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

A Tampa – St Pete Gem: Urban Kai

urbankai2Nestled in a wonderful cluster of palms, mangroves and very cool waterfront dining at The Getaway Is a top-notch, full service, vacation-making SUP destination at Urban Kai. Whether you opt for Tampa or St. Petersburg locations for lessons, tours or yoga, a great experience and fun will be yours!

While the array of paddleboard options to rent or buy is excellent (with one of the best Starboard selections I have seen), the team at Urban Kai makes all the difference. You get a glimpse of the “aloha” culture alive and well on the west coast of Florida the moment you enter the front door. A hand painted sign gently reminds you to “remove your slippahs” before entering. Bare feet on wood floor – step into the retail area and join the Urban Kai ‘ohana. IMG_1577

When I was chatting with Ida, I happened to mention how cool it was that their neighbor restaurant, The Getaway, was using paper straws and compostible utensils. Ida shared,”We are very happy about that, too. We encouraged them to make the change from plastic and they switched over just a few weeks ago.”

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This is the only shark I hope to see in the Gulf while paddling/ Look at that shop!!!

That only added to my stoke – and reinforced the send of BLUE LIFE CONNECTIONS building in the SUP community.

If you plan to visit the Tampa/St Petersburg area, be sure to connect with Urban Kai. They will help you get involved in the popular, low-impact fitness phenomenon of stand up paddle boarding. Whether you’re interested in buying or renting a board, taking a SUP class, or joining them for a paddle boarding adventure, they’ve got the products and services you need for an exhilarating experience out on the water. Their friendly, experienced staff members are a fun bunch of folks dedicated to providing you with personalized service and expert product knowledge.

IMG_1572Contact them here.

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Captain Liz Clark: Swell and Awakening

lc-1Last night (April 13, 2018) the Patagonia store in Bend, Oregon had another of many great events (shop local and talk story). It was kick-off night for the Gerry Lopez Big Wave Challenge at Mt Bachelor over the weekend. The BIG story was the stellar presentation by sailor, surfer, author – Liz Clark.

Listening to her stories about living life on a sailboat while traveling around the world (although there were many challenging and difficult times) gave me a flashback to the very first sailing adventure hubby Ed and I took – on our honeymoon in 1970.

Liz took on the Pacific Ocean and the world, then wrote her incredible book, SWELL.. We simply took on the amazing and unspoiled Abaco, Bahamas of the 70’s. On a chartered 25′ sloop we were adventurers – in our own minds- living off the land and sea, because we had no money to spare. It was all here in photos (and a journal) to re-live today after hearing Liz.

Liz was introduced by two of the team at Changing Tides Foundation. A powerhouse of talented and dedicated women, Changing Tides has many ways we can be “Better Together” when it comes for taking care of the Ocean. Through mentorship and outreach they are changing lives. My favorite was the become engaged with their mission starting immediately is the Plastic Swear Jar Challenge.

lc3Liz shared so many nuggets of genius and inspiration. Not the least, “Living from the heart makes everything possible.” Her message was not about herself or her incredible accomplishments. It was all about staying awake, being vulnerable and connected while living our own best life with purpose.

Yes, you can get her book and really dive in. (published by Patagonia Books)If you’re like me, her final words really hit home – “Take pride in what you do for Mother Earth – she needs you!”

 

SUP Balance: Body, Mind, Spirit and Ocean

tg3As my Oregon seasons change and it is finally the full on season for paddling lakes, rivers – and the west coast ocean – I am ready to work my way into my best fitness and performance. I’m paddling fast towards my 68th birthday on June 2 and am seeking a good balance of nutrition/wellness. A few Facebook posts in which I inquired, “what works for you” delivered the most passionate and informational replies, more than anything I have ever posted before. (Thank you ALL)

Until I read the book SUPERLIFE (Thanks from the bottom of my heart to Karen Wrenn), I thought the “best me” would be a thinner, leaner me. So I had sworn off beer (Yes, I live in beer-town Bend, Oregon), then I did Weight Watchers (points vs activity), dabbled in Paleo, learned the “SUPERFOODS -Top 14 Foods That Will Change Your Life.” ( an eye-opening book by Steven Pratt and Kathy Matthews). I even worked hard on following an “acid-reflux” diet when some disturbing symptoms made me worry. That led to Alejandro Junger’s CLEAN GUT and Dr. William Davis’s WHEAT BELLY.

