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Always check the label, but generally wash cold and dry low.
Whether we realize it or not, a shocking amount of human-made debris makes its way into our oceans every single day. This includes solid waste, such as metals, rubber, glass — and unfortunately — enormous amounts of plastic. No plastic belongs in the ocean, but when we find it there, this form of pollution is categorized as “marine plastics.” Marine plastics are a large and problematic category of marine debris that includes plastic bags, solid plastic components and microplastics.
Plastics that are smaller than 5mm are defined as microplastics. They may start out as large pieces of plastic that break down into smaller pieces over time. This happens as a result of wind, waves or the photodegradation effect brought on by UV light. Another major source of marine microplastics comes in the form of personal care products containing microbeads, such as toothpaste, body wash and face wash. Microplastics are also found in products like glitter, synthetic clothing, cigarette butts and laundry/dishwasher pods. Marine animals ingest microplastics, and the results are often tragic. In addition to the devastating ecological effect of marine plastics, microplastics have been detected in food sources humans like to eat, such as fish. It is estimated that microplastics make up as much as 85% of the plastics found on shorelines.
Marine plastics often leave visible evidence in the form of floating plastics or those that wash up on our shorelines, but the full scope of the problem is far reaching and difficult to measure. A 2017 study estimated that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch alone contains roughly 79,000 metric tons of plastic. Another study estimated that 8.5 million metric tons of plastic settles on the ocean floor every year, where the problem largely remains out of sight — all while causing extensive environmental damage. Today, scientists are turning to satellites and machine learning to detect and measure the full extent of marine plastic pollution.
Roughly 80% of all marine pollution comes from land. One major concern is nonpoint source pollution, which is the result of runoff from multiple sources like septic tanks, trucks, cars, boats and farms. Air pollution can also settle on waterways, eventually making its way into our oceans.
Another big source of ocean pollution is marine debris, which comes directly from humans as a result of littering, waste management failures, storm water runoff and natural weather events like tsunamis, hurricanes and extreme flooding. Lost or dumped fishing gear is also considered a type of marine debris that sometimes comes from ocean-based sources. This is a harmful form of pollution, as wildlife can become entangled, injured or killed by lost or abandoned equipment.
While only about five percent of the plastic produced every year is reclaimed, the possibilities for upcycling and reusing ocean plastics are virtually endless. Today, manufacturing methods exist that enable companies to rework plastic retrieved from our oceans into reusable raw materials. These upcycled ocean plastic materials can be used to make new products, like shoes, clothing, sunglasses, bottles, skateboards, furniture, phone cases, handbags, carpets, watches — we could go on and on (and on!) about the potential for reworking ocean plastics to create a more sustainable future.
Since 2005, Canadian research firm Corporate Knights has compiled the annual Global 100 list of the world’s largest companies that rank high in sustainability practices. The 2021 Global 100 list ranks Schneider Electric, a European energy and automation company as the world’s most sustainable company.
A carbon footprint measures the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions that result from the activities of an individual, organization, event or service. Expressed as a carbon dioxide equivalent, the average carbon footprint for American individuals is 16 tons per year, compared to the global average of 4 tons per year. It is estimated that the global average carbon footprint would need to drop below 2 tons per year by 2050 if we are to avoid a 2°C increase in global temperatures — a condition that will have major impacts on humans and ecological systems.
Everyday activities like driving a car, using electricity and producing waste all contribute to your carbon footprint. Individuals can use a carbon footprint calculator to determine the environmental impact of their household. Simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint include reducing or eliminating meat consumption, avoiding “fast fashion” clothing purchases, investing in energy-efficient appliances, making the switch to a hybrid or electric vehicle and supporting brands and organizations actively working to make a positive impact on the environment.
While marine plastic pollution presents an overwhelming problem for humans, marine life and the environment as a whole, the situation isn’t hopeless. Aside from supporting organizations and brands that are actively working toward a more sustainable future, there are plenty of ways we can all help keep plastic out of the ocean.
