The world of fashion has gripped us in its glitzy talons, producing 'must-have' trends each season that fuel an unending desire for more. However, as we get wrapped up in the appeal of apparel, it’s easy to overlook the connection between fashion choices and the health of our oceans. Beyond the glamour is a complex landscape where 100 billion garments are produced each year with 92 million tonnes ending up in landfill, the majority of which are produced from synthetic materials by fast-fashion giants. Simple actions like washing these garments are releasing microplastics into the water, while landfills, constantly inundated with discarded clothing (a truckload every second), contribute to toxic runoff that infiltrates our oceans. These issues paint a different picture of our blue spaces, one that's less glamorous and more urgent. Within this, a stark reality emerges: more than 100 million marine animals die each year from plastic waste alone with 71% of oceanic sharks facing the threat of extinction due to the impact of overfishing, habitat degradation and climate change, a situation that demands our attention.

But things don't have to be this way, to counteract the consequences of fashion's fast-paced culture, a more conscious approach to clothing production is making waves. Products made to order from natural materials and produced using renewable energy sources, with a focus on circular production, can revolutionise the clothing industry by minimising waste and maximising sustainability. In this blog, we take a deep dive into the impact of fast fashion on our oceans and explore the sustainable clothing practices that are providing a safer environment for our marine wildlife

Nature's Solution To Pollution

The connection between making textiles and polluting oceans goes beyond the surface. The journey of a single garment, from its production to our wardrobes, involves a complex mix of chemicals and resources that are harming our environment. The dyeing and treatment processes alone release a deluge of pollutants, including hazardous chemicals and synthetic dyes, into waterways that ultimately find their way into oceans. Synthetic fabrics are also causing major issues by shedding tiny particles of microplastics during washing, infiltrating marine environments and entering the food chain right up to and including our own plates. The IUCN calculates that 35% of microplastic pollution comes from washing synthetic materials. A switch to natural materials is just one of the ways to avoid this.

Sustainable clothing practices involve sourcing natural materials like organic cotton which is grown without the use of harmful chemicals. This chemical-free approach extends to the dyeing process, where natural dyes are used to avoid toxic runoff. By utilising renewable energy to lower carbon emissions sustainable brands demonstrate how a nature-friendly approach to textile production leads to positive outcomes. Luckily, a movement towards sustainable fashion is gaining momentum, with more brands adopting these natural methods of production, offsetting the negative effects of their fast-fashion counterparts.

Keeping Material In The Loop

In the world of fashion, the alarming truth is that less than 1% of clothing is currently recycled, resulting in ever-growing landfill sites. These sites have become the final resting place for synthetic garments, shedding toxic chemicals that eventually infiltrate our waterways. This underscores the urgency of finding sustainable solutions to the environmental impact posed on our oceans.

The solution to this is a circular production model. Unlike the linear "take, make, dispose" approach, a circular process designs garments from the start to be recycled and remade, keeping material in use and out of landfill. Sustainable clothing company Teemill pioneered this circular economy concept by offering products that can be sent back when worn out to be remade into new products. This not only extends the lifespan of clothing but also mitigates the excessive resource consumption and environmental impact associated with fast fashion.

Raising Awareness Through Design

When it comes to environmentally-conscious clothing, the very design on it holds the potential to drive a positive impact. A thought-provoking environmental design that deeply connects with consumers, or a compelling campaign slogan that spreads its message far and wide, can become a catalyst for change. At The Shark Trust, we've been a long fan of using t-shirt designs to turn clothing into a tool for education, awareness, and advocacy.

Our Retro Great White Shark T-shirt draws attention to some of the incredible creatures that live in our oceans and is a great way to show commitment to shark conservation.

Our Shark Species Top was designed to support our Shark Pledge campaign, where governments and fisheries are to be held accountable for safeguarding our shark populations.

The success of these designs is evident in their ability to initiate meaningful conversations around shark preservation and maintaining healthy seas. By wearing a shark-themed t-shirt from our collection, supporters don't just express their commitment to ocean conservation; they become ambassadors for change, starting conversations that extend the reach of our mission.

As we delve into the connection between fashion and ocean conservation, it's clear that our choices matter. By supporting sustainable clothing and pushing for change in the fashion industry, we can create an environment where sharks and other marine life can thrive. Let's take action today: seek out sustainable brands that use the power of nature to create their products and consider an end-of-life solution to your products that keeps material in circulation. We’ve implemented these practices to produce a collection of mindful clothing at The Shark Trust store where each purchase supports our ongoing efforts in marine conservation. Together we can create a brighter future for both fashion and the oceans we treasure.