed to offer certain health benefits based on Ancient Ayurveda. That’s a great value in itself. But, as plastic bottles clog beaches and ocean gyres all over the globe, a reusable bottle is a gift to the ocean.  A reusable bottle eliminates the need for plastic/disposable bottles.

Our products at Coast Copper are sold to pretty much 3 demographics –

  • People who are interested in Ayurveda and Wellness,
  • People who think they look cool (they do!) and lastly and my favourite
  • The people who are looking for a sweet way to reduce their daily use of plastics.

Through my years at Trident I’ve learned so much about ocean conservancy and the issues our environment is currently facing. That is the beauty of the watersports industry – there is so much more than what appears on the surface. Literally and figuratively!”

justrawA beautiful and easy solution to the problem of plastic straws!  Jamie has this to say about her copper straws. “After seeing video after video and email after email from Svein Rasmussen (Founder of Starboard) and my colleagues about the condition of the ocean, it was easy to change my habits.  I’ve always been pretty good but there was room for improvement. Being the type of person that I am, I feel like I need to do what I can to spread the message of reducing our habit of single use plastic. I have no problem now suggesting a restaurant carry paper or no straws – or giving a bartender a hard time for giving me a straw after I have requested not to have one. Straws are simply a habit – and straws are one of the most prevalent beach plastic polluter.

I often post on social media and now with my business I have another avenue to share with people the importance of reduction of our single use plastic habit.”

Columbia River Inn: Home Base for Adventure

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Nestled in an azure bay of the Columbia River

When the sign says “Best Western Plus” along the Oregon side of the Columbia River we have learned THAT’S where to stay in the Columbia Gorge Scenic area. We’ve shared many stories about Hood River Inn about 20 miles east of the  Best Western Plus Columbia River Inn. This trip we decided to soak up the culture, history, hiking, biking, paddling, wine or beer sampling and fishing by staying in Cascade Locks at the base of the incredible “Bridge of the Gods.”

Cascade Locks, Oregon, is located in the middle of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, approximately 40 minutes east of Portland International Airport and 20 minutes west of the windsurfing Mecca of Hood River.

On the drive to the Columbia River Inn we passed many scenic waterfalls available from the road or by short hikes. In fact we were surprised to learn how the beauty and diversity of hikes had survived what had been a tough fire season in 2017. Oregonians love their wilderness and are at work restoring trails and natural areas. We learned about so many hiking options which would be amazing in the Fall. William Sullivan’s book, 100 Hikes in Oregon is a great reference – also his website. Some hikes to explore are Gillette Lake, Trout Creek and Snag Creek, all putting you in the footprints of adventurers on the Pacific Crest Trail. Summer volunteers are at many trailheads, if you visit in Fall or Winter, you can check out ReadySetGorge.com for up to date information.

As paddlers, our focus is usually on planning our down wind paddles and fun on the Columbia River. Once we settled in to our spacious river view room at the Columbia River Inn and looked out at the Bridge of the Gods we got curious about what this area was all about. Over the next few days we were much better visitors after spending a few hours at the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Museum (Stevenson, WA). Armed with an appreciation of the history and people who carved out amazing lives and industries we toasted their grit over local wines. The Columbia River Gorge wine region is known as “a world of wine in 40 miles.” bw-6

Recreational options nearby include world-class white water rafting, mountain biking, sail and kite boarding, and year round skiing on the slopes of Mt. Hood. Cascade Locks even has their own historic sternwheeler, the Columbia Gorge, departing daily from the nearby Marine Park for tours of the river.

bw-4We loved planning our day on the sheltered patio just outside of the pool area at the Columbia River Inn. Over coffee in the morning or a local wine in the evening (beer for me) we never tired of the view.

