Sustainable fashion: Clothing can be stylish and eco-friendly

St. Augustine Beach on a sunny day. Despite the serene appearance, the threat of microfiber pollution looms.

By Kelly Magee |

It’s no secret that many of the plastic products we use end up in our oceans, but what many people don’t realize is that one of the environment’s biggest pollutants can be found in their closets. Clothing has become the second largest source of pollution in the world behind oil, and local businesses are starting to fight back.

It can be estimated that clothing is responsible for about 3 to 6.7 percent of global human caused carbon dioxide emissions, according to a 2018 study out of Oslo Metropolitan University and Queensland University of Technology.

Fiber production has grown to 100 million tons and uses large amounts of water and energy, and 20 to 30 percent of micro plastics in the marine environment are from fibers of synthetic clothing.

Though a solution to this vast problem may seem difficult to reach, online influencers and local businesses are encouraging people to take a step in the right direction.

Natalie Kay, a Jacksonville native, is the creator of Sustainably Chic, a blog which covers topics like eco-friendly fashion, ethical products for your home and sustainable living.

Kay’s mother helped her discover her love of fashion. Her mom went to fashion school, was an excellent seamstress and owned a store selling sewing machines and fabrics.

Kay went to school for fashion as well, which was when became fed up with the industry. Waste was one of the biggest issues she encountered during her time in the fashion industry. Many of her peers became obsessed with trends and felt the need to constantly produce.

“We have created too much junk without thought of what to do with it after it becomes out of fashion,” Kay said.

She started speaking on the topic of sustainable fashion while she was still in school, and she started her blog a few years later in the summer of 2014.

“The blog was a great outlet for me to speak on an issue I cared deeply about while hoping others would find it just as interesting and relevant,” she said.

Local businesses are also hopping on the sustainable fashion trend. Cottonways, a small clothing store located at 56 Hypolita Street, offers clothing made from cotton gauze.

The gauze is washer and dryer safe, pre-shrunk, does not require ironing and is from Guadalajara, Mexico.

“My vision was to offer comfortable, yet sophisticated clothing,” said Jennifer Davis McNeill, owner and creator of Cottonways.

She added that the lightweight material was perfect for Florida’s hot and humid weather.

Another company, Simply Southern, doesn’t just use sustainable fabrics, they also help protect the environment.

“My goal was always to give back,” said President Ginger Aydogdu. “I believe that we are here to help make the world a better place through our contributions and service to others.”

Simply Southern is partnered with the Network for Endangered Sea Turtles (NEST), a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation and protection of the habitats and migration routes of sea turtles and other marine animals on the Outer Banks of North Carolina from the Virginia border to Oregon Inlet.

Simply Southern donates 10 percent of their profits from all apparel with their Save the Turtles label.

“Our motto is living life simple and loving the blessings we are so privileged to enjoy,” Aydogdu said.

All Simply Southern shirts are 100 percent cotton and their apparel can be found at the Artsy Abode, 41 King Street.

“Our love of nature and the oceans has inspired us to become involved in efforts to preserve nature, our environment and the oceans.”

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