One of the most important things we can do is to reduce our plastic use. That means making a commitment to avoid using single-use plastic products like water bottles, plastic utensils, plastic shopping bags and personal care products containing microplastics whenever possible. Another great way anyone can help reduce the impact of plastic pollution is to participate in a local cleanup. Even those who do not live near the ocean can make a difference with local cleanup efforts, as much of the pollution we see on land eventually makes its way into streams, rivers, and ultimately, into our oceans.
Two major forms of ocean pollution are categorized as nonpoint source pollution and point source pollution. Nonpoint source pollution results from runoff that stems from a variety of sources and eventually makes its way into our oceans. This includes pollution like oil drips from cars on the road that get washed away by rain, runoff from farms, septic tanks, boats and other unknown sources.
Conversely, point source pollution comes from a single, identifiable source, like an oil spill or industrial chemical dumping. While point source pollution events occur less often than nonpoint source pollution, they can have a large ecological impact when they do occur.
Consumers looking to change their shopping habits to be more environmentally friendly may benefit from browsing products on a sustainability aggregator like EarthHero. It’s also wise to become familiar with certain ecolabels and certifications that are displayed on eco-friendly products found in grocery stores, drug stores and the like. Simple changes, such as switching from personal care products that contain microbeads to those that are eco-friendly can make a big difference. After all, every shopping trip is an opportunity to vote with your wallet and encourage more brands to invest in sustainable business practices.
As consumers become increasingly concerned about how the products and services they use may impact the planet, brands have seen the benefit of marketing their products as “eco-friendly.” Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. When companies make unsubstantiated or vague claims about their products or services that are intended to make them seem more environmentally friendly than they actually are, it is known as “greenwashing.”
There are currently more than 400 ecolabels in use across 25 industry sectors. It’s no wonder that consumers can feel confused about what exactly a label means — and which ones to trust. Brands that make eco-friendly claims on their products should ideally back them up with the appropriate certifications for their industry. Consumers can look for certification labels directly on product packaging and are always encouraged to research the associated organizations and their certification standards.
In the United States, for example, the USDA is the governing body that decides whether food items are considered “organic.” As such, consumers will want to look for the appropriate corresponding USDA Organic label. Products that are presented as “green” should ideally sport the Green Seal label, which certifies that a product is free of chemicals that are harmful to the ozone layer, made from sustainable resources and generally sourced locally.
Another common ecolabel consumers may see is the Fair Trade Certified label. This means a product was created using agricultural diversification, that the company offered farmers better wages and that products were grown using minimal pesticides.
Products may also be labeled as “free of” specific harmful substances if they do not contain those substances, or when they are only present in trace amounts. Product labels may also state when a product is made from recycled materials, or when it is made using renewable materials, which can be produced over a short period of time using natural processes.
The materials that go into manufacturing a towel can make a big difference on its carbon footprint. Synthetic materials like polyester — often used in traditional beach towels — contain microplastics. The plastic microfibers of such towels can cause great ecological damage as animals ingest them. The dyes used in towels may also contain harmful, toxic chemicals. While towels can be made from upcycled plastic, such as towels made from recycled water bottles, they will ultimately shed microplastic fibers back into the environment. Eco-friendly towels are made from plastic-free, natural and renewable materials like cotton and hemp, and are dyed using environmentally friendly processes.
Aside from selecting beach and bath towels that are made from sustainable, eco-friendly materials, it’s important to consider every step along the production process. This includes sustainability indicators such as whether pesticides were used to grow the raw materials used to make a towel, whether the final product is shipped in plastic-free, recyclable packaging and whether there is a company-wide commitment to environmentally sustainable business practices.
FiveADRIFT is committed to providing high-quality bath and beach towels made from an all-natural, organic cotton/hemp blend. Our towels utilize plastic-free materials that are grown with significantly less water, and all of our products are made in a fair trade facility. We are proud to donate 100% of our profits to charities working to remove plastic from our oceans, and our entire organization is committed to being waste-free, plastic-free and carbon negative.
If you are ready to join the movement and make a difference, SHOP ETHICAL BEACH AND BATH TOWELS HERE.