A warm, to-order breakfast that’s included with the room is always a bonus. We loved heading next-door to the Bridgeside Restaurant for local favorites prepared our way. I love crispy hashbrowns. All it took was a request and the golden brown goodness was all mine to enjoy with eggs my way and tasty sausage. There are choices for all tastes, including juice and beverage. Best of all, locals love to eat there, too. We met through hikers off the Pacific Crest Trail as well as other travelers.bs-1

It’s time to look forward to Fall and Winter is this wonderland. Enjoy your trip.

 

Jane McKee: Living Legend – Loving the Racing Life

A few days ago I was following some of Jane McKee’s recent adventures and channel crossings when I noticed Sean Sweet mentioned her as a “Living legend.”  I imagine Jane is simply doing what her heart and soul inspires her to – while having a ton of fun. I wondered, and asked Jane, “Who are some other living legends who have influenced or inspired you lately?” jane-gnarly

Jane replied with this fascinating summary from an inspiring waterwoman, “I just love being on the water. And I love racing! Racing forces me to be a better version of myself, not just physically, but mentally. There is something about pushing your body beyond its comfort level that helps you better able to deal with difficult situations in other parts of your life.

Racing has a meditative effect. When you are out there for hours, you sort through all kinds of things. Sometimes emotional pain is worse than physical pain so I know if I can go out and be on the water, in any capacity, my worries will sort out. It’s like they say, salt water heals. So paddling has a much deeper meaning for me.

nappy.jpgSome people that have inspired me would be my friend Nappy Napolean, who still paddles well into his seventies. He just loves to paddle! And he is such a great  ambassador for the sport. I think the fountain of youth is to keep moving, and he  is a classic example of what you can do.

Jane seemed to excel in so many disciplines throughout 2018. I wondered why she loves each of them each and asked for a hierarchy of how each might serve to cross train the over age 50 water athlete.

Jane shared this: I had a really good OC1 season this year. I never came in less than third place overall in our winter series, including the M2M, Molokai to Oahu one man relay with partner Alan Goo-Frasier, and Olukai races.

jane-sailI came in 8th out of 24 in the Molo solo and won two M2M races on the one man this summer. I also participate in the Hawaiian Sailing Canoe Racing series with Team Hui Nalu. We sail the entire main Hawaiian Island chain over the course of the summer. I have been canoe sailing for 18 years and it is just amazing. I raced the Napali one man race and the Napali Challenge 6 man race recently.

I just completed my first M2O SUP race with team mates Jen Fuller and Kristin Thomas. We had a blast and won our division!

I had decided last year to not race with a club anymore for 6 man. I have been paddling 6 man for 26 years and realized that summer offers a whole new world of opportunities for fun racing in all venues that I had been missing out on.

jane-mpauole

Photo Credit: M Pauole

It is interesting, that since I have been paddling SUP, my OC1 paddling has improved. SUP provides the strength training and OC1 my cardio and speed, they really compliment each other. I say padding a SUP is like Crossfit on a board!

I cannot even contemplate such a full schedule of events – especially across one sweet summer. Jane seems to be hopping from event to event, I asked her to describe her in-between training routine. To what does she attribute your success?

This response came easily to Jane: I think my success is attributed to the love of racing and paddling. I love the excitement of racing, getting ready, the nerves at the start line and the knowledge that it ain’t over till it’s over! I won some of my races last year by a hair, literally down to the second, so knowing that will push you to the end.

As far as training, I try to split the workouts between SUP and OC1. I find I can only do SUP about 2-3X a week so have to hop on my OC1 to rotate muscle groups so I don’t get over use injuries. I am a huge proponent of massage therapy, I go on an average of once a week.

Okay, you made it this far in the article and now comes the “STORY!” Enjoy it!

Jand McKee and the 2018 M2O

100SO! I had been escorting people for the M2O for a few years, Armie Armstrong from NZ, Annabel Anderson, and a Brazilian Prone paddler last year. I have crossed the Kaiwi channel more than 50 times between OC1, 6man and sailing canoe, but never on a SUP.  Kristin Thomas and Jen Fuller from California were my Facebook friends and I knew they were good paddlers, so I threw it out to them to do a team together.

