What Are You Wearing? Polyester Edition

By Kat Holleran

Photo by Kat Holleran

Aaaaaand we’re back this week with the next edition of “What Are You Wearing?”! Today we are going to be talking about none other than polyester.

You’ve probably heard about polyester before, either from someone complaining about it, or online when you ordered your Patagonia (a ~Miami essential~)—but do you know what it really is?

In fact, polyester is fabric made out of plastic! This means that in order to make it, fossil fuels must be extracted from the ground and processed in factories which weave them together. That’s pretty crazy—petroleum transformed into fabric. With the invention of synthetic materials like polyester, we are able to create waterproof or moisture wicking fabrics that are used in things like swim suits, Lululemon leggings, and rain jackets.

While there are a lot of useful aspects of polyester (we can go outside without worrying about retaining an extra ten pounds in rain water!), there are also environmental drawbacks. By drilling into the ground to extract petroleum, we cause a lot of damage to the Earth, such as water contamination and an influx of earthquakes. Along with this initial damage, a lot of CO2 is released into the atmosphere in the production of the actual fibers. Plus there is the post-consumer problem: polyester can take up to 200 years to biodegrade, which means it will be sitting in a landfill for a long time unless it’s donated or repurposed.

But what can we, as consumers, do about this? For many, water wicking athletic wear is necessary in a wardrobe. Buying from brands like Patagonia and Ecoalf, both of which use recycled plastics to create sustainable garments, is one step you can take to reduce your personal environmental impact from polyester. Another is simply not buying it—when it comes to sweaters and t-shirts, it’s worth investing in natural materials that are higher quality and less damaging to the environment.

Being informed about what you’re wearing is just as important as what you’re wearing. Tune in next time when we’ll be covering /wool/. Peace!

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