Real Fur vs Faux Fur: Differences, Which Is Better, & Which Is More Ethical?

Real Fur vs Faux Fur: Differences, Which Is Better, & Which Is More Ethical?

There can be a debate amongst some when comparing real fur vs fake fur.

Some people want to know which is better and more ethical to consume and/or wear.

In this guide, we provide an overview of which one might be better across a few different aspects.

 

Summary – Real Fur vs Faux Fur: Differences, & Which Is Better & More Ethical

The main difference between real fur and faux fur is that real fur is an animal by product, whilst faux fur does not come from the fur of animals, but instead synthetic chemicals.

Real fur vs faux fur is really a trade off, with neither being perfect…

With real fur, you are potentially putting animal welfare at risk where animals are either farmed or trapped (usually) for their fur. But, a real fur product is usually more breathable, lasts longer and is better quality (plus it usually biodegrades quicker, and can usually be recycled).

With faux fur, the animal welfare and cruelty concerns aren’t there upfront. But, faux fur is made from petrochemicals/plastic acrylics which are ultimately not sustainable, and have their own issues with environmental pollution via the production process, and microplastic break down. Cheap faux fur may also not be as breathable, and may not be as durable or as recyclable as real fur. Faux fur does have the benefit as a synthetic material as being better able to be customised and designed for different features, qualities and appearances.

It will be interesting to see if faux fur technology progresses to the point where synthetic fibres can be made from bio based sources or from lab grown sources – which would remove the need for petrochemical based substances.

Rather than purchasing fur or fake fur, consumers might look at plant or wood based fibres like organic cotton or a closed loop produced lyocell or modal as alternatives.

Another option is to buy high quality, buy less in general, and buy second hand or re-use where possible. 

 

Real Fur vs Faux Fur: Differences

  • Real fur is made from real animal fur from animal raised on fur farms, or from animals that have been trapped. Faux fur is made from plastic based polymer petrochemicals, and attached to a material base (such as polyester)
  • Real fur can have animal cruelty and animal welfare issues on farms and with trapping or hunting techniques
  • Faux fur can have environmental problems with production and disposal
  • Real fur might be more natural looking, more breathable, more durable, more expensive, biodegrade better, and recyclable
  • Faux fur might be less breathable, but more customisable, available in a wider range of appearances, and more affordable. Some faux furs will be higher quality, while some are cheaper and lower quality
  • Faux fur can have issues with mislabelling – when shipped overseas from China to the US for example – there have been issues in the past with supply chain transparency where real fur or another material has been labelled as faux fur
  • Faux fur may have a good long term potential in terms of overall quality and ethics if technology can develop to the point that petrochemical based substances don’t need to be used, and more sustainable and renewable fibres can be used

Ultimately, different companies manufacture and offer different fur or faux fur based products with differing levels of quality/features, ethics and eco and animal friendliness associated with their production.

It’s worth researching a company before buying their product to understand how they source and manufacture it, and what the finished product looks and feels like.

 

Read More About Real Fur, & Faux Fur

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/is-faux-fur-more-ethical-eco-friendly-animal-friendly-vegan/

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/is-fur-ethical-and-or-eco-friendly/

Is Faux Fur More Ethical, Eco Friendly, & Animal Friendly/Vegan?

Is Faux Fur More Ethical, Eco Friendly, & Animal Friendly/Vegan?

You might already have your mind made up on real fur.

But, what about faux fur? Is it any more ethical, eco friendly and animal friendly/vegan?

We provide an overview to those those question in this guide.

 

Summary – Is Faux Fur More Ethical, Eco Friendly, & Animal Friendly/Vegan?

Compared to real fur – yes, and no.

Obviously, you don’t have the upfront animal welfare issues that farming and trapping of animals for their fur that you do with real fur.

This also means that the product is vegan if it doesn’t come from an animal by-product (although sometimes faux fur can be mislabelled when being shipped between countries, and it’s real fur in the product instead of faux fur).

But, the trade off is that with faux fur, you are buying a product that is made from non renewable petrochemicals/fossil fuels/plastics. And, the production of that synthetic material has it’s own environmental problems and indirect wildlife impact.

Faux fur also doesn’t tend to biodegrade as well, can release micro plastics, and may not last as long as real fur.

The real answer may be that neither real further, nor faux fur are perfect or completely ethical (but it also depends on who is making the faux fur – some companies are far more animal friendly, eco friendly and sustainable with their production and manufacture than others).

A better alternative for clothing and fabric may be a natural plant or wood based fibre like organic cotton or a closed loop produced lyocell or modal for example.

 

What Is Faux Fur?

Faux fur is a material that doesn’t come from animal by product.

 

  • Fake fur (or “faux fur”) [is] any synthetic material that attempts to mimic the appearance and feel of real fur.

– wikipedia.org

 

What Is Faux Fur Made Of?

Faux fur is generally made of synthetic fibres made from chemicals and with a petrochemical base (petro chemicals are derived from petroleum – a fossil fuel).

