Getting Micro on World Oceans Day

It’s World Ocean’s Day! Why are we celebrating? Our company is based in a city that sits alongside a beautiful, freshwater lake, nestled in an unbelievably stunning valley. This lake is most definitely not the ocean. 

BUT, if you were to draw a line from our lake and follow its tributaries, you will find that we are connected to the ocean.

In fact, all water is tied - in one way or another - to the sea. “All water leads downhill” as they say. Even if we can’t "sea" it (see what we did there?), the connection is still there.

It’s worth remembering this when we consider things like pollution. What we put in our water upstream will invariably make its way into the environment and, eventually, the ocean.

How does this relate to The Market Bags?

Prepare to get granular: we’re going micro!

Microplastics, microfibres, oh my!

The Market Bags was started as a direct result of seeing cheap, synthetic “reusable bags” come online. You know the ones, maybe because you have a few kicking around (in which case, seriously: no judgement, we all have some of these things taking up space in our closets). These are the bags you can buy in a multi pack on Amazon for some crazy stinkin’ deal.

Why so cheap? Because they’re made of new (aka “virgin”), cheap plastic.

We wanted something better for our market-fresh goodies, so we built a better bag

The other reason we started The Market Bags (and this is super important to us) was that we truly want to leave behind a clean planet for the next several generations and that means creating products that don’t pollute. 

Ok, pump the breaks. How exactly can a bag be polluting? What kind of pollution does a bag produce? Drumroll please…


The nitty gritty on microfibres

Before we go any further, we’ve just gotta say it: all textiles shed fibres. It’s what they do. Think about your favourite, well-loved pair of wool socks or cotton shirt. Eventually, the threads start to wear thin. They don’t call it “threadbare” for a reason!

Having said that…despite their tiny size, the difference between a synthetic microfibre and an au-natural one makes a h-u-g-e difference when it comes to environmental pollution.

For anyone wanting to really nerd out on this (and believe us, we certainly did!), this episode of Quirks & Quarks on CBC gives an excellent breakdown of how microfibres shed from our clothes and who the worst offenders are (hint: it starts with a p- and ends with -olyster).

Natural vs. synthetic: who’s the winner?

If all textiles shed microfibres, why bother making the switch?

Plastic has a really hard time breaking down in the natural environment, be it on land and especially in water. It’s basically impossible. Because of its chemical makeup, plastic tends to break up into smaller and smaller pieces, but it never really goes away. Similarly, microfibres from synthetic textiles will continue to slough off and break up into tiny bits…but they are always “there” (even if we can’t see them).

As you might expect, natural fibres (think cotton, bamboo, hemp, linen) are more easily broken down in the “wild” as opposed to synthetic fibres. This is because those materials are composed of organic compounds that nature knows how to handle. Decomposing organisms can digest these sorts of fibres and eventually, they return to the system from whence they came. It’s full-circle living, baby.

So, you asked why we should bother making the switch?

If we don’t bother, we end up with a build-up of synthetic fibres overwhelming our ecosystem. These plastics don’t go away and as such, they can accumulate. Gross.

An overabundance of natural fibres isn't good, either - but natural fibres have the possibility of breaking down and returning to the earth, leaving no trace.

We think we should absolutely bother!

How do bags fit into this picture?

Natural textiles extend beyond the clothes we wear! They can also be used to keep our food wrapped up snugger than a bug in a rug.

Think about it: you wait all week for the farmers market. You get so stoked to load up on locally grown goodness, packed full of nutrients because it hasn’t had to be shipped halfway around the planet. Why then, would you put those beautiful radishes in a bag composed of synthetic woven material? *groan* Fortunately, we have a bag for that!

This World Oceans Day, we’re encouraging you to rethink your bags and consider their shedding. We think making the switch to reusable, cloth bags is worth doing. If we’re going to contribute microfibres to our waterways (and we all will, facts of life ‘n’ all that jazz) we should at least make sure they’re capable of breaking down.

Having said that, there are ways you can reduce microfibre shedding overall: even if everything in your life is made of natural fibres. Read on for some helpful tips to understand how best to take care of your Market Bags. After all, you trusted us enough to buy the bags, now we want to make sure you get some serious mileage out of them!

How to care for your bags and reduce microfibre shedding

The Market Bags come in either organic cotton or upcycled fabric with the following recommended care instructions!

  • Upcycled fabric bags are machine washer and dryer friendly.
  • The organic cotton line is best washed on “cold” and hung to dry.

But is it possible to avoid the machines entirely? You bet! Below are some helpful tips to keep your bags clean but that also minimizes microfibre shedding.

  1. Avoid washing if you don’t actually have to. We recommend channelling your inner T Swift and shake it off! Ok, we should be more specific here: shake your bags out and fold ‘em up for later use (if they’re not too dirty).
  2. Give your bags a quick refresh by tossing them in the sink with your dishes - this sounds kind of weird but actually, it’s quite practical, time-saving, and a low-impact way to keep your bags looking snazzy.
  3. Hang your bags to dry to prevent shrinkage (ain’t nobody like shrinkage!).
A Market Bags bag with the insignia "No space for waste" is washed in the kitchen sink.

For us, every day is an environmental holiday: it’s baked into our company ethos and just the way we run things around here. This makes it easy to save the planet: all you have to do is use your bags! This year, we think you should tote-ally consider the ocean when it comes to your bags and reduce microfibre pollution: even if they are au natural fibres and even if you live nowhere close to a salty sea. 

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