The simple answer is: because of the clean water.
There is, of course, a more complex answer, which is also more interesting :)
It all started in the spring of 2019 when I read the paper published by Swedish Environmental Institute in which they stated that every time we wash any item made from synthetic fabrics, thousands of tiny micro-plastic particles (very small pieces of plastic that never biodegrade) shred, ending up in our waterways, polluting the environment, and basically polluting our future.
If you live in Sweden, don't panic, there is good news coming! If you are from some other country, it would be good to find out how successful your wastewater treatment plants are.
In Sweden, a study conducted in a controlled environment showed that Swedish Wastewater Plants are capable of blocking up to 99% of these microplastic from entering in the ecosystem. We have to put this in the perspective, and here we get to the bad news: it is estimated that in Sweden the total annual synthetic fiber discharge can go up to 945 tons. Therefore if 99% of this microplastics is blocked, it still leaves 1%, which is 9.45 tons of microplastic polluting the water.
Globally it is estimated that half a million tons of plastic micro-fiber are dumped into the waterflows annually. This is the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles. Approximately 67% of the population in low- and middle-income countries lack access to sewage connections, and about 20% of household wastewater does not undergo proper water treatment.
Most recent findings show that on every 1000 liters of ocean water there are 8.3 million pieces of microplastics. To put it in the perspective, if we take children's swimming pool which can hold around 620 liters of water, that pool could contain around 5.14 million pieces of microplastics.
At around the same time, I learned that our (human) immune cells die three times faster when exposed to microplastics.
In their research, scientists from UMC Utrecht presented that immune cells that attack microplastics are three times more likely to be damaged beyond repair, consequently prompting an immediate inflammatory response.
Immune cells are called immune because they can kill cancerous and virus-infected cells without being harmed.
If microplastic can kill them, then I would say that microplastics is humanity's number one enemy!
If you are from Sweden, now you can start panicking as well (but leave some panic for later, you might need it).
Panicking is what I did.
I constantly talked about the problem of microplastic, complained about it, started the Instagram account (micro_matters), have decided not to buy any new clothes if it is not made of 100% biodegradable materials.
But, the problem never really left me. You have definitely noticed this phenomenon as well: the more you google something, and more you talk about it, more content on the same topic you will get (this is not called violating somebody's privacy, but making sure that a person has all the facts and doesn't accidentally make a fool of her/himself).
So, all the bad things I knew about the fashion industry started becoming the facts that I could not ignore.
Bottom line is that the fashion industry is one of the most polluting human activities - more polluting than religion!
What most of us wear is polluting the air, the water, the land, not to mention our self-esteem and some worker's well being.
The fashion industry is one of the biggest contributors to CO2 emission (contributing 10% of all CO2 emissions globally, which is more than aviation and maritime shipping together).
Producing a single polyester T-shirt emits 262% more CO2 than producing a cotton T-shirt. Production of nylon produces nitrous oxide - a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Textile dyeing is the second biggest pollutant of clean water (the first one is agriculture). Try to find out about the Citarum river in Indonesia and Pearl river in China and see the consequences of dumping toxic chemicals into the ecosystem.
Enormous amounts of fashion waste are buried in the ground: each year up to 85% of all disposed textiles end up in landfills. That's enough to fill the Sydney harbor annually.
The fashion industry, as the second-largest consumer of water worldwide, is causing earth erosion and droughts. It takes a bit less than 3000 litres of water to produce one cotton shirt. That's enough water for one person to drink at least eight glasses per day for three-and-a-half years. It takes about 7500 litres of water to produce a pair of jeans. That's more than enough for one person to drink eight glasses per day for 10 years!
Pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides used in the growing of cotton are further polluting the land and the water. Though only 2.4% of the world’s agricultural land is planted with cotton, it consumes almost 10% of all agricultural chemicals and 25% of pesticides.
And of course, there is already mentioned microplastics pollution from washing polyester, elastic and other plastic materials.
A 2017 report from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimated that 35% of all microplastics in the ocean came from the laundering of synthetic textiles like polyester.
To sum up, the fashion industry is responsible for 20% of all industrial water pollution worldwide.
All this pollution lost into the environment will continue to accumulate over time.
Let's be realistic: there is a very small chance that we (millennials, Generation Z and younger) will ever manage to completely clean it up. What we can do at this point in time and space is to slow it down by making ethical choices.
That is what motivates my sister Laura and I to create a sustainable fashion brand.
Ethicuette is created as our contribution to making the world a better place - a healthier, cleaner, and kinder place.
We believe that the clean water and healthy ecosystem is the ideal worth working for, fighting for, and living for.
We are joining a Slow fashion movement and we hope to be an inspiration for many others to join it as well and switch to sustainable fashion.
Our core values are: biodegradable, organic, sustainable, vegan and timeless.
In practical terms, this means that Ethicuette will be making plastic-free clothes using biodegradable vegan and ethically sourced materials; while applying eco-friendly and sustainable processes; and with our business model, we will support European small and micro-businesses.
With these values, we aim at becoming a 100% ethical fashion brand.
We have 1 year to succeed or to go back to 9 to 5 jobs (or more precisely 996 jobs). We are starting without any professional experience in the fashion, sustainable fashion, or fashion industry. We are quite scared, and at the same time quite excited and motivated.
We feel a strong responsibility for taking care of our nature, and we hope to see the world where any kind of environmental pollution: micro or macro, direct, or indirect, is seen as unethical.
In the end, here is some good news if you are a humanist (and see humankind as the most important in the universe): according to the World Health Organisation, microplastic is not harming human health. This is completely opposite from the research I've mentioned above. Definitely we need more research, and we need to prepare for the worst. Also, chemicals in clothing have not yet been determined to cause human health concerns more serious than allergic reactions and irritations.
Our next story will be about our brand's name: Ethicuette. Send us an email if you would like to be notified once the story is published.
Until next time always read the label, and then choose not to buy plastic, especially single-use plastic, especially microplastics.
It's time to switch to sustainable fashion and ethical fashion!