Who knew that my biggest “crave food,” pizza, was made best with high-gluten flour. I already knew that flour products wreck havoc with my joints where arthritis (yup, inflammation) has set up a home. When I avoid all flour products I have less ache-y and swelling and more energy. That has been a fairly easy habit to maintain for the past 5 years.

Back to SUPERLIFE. Who knew that a very real, solid and do-able strategy was a simple as an alkaline body, something above a PH of 7.0. Uh Oh! Just when chemistry seemed like a long-ago thing you had to study. Of all the “diets” and eating plans/rationales I studied, SUPERLIFE made the most sense. Author, Darin Olien, is fully immersed in the work he does – and we can all benefit. Their MISSION:  We provide resources for people to make the simple lifestyle changes needed to live a healthy SuperLife. vegsuper

Balance is something we standup paddlers know alot about. And SUPERLIFE is about a balance of 5 “Life Forces.” These are: nutrition, hydration, oxygenation, alkalization and detoxification. In the most balanced and logical manner Darien took me on a fascinating journey during both the first, and second, reads of his book.

vegAnd so, finally, I discovered the rationale behind something that might seem too simple. Darin explains the five simple fixes that will make you healthy fit and (yes, this) eternally awesome. After my reading, I listed suggested foods that would add to my alkalinity – actually wrote down the ones I could eat regularly, easily.

I then made a list of things that added acidity – just to keep me focused on avoiding them. No, you don’t need to NEVER have those (sugary things, caffeine, alcohol), but you need to be aware that they create an environment in your home. Yes, in your home that is your physical body, that is more acidic. There is not enough room for me to explain the entire philosophy here.

But know this: I have taken the time to read and understand what are the “five life forces” and why they matter. What a big surprise! Hydration is right up there with nutrition, followed by the gift of a cardio workout – oxygenation.  Then along came the “life force” I never even considered: ALKALIZATION. What?

That was the biggest eye opener – and on a very strict eating and workout plan that generated the most alkaline me I discovered an energy and wellness level that I hadn’t felt in a long, long time. By the time I got to the fifth life force, detoxification, I was on the band wagon.

There are so many ways to feed your water athlete self.  If you really want to make a difference (at any age), take a close read of SUPERLIFE.  I would love your comments and the discoveries in wellness that you have made.

I am only this young (what? 67.8 years) once. I am dedicated to making the best of it.

 

 

Standup for the Cure – Positivity

You expect participants in a highly personal, built-for-connection event like Standup for the Cure to be enthusiastic and highly invested in experiencing a positive event. The surprise for me at the November 12 event at Miami Yacht Club was the attitude and absolute commitment of the sponsors. A lot of the praise for that goes to the tireless enthusiasm and work by event director, Dan Van Dyke (shown here leading the prayer circle).

sftcm2Before I go on and on about the weather for the event (absolutely stellar), the course (indescribably beautiful) and the raffle prizes (so many, and all so cool), I will introduce you to some of the many sponsors i enjoyed talking with.

The sun was bright so one of the first people I chatted with was Morgan Parker of Raw Elements, makers of clear and tinted sunscreen made with 100% natural ingredients including zinc oxide. The moisturizer was evident as I applied the clear stick blend to my face. They were at the event because, “It’s a great cause and a natural audience for our mission toward skincare and cancer prevention.”

