Yes, your yoga pants are destroying the planet but so too are hockey clothes, cycling kit, and climbing gear

The following story keeps appearing in my newsfeed: Your yoga pants are destroying the planet. 

Every time you wash your yoga pants, gym clothes or any other garment made from synthetic material, you’re shedding microscopic plastic fibers — called “microfibers” into natural waterways, which eventually make their way to the ocean.

University of Florida researchers are now discovering that more than 80 percent of the the micro-plastics found in the ocean are actually micro-fibers from synthetic clothing:

Funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), the researchers launched a two-year study earlier this year to discover the source of the micro-plastic pollution accumulating in the Gulf of Mexico.

When they set out they expected to find mostly micro-beads, tiny brightly-colored plastic balls found in body washes, face scrubs and other bath products, until the U.S. Government banned them in 2015, because they were harming fish and other sea life.

Instead, they found the majority of the pollution, 82%, is originating from our closets — stretchy yoga clothes, sweat-wicking athletic wear and synthetic jackets.

Now this is bad. It’s awful. We’re killing the planet. I teach a course on Fashion so the clothes link is no big surprise. Fashion is pretty high on the list on polluting industries, equal to livestock. We watch the movie True Cost in my class and it shocks my students.

Still, there was something about the yoga pants story that was bugging me. I couldn’t put my finger on it until a friend on the internet shared it with this comment: “Wow, that’s horrifying. It’s also depressing, though, that the headline and the article repeatedly go on about yoga pants in particular when, as it also says, the problem is simply “anything that’s nylon or polyester.” It has literally nothing specifically to do with yoga pants. Someone would have to own an impossibly massive yoga pant collection to be a bigger problem than me, with my hockey stuff, cycling clothes, gym clothes, thermal fleeces, etc. It’s kinda gross how concerns about plastic pollution still have to be wrapped up in a handy single reason to both use a hottie pic as the cover shot and have a central theme that shames women for their pretensions to fitness and activity.”

Right? Right! Why pick on yoga pants? The story combines environmental concern with mocking women for fitness pursuits and uses a photo of a conventionally attractive woman doing yoga on the beach.

Also, how shocking is this?

Another friend chimed in: “Yes, and you’d also think they wouldn’t write in such a “plastic turns out to be plastic!” tone. No, I would NOT think that spandex and lycra clothing would be made of recycled organic etc. The credulity makes my eyeballs itch.”

I’m no great fan of yoga pants. See Just walk slowly away from that rack of $100 yoga pants. 

But picking on yoga pants and leaving out all the other sports gear strikes me as picking on women in particular when the point is a general one about synthetic fibers.

Silhouette of a person doing yoga at the end of a pier
Photo by Marion Michele on Unsplash


3 thoughts on “Yes, your yoga pants are destroying the planet but so too are hockey clothes, cycling kit, and climbing gear

  1. Wow– yes, this is another case of singling out one group, women especially, to take responsibility for ALL the environmental damage. What about sports teams? What about all the other sports? What about the outdoorsy folks who embrace a better-living-through-polartec lifestyle? I’m a member of multiple groups here, so am willing to take a hit, but not in the name of women only. Argh.

  2. Similar to how disposable diapers are the demonic face of landfill issues. Because blaming women and women’s choices is always the fun way to approach these problems.

  3. I saw it as simply focused splashy news writing to blame yoga pants.

    Maybe at least this micro-plastic fibre pollution in water, is signal to be remind self to buy clothing only if we’re going to wear it often. So many of us are guilty having closets with multiple garments, hardly worn at all.

    For certain cycling jerseys are incredibly durable. I’m still wearing 15+ year old jerseys. I haven’t yet thrown out any jerseys. I haven’t bought a new jersey in the past 7 years. Not sure if jersey pills as much as ie. fleecies.

    It also appears a lot the synthetic fibres have degraded for certain clothing. Super thin t-shirts and other crap. I’m sorry…throwaway garments after 1 year because the fibre is not tightly woven, etc. I used to sew a lot of my wardrobe, so I may be more critical than some.

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