They were keen, so we were all set to race! We decided to call ourselves Team C&H (California and Hawaii, get it?) They came a few days before the race and we did a few downwinders, and that is all the practice the got before the channel. I was really proud of how they did especially because it turned out to be one of the toughest channels in a decade. A dumping tide made it sticky, crazy disorganized swell, everyone said it was hard.  I have a lot of respect for the athletes that do M2O solo. 100-award

I think the best part of the race was coming away with some wonderful new friends! I had always heard such great things about Jen and Kristin and now I have a whole new group of amazing women athletes as gal pals! We laugh that we will be doing this race together until we are 100.

 

Cali Paddler: If You Paddle You Get It

The thing that caught my eye and got me very interested in Cali Paddler was a challenge posted on Facebook. It was the “Trash Pickup Challenge” for World Ocean Day. But it’s a habit we can enjoy every day. From the website, “For every mile we paddlers enjoy, let’s commit to one piece of trash. Do #cpcleanup in a photo post on social media of your mileage and equivalent trash haul (from the water or beach after) and watch how your actions will inspire others.” Our actions can inspire others. This simple truth resonates in an essay by Greg Gagnon

I was struck Greg’s question of “How a single bottle cap can alter the future” got to the heart of both the problem and the solution in a few short paragraphs in his essay. Simple and profound “After a while, a gentleman walked up to me and asked why I was picking up plastic bottle caps. You are no doubt shaking your head, saying to yourself ‘really dude?,’ and I felt that way too. I told him, “they don’t belong on our beaches or in our oceans. Animals eat them, they don’t biodegrade, and it’s just plain nasty.
The gentleman said to me, “what’s the point? It won’t matter if you pick it up, because down the beach there are far more people dropping them, who could care less about it anyway.”

“I was struck thinking how two people could posses such different points of view. My point of view was one of hope, compassion, effort, and possibility. His view was who cares, why bother, save your energy because it won’t make a difference.”

How can we change the way the world treats plastic – and the Ocean – through connecting hope, compassion, effort and possibility?

Co-founder, Clarke Graves, filled in some more background, “At Cali Paddler, we feel that community is a solution to many things. And there are a LOT of paddlers out there. So, if we can build momentum as a whole to make it our everyday practice to be good stewards, that it will trickle on to other non-paddlers as well. We encourage paddlers to attend cleanup events, or host their own, help with petitions to reduce plastics and Styrofoam, and hold races and events accountable to be eco-friendly, that we can affect a lot of positive change. We also feel that it is our duty to shine a spotlight on those doing amazing things. And re-enforce their behavior with well-deserved public praise. For that reason we started our CP Spotlight program awhile back that does just that.

Sometimes making a difference seems daunting, but any effort, big or small is important, so we try to share every day tips, that don’t take a lot of effort but can go a long way, such as reusable coffee mugs, declining straws, carrying water bottles to name a few.

cali-1Cali Paddler takes their community building efforts further through their Paddle Pledge program. Clarke explains it like this, “When Cali Paddler launched in 2015 we established our Paddle Pledge. Where we take 5% of all proceeds (not just profits mind you) and donate quarterly to wonderful groups and non-profits that make a solid difference in our waterways, on our beaches, and with our wildlife.

Initially we had 4 amazing groups that customers would choose from. Then in 2016 we added a specific ‘Cause Product’ to benefit a certain non-profit. In 2017 we took our model to a new level, where now every quarter we switch to a new non-profit to donate to and promote. This lets us give exposure to more groups, and support regions. Since our launch, paddlers who have bought our products have supported groups like Keep Tahoe Blue, Clean Oceans International, H20 Trash Patrol, Ocean Discovery Institute, Cal State Parks, San Diego Coast Keeper, and the Marine Mammal Center.” cali2

Cali Paddler is full of E.P.I.C. paddlers (Every Paddler In California). Like one of their featured paddlers, Loraine Gruber, I did the Battle of the Paddle in 2013 at age 64 – and won my age group (no one else was in it LOL!!!!) I love the idea that everyone can be E.P.I.C and an ambassador. I asked Clarke to tell us more about E.P.I.C. individuals that have been real “stars” in your eyes.