They are made of acrylic polymers – which are essentially plastics.

 

  • Fake fur is made from various materials including blends of acrylic and modacrylic polymers derived from coal, air, water, petroleum and limestone. These synthetic materials can take a long time to break down, possibly anywhere from 500 to 1,000 years.

– wikipedia.org

 

  • Faux materials can be made of acrylic, a synthetic material made from a non-renewable resource that can take hundreds of years to biodegrade in a landfill (animal fur, by contrast, biodegrades in just a few years)

– fashionista.com

 

  • Faux fur is typically made from polymeric fibers that are processed, dyed, and cut to match a specific fur texture and color

– madehow.com

 

Environmental Impact Of Faux Fur – Is It Eco Friendly?

We already mentioned above that synthetic fibres take longer to biodegrade in nature than natural animal based fibres.

 

  • [there’s also the] environmental impact of microfibers, the tiny plastic particles that synthetic fabrics shed in the wash. Whatever isn’t filtered out by wastewater treatment plants can end up in waterways and in the food supply, ingested by aquatic animals
  • [plastic based faux furs also release microfibers when washed in the washing machine]

– fashionista.com

 

Another environmental issue with faux fur is the production process. Not only is faux fur made with synthetic chemicals, but it can also be treated, dyed and finished with synthetic chemicals.

These production chemicals can be left untreated, contaminate water, waste water, and be dumped fully or partially untreated into the environment – causing pollution and issues for wildlife.

Workers exposed to synthetic chemicals may also have a chance of being exposed to health risks.

 

Sustainability Of Faux Fur, & Some Of It’s Other Drawbacks

Natural fur tends to last longer (and therefore provide some better sustainability) than faux fur – you need to consider the quality of the fur or faux fur, and how long it lasts.

 

  • the fabric [faux fur] doesn’t “breathe” in the same way natural materials do … leading to unpleasant smells that are impossible to eradicate, shortening the product’s lifespan.
  • In contrast, natural fibre materials … such as calfskin, goatskin, sheepskin, antelope, lambskin and rabbit fur are by-products of the meat and dairy industries — all the animals are eaten for their meat, and some produce milk for human consumption … the skins from these animals are naturally beautiful, soft to the touch, warm, bio-degradable and durable, lasting — with care — for up to thirty years …

– fashionista.com

 

Labelling Issues With Faux Fur

There have been instances of mislabelling with faux fur.

Specifically, there have been cases where real fur has been found on products labelled as faux fur, or even another fibre – when those products have been shipped between countries (an example is the fur coming out of China to the United States)

So, even if you buy faux fur – there is a slight chance due to mislabelling or supply chains which aren’t transparent, you could be buying something different.

 

Ideas For Making Faux Fur More Ethical Or Eco Friendly

  • [To make faux fur more eco friendly and ethical if it’s sold within the United States] – it can be cruelty free, made of recycled polyester, made in New York City to reduce its carbon footprint, with sourcing of fabrics from Europe, where regulations around pollution are stricter than in China. They can also be made to last decades or an entire lifespan [to increase sustainability]

– fashionista.com

 

Some Advantages Of Faux Fur Over Real Fur

  • There are less upfront animal welfare and animal rights issues – obviously
  • There are less indirect environmental issues – because there aren’t fur farms
  • Faux fur is offering more customisation options for manufacturers because it’s a synthetic fibre that can be re-designed and modified
  • It can be made to be cheaper than real fur
  • It can be made to have different qualities and features than real fur

 

New Technology & Developments For A Fur Look, Without Fur Or Faux Fur

It’s likely there can be further innovations with technology to get a fur look, without using faux fur or real fur – like for example, bio based or lab grown fibres.

Although, this technology can be complex and is still in development

 

Dropping Fur & Faux Fur Is Good, But…Look At What Companies & Consumers Are Replacing It With

It’s a problem if companies drop fur and faux fur, or consumers stop purchasing it, but then switch to producing or consuming more leather for example.

Using the example of leather, this is also an animal based product, and synthetic tanneries are some of the most polluting industries in the world.

 

Sources

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fake_fur

2. https://fashionista.com/2018/04/real-faux-fur-sutainability-ethics-debate  

3. http://www.madehow.com/Volume-3/Fake-Fur.html#ixzz5VPalMKtb 

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/is-fur-ethical-and-or-eco-friendly/

Is Fur Ethical, And/Or Eco Friendly?

Is Fur Ethical, And/Or Eco Friendly?

You probably already have an opinion on whether wearing fur is right or wrong.

What we’ve done in this guide is further explored whether fur is ethical, and if it’s eco friendly or not.

 

Summary – Is Fur Ethical, &/Or Eco Friendly?

If you don’t believe in animal product or by products – fur is not for you. Fur involves either trapping of wild animals for their fur (or sometimes bludgeoning to death), or fur farms where animals are raised for their fur.