Speaking of prevention, I experienced the quick and easy breast cancer screening available at no charge to all. In the course of the Standup for the Cure history hundreds upon hundreds of early stage cancers have been detected, with support and followup made available. Each $125 raised by the event is used to support someone in need for screening. With $850,000+ raised so far think of the positive impact the event has had for so many of us across the country. sftcmview

We all love the ocean, surfing and a great cause but we don’t all take action to make a difference. Two local high school students Jacy and Joie started SURF TO THE RESCUE at the end of their 2016 school year. These students donate proceeds to Surfers for Autism, except on Nov 12 all proceeds went to Standup for the Cure. The shirts are top quality and the logos unique – and their hearts are definitely in the right place.

sftcmhatBesides winning a very cool hat at the Ambry Genetics booth (answered questions about breast cancer correctly), I had a fantastic conversation with Jaci Talpash. Few could be more proud of the work done by their company. She shared so much about all Ambry Genetics does and I walked away grateful for all the teams behind the innovations and research.

The team from Cobian Footwear (check out the styles) lives their #everystepmatters message with their participation in causes that resonate.  Grag Tayler shared, “We are national sponsors of Standup for the Cure, so this is not a one time effort for us. They are honored to be part of the effort fighting breast cancer and those working to find a cure.

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse fed us well with perfectly grilled burgers on melt in your mouth buns. Kona Brewing Company team froze their hands off reaching into a cooler full of ice to hand us perfectly chilled beer. We all needed it after an active morning. The morning was made more active for many as Andrew Crane representing Starboard  shared Allstar and Freeride boards, paddles, leashes and PFDs to dozens upon dozens of eager paddlers, both novice and super experienced racers. sftcmreeride

The most connected and positive community gathers at every Standup for the Cure event. Smiles were plentiful and awareness buzzed throughout the day. Thanks for inspiring us Shawneen Schweitzer Shelby Kailei Lane Schweitzer Zane Kekoa Schweitzer Matty Schweitzer Judie Vivian Dan Van Dyck and all the enthusiastic and loyal sponsors including
Ambry Genetics West Marine Maui Jim Cobian Kona Brewing Company sftcmona

Ruth’s Chris Steak House Miami Yacht Club

Surfrider Foundation Miami Chapter (No single use plastic bottles at the event – tons of awareness instead of tons of plastic).

sftcmsrBe sure to check out the schedule for an upcoming event and be sure to be part of exactly the energy our sport is known for.  Aloha!

 

Inspire Clean Rivers: Youth Video Voice

Got video camera, phone or GoPro? Want to go to the Jack Johnson concert in Bend, OR on August 24? Well here’s a contest that get you in the running for TWO FREE TICKETS!

If you love the water – oceans, bays, lakes and rivers – you want to do what you can to keep them clean and healthy. Your 1-2 minute video can show us all how YOU’D keep the Deschutes River clean and clear of beer bottles, flip flops, cans, and any sort of trash.  Many groups have organized around the goal of keeping rivers and streams healthy.  In Central Oregon we are exceptionally fortunate. We have had incredible river restoration, monitoring and youth education driven and inspired by the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council (UDWC). Now the UDWC has a contest that let’s YOU be part of the solution.

How would YOU inspire others to keep the Deschutes River clean - video ideas? Jack Johnson tickets? Yeah!

How would YOU inspire others to keep the Deschutes River clean – video ideas? Jack Johnson tickets? Yeah!

Hosmer Lake Shasek

The annual impact of their educational programs is beyond measure in terms on connecting youth to the environment, culture and sense of place our local waters provide. “The staff and volunteers continuously create programs and youth opportunities that celebrate every aspect of learning about our rivers and streams from writing to science to the arts.

Now for the FUN PART! Here are links to the UDWC “Keep the Deschutes River Clean” video contest. Be serious, funny, cute and clever in a 1-2 minute video, submit before August 1 and you have a chance to win 2 tickets to the Jack Johnson concert. PARENTS – you know you want to go to this sold out concert as much as your video-savvy kids do – so light a creative fire in them, take then to the river and hand them your iPhone – it’s gonna be fun.

The contest is open to all ages, read the rules and start filming, singing, dancing, cleaning the river, floating, paddling, fishing and making a great story.

Video Contest Submission Form and Rules
Video Contest Flyer 3

“Times Like These” by Jack Johnson
(We can change “what will be” by inspiring a clean river!)

In times like these
In times like those
What will be will be
And so it goes
And it always goes on and on…
On and on it goes