Clarke replied, “Oh wow, what a fun question. When we first started, we made it a point to not neglect anyone in our paddle community. Too often we felt companies catered to the elite, or a certain demographic. And yet it was the every-day-paddler who really made us love this sport. We made it our mantra to ‘Be EPIC’ (Every Paddler in California)! We make it a point to shine a light on those who may not be the fastest, but enjoy the sport the most, and those who help teach and share their stoke in the community. There are plenty of companies out there that will cater to the top 1%, a certain age, or body type. But we aim to embrace inclusivity to the max. Because really, paddling is fun, healthy and a lifestyle, regardless of who you are…if you paddle, you get it. cali3

As to who some of our favorite individuals are, we hesitate to name individuals, but there are a few things that just really make us beam…
• People who smile when they paddle.
• Loan their craft to anyone interested in trying it out.
• Are willing to paddle anywhere, anytime, on any craft.
• and finally, those who cheer for the paddlers in front of them, and the ones behind them.

Community building across a state as large as California is a huge task. Social media is a tool that helps Cali Paddler. Their approach is a great example for any paddling organization hoping to connect “their” community.
Clarke shared some tips, “Social media is a big tool for us. We use it, along with our website, to share events, groups and news. Too often the little races or shops get overlooked, so we do what we can spread the word about them in our calendars, directories, and social media. We also try our best to tell the stories of paddlers in their own words, about their experiences and knowledge. We have had locals share their favorite paddle places, stories of overcoming fear, showcased people taking on huge paddle challenges, and written about safety issues so can all come home with a smile after a paddle. Our main hashtag is our slogan #ifyoupaddleyougetit.
I asked Clarke to tell me some more about Cali Padller’s trash pickup challenge #miles = #pieces of trash. He shared, “In honor of World Oceans Day, we launched what we call the CP Clean Up Challenge (#cpCleanUp). It is our goal to create a new normal for when we finished a paddle, to pick up trash. Many awesome paddlers already do this, but we figured we could put a little twist on it by suggesting paddlers pick-up one piece of trash for every mile they paddle. So, if you get 4 miles in, then before you leave the beach or dock after, you hunt down 4 pieces of trash. We then encourage people on social media to tag #cpCleanUp with a picture of their trash, and maybe their gps data. Others will see this effort, and hopefully take part as well, and it will become a badge of honor and a movement as we earn the miles we got to enjoy. Word on the street is we will be reaching out to folks too we see taking part and occasionally sending out a little something as a thank you.”

Throughout the year Cali Paddler hosts cleanups as well. In the past they have done a July 5th cleanup with various locations in the state. Last year they had 11 locations that they supported and promoted where teams, businesses and individuals adopted a beach to clean after the 4th of July celebrations. They provide their reusable Cali Paddler Blue Buckets (#cpBlueBucket) to these efforts and to anyone who wants to have cleanups on their on schedule and make a difference.

Want to get some cool products and give back 5% in the process? Even if you don’t live in California you might like the spring launched Golden Poppy Design t-shirt (California’s state flower) which is printed on a tri-blend of recycled plastic, organic cotton and acrylic. It is soft, sturdy and one of many products they offer with an eye on the environment. cali4
Clarke concludes his interview with, “We understand that our business model of being a lifestyle brand (clothing and hats) is based on consumerism, so we try and make efforts to introduce eco-friendly items whenever possible. Just like all our products, 5% of proceeds from sales of this goes to non-profits. Currently the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito California!”
How cool if every state developed their own State-Paddler-community!