Sustainability in Focus | #WeSeaThrough with Marina Testino

by Morgan Vickery

Turns out, what you don’t know can hurt you, especially when dealing with microplastics. Fashion sustainability activist, Marina Testino, is bringing light to this issue and searching for reversible solutions. Her passion for sustainability extends much farther than the fashion industry— in fact, it spans the length of oceans. Not only do microplastics infiltrate our bodies of water, but our own bodies as well. 

Thought the month of August, Testino teamed up with the visual artist, Danilo, to create the #WeSeaThrough initiative. Together, they’re bringing awareness to microplastics in the nude as it’s undeniably the most sustainable and eye-catching method. We spoke with Marina on her activism, research, #WeSeaThrough initiative, and daily tips for a more sustainable future.

How did your passion for sustainable activism start?

My dedication to sustainable activism was somewhat of an inevitable thing - my family's dedication to sustainability gave me a strong background and core values regarding the importance of preserving our planet. Fashion is and has always been a key part of my life and something that I am most definitely passionate about, but there is a big paradigm for someone who is committed to sustainability and fashion, which is destroying our planet. This meant only one thing to me; I had to do everything in my power to change an industry that is so set in its ways, to make it compatible and viable for the dangers that our planet is facing. 

What did you learn from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's Make Fashion Circular initiative?

I have great admiration for the work the EMF is doing with their Make Fashion Circular initiative. I believe this sort of initiative is a realistic way to change the system and make it sustainable. Their extensive research, work, and knowledge on the pollution the fashion industry produces is unparalleled. They were of extreme help to me, and I am very grateful for their support and information provided about the true dangers of microplastics and synthetic fabrics that are polluting our planet. 

Marina Testino.  #WeSeaThrough

Marina Testino. #WeSeaThrough

For those who don't know, explain what microplastics are, and their detriment to our ecosystems. 

Essentially, microplastics are pieces of plastic smaller than 5mm. They can either be primary microplastics, that is human-made microplastics such as the microbeads produced for beauty products or the microfibres that shed from synthetic fibers, or they can be secondary microplastics that derive from the disintegration of larger pieces of plastic. By wearing and washing our synthetic clothes, we are sending thousands of microfibres into the ocean (700k microfibre particles make their way to the sea every time we do one load of laundry). All the plastic that doesn't get recycled ends up breaking down into smaller pieces and becoming microplastics. This has accumulated in our oceans, and we now have more microplastic particles in our oceans than stars in our galaxy. 

Once microplastics find their way into our ecosystems, not only are they charged with toxic chemicals (which they absorbed during production) but also can absorb more chemicals once they're in the ocean (such as DDT pesticides). Due to their small size, fish mistake them as food which unchains a whole other level of consequences for ecosystems and humans. Not only does the consumption of microplastics kill off sea life, reducing their ability to feed and reproduce, but it also means that we are eating microplastics. The toxins they release once into our organisms can cause liver toxicity, and due to their dimensions, microplastics are thought to be able to penetrate into our cells. What does this mean for our health? We still don't know. What we do know is that the average adult consumes between 39,000 and 52,000 microplastic particles a year through the food we eat. 

Tell us about your #WeSeaThrough campaign.

Originally I came up with the idea to have a summer campaign to raise awareness on the microfibres that exist in bikinis and offer sustainable alternatives that do not harm the environment. As I started digging into the subject, I realized that the problem was much bigger than it seemed. Microplastics aren't only found in swimwear, they're found in most clothes (60% of them), in makeup and beauty products. And every single person is contributing to the contamination of our oceans with microplastics without even realizing it. I wanted to learn more and try to do something about it.

I came up with #WeSeaThrough, which consists of a one month campaign throughout August. I will be posting a different nude everyday and sharing facts about microplastics, as well as offering various solutions and actions that can reduce this problem. I chose nudity as a way to address this issue because it's the only way to be 100% sustainable, but also because the biggest caveat of this issue is its invisibility. I felt like using nudity to grab people's attention and make them aware of what's happening would be powerful. I am daring everyone to join me in going nude for microplastics and to share the facts that caught their attention the most. There are several ways we can participate in this campaign, but my main goal is to get people to change their habits and go about their day to day life in a way that doesn't harm the ocean.

Any day to day sustainability tips?

Doing laundry less often and finding alternatives to cleaning clothes. Doing laundry at lower temperatures (30 or less), with a full washing machine. Avoiding the tumble dryer. Using special bags in the washing machine that capture microplastics that shed from clothing.

Minimize single-use plastic consumption. Say no to plastic straws, plastic bags, bottled water and anything that will end up in our oceans and eventually our dinner plates

To learn more about #WeSeaThrough click here.