If you wear bras, chances are you haven't thought too much about their environmental impact. But bras can be made from a variety of unsustainable materials, from water-intensive cotton, to spandex, to petroleum-based polyurethane foam for padding. So once they're tossed, these synthetic fabrics will sit in landfills and take forever to disappear.
It's no wonder Australian lingerie designer Stephanie Devine launched The Very Good Bra, the world's first zero-waste bra.
The biodegradable bra, Devine claims, is so Earth-friendly that "you could bury it in your garden at the end of its lifespan and it would leave no toxic waste."
The bra comes with no wire and is made of Aussie-made tencel, a sustainable textile made from the wood pulp of eucalyptus trees, which requires a fraction of the water used by cotton. Tencel, as it happens, is also ideal for lingerie due to its soft, absorbent and durable qualities.
Devine's bra features elastic made from sustainably farmed rubber trees, organic cotton for sewing thread and is dyed to meet the Global Organic Trading Standard. She even thought of organic inks for labeling and completely compostable packaging to make sure it's as clean as possible.
The designer crunched the numbers and determined that if the two billion women currently on the planet own, on average, nine bras each, that means 18 billion bras are headed for landfill. In her native country, Australia, 6,000 kilos of clothing and textile waste ends up in the landfill every 10 minutes.
A Kickstarter for the product was launched May 19 and fulfilled its AUD $20,000 (US $15,300) fundraising goal within 48 hours.
The Very Good Bra is available on the crowdfunding site for roughly US $65 and comes in 24 cup sizes. Early bird delivery expected for this August with another run in October.
Additional funds raised during the Kickstarter campaign will go towards completing Cradle to Cradle certification, which would make The Very Good Bra the world's first lingerie label and the first Australian fashion product to do so.
Devine hopes to continue to design more zero-waste products following her current campaign.
"For me this isn't about one bra, I want to develop a brand to cover a broader, inclusive range of zero-waste, low waste and recycled basics for both men and women," she said.
"Together we can start cleaning up the fashion industry and help protect our fragile planet for future generations."
Fast Fashion Is the Second Dirtiest Industry in the World, Next to Big Oil http://t.co/yO2nMHrUYr @greenpeaceusa @HuffPostGreen— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1439863264.0
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.