China is one of the main countries where anti fur supporters have highlighted practices that are concerning when it comes to animal welfare. Mislabelling of fur products from China can also be an issue.

In terms of being eco friendly, it’s probably not as environmentally harmful as leather (because of leather tanning).

Overall, fur is not a necessity material, and there are alternatives out there.

 

Firstly, Where Does Fur Mainly Come From?

  • The majority of fur is obtained from animals raised on fur farms because it is easier to ensure that these animals, through strict diets and breeding, will have a high-quality pelt.
  • Mink and fox are the two most common animals that are bred for their fur.
  • While fur farms used to be prevalent in the U.S., now China holds an increasingly large part of the market.

– animallaw.info

 

  • Around 15% of fur is sourced [from trapping] – mainly from beaver, coyote, muskrat and raccoon from Canada, the USA and Russia.
  • … attempts at ‘ethical’ fur include fur garments made from roadkill, and from exotic pest control programs such as possum culling in New Zealand. 

– goodonyou.eco

 

  • Common animal sources for fur clothing and fur trimmed accessories include fox, rabbit, mink, raccoon, dogs, muskrat, beaver, stoat (ermine), otter, sable, seals, cats, dogs, coyotes, wolves, chinchilla, and opossum and common brushtail possum.

– wikipedia.com

 

What Are The Current Laws & Regulations Regarding Fur?

Laws and regulations can change, especially with heavy activism. But, a general idea of the current laws and regulation worldwide when it comes to fur are:

  • There are very few U.S. federal statutes concerning fur animals (although … the U.S. has a Fur Products Labeling Act, which mandates that garments containing fur be properly labeled, and it has a Dog and Cat Fur Protection Act, which prohibits dog and cat fur trade in the U.S)
  • China has virtually no regulations to protect fur animals – China is where a lot of animal rights and welfare groups have placed their attention – specifically the killing of and cruelty towards farmed animals
  • A few countries have strictly regulated or completely banned fur farms, (Austria, the United Kingdom, and Croatia have bans, the Netherlands has a ban on fox and chinchilla farming, and New Zealand, Sweden, and Switzerland have strict regulations),
  • Over 60 countries have banned certain types of animal traps, and some countries have fur labeling laws.
  • Israel has a bill pending which would outlaw the importation, exportation, and sale of fur within its country lines.

– animallaw.info

 

What Are Some Of The Current Animal Welfare Issues With Fur

  • Fur is obtained from different animals such as a fox, rabbit, mink, raccoon dogs, muskrat, beaver, stoat (ermine), otter, sable, seals, cats, dogs, coyotes, wolves, chinchilla, and opossum and common brushtail possum + other animals
  • Animals are either trapped in the wild, or bred in fur farms
  • There is pain and suffering involved in trapping for the animals
  • Animals on farms are confined to dirty, small cages
  • Killing methods can include suffocation, electrocution, gassing and poisoning, or getting bludgeoned, hanged, and bled to death + other methods of inflicting death and suffering. This is only to name a few
  • Animals can be skinned alive for their fur
  • There’s controversy over how animals are trapped, and how cruelty free it actually is (despite other claims by those who support the fur industry)
  • Some of the most graphic investigations and exposés have come from brutalities found on fur farms

– peta.org.au, wikipedia.org

 

  • Animal rights advocates object to the trapping and killing of wildlife, and to the confinement and killing of animals on fur farms due to concerns about the animals suffering and death.

– wikipedia.org

 

Environmental Impact Of The Fur Industry

  • Fur requires complex processing and chemical treatments to manufacture. 
  • Animal skin will decompose and rot unless it is treated with toxic chemicals, such as chromium and formaldehyde. These pose a risk to waterways as well as the workers who handle them.
  • The land, feed and water consumption of the animals also produce carbon emissions. In fact, the climate change impact of 1kg of mink fur is five times higher than that of wool, the best-scoring textile in a life cycle assessment conducted by the independent research organisation, CE Delft.  

– goodonyou.eco

 

  • To prevent fur clothing from decomposing, the fur item is treated with chemicals – which is bad for the environment when it is discharged in waste water, and certain chemicals can also be exposed to humans (harming health)
  • Fur clothing also requires energy and resources to make (almost 15 times more energy than faux fur)

– peta.org.au, wikipedia.org

 

  • Anti-fur advocates agree that synthetics [faux fur] are a less-than-ideal substitute, but they point to environmental hazards in the fur manufacturing process — the CO2 emissions associated with keeping and feeding tens of thousands of mink on a single farm, manure runoff into nearby lakes and rivers, the formaldehyde, nonylphenol ethoxylates and other toxic chemicals used in fur dressing and dyeing — as evidence that the alternative is even worse. Plus, they say, the traps used to hunt wild animals have a history of ensnaring “non target” animals like domestic dogs, cats, birds and small mammals

– fashionista.com

 

Processing Of Fur – Also A Health Risk For Humans

  • Depending on the type of fur and its purpose, some of the chemicals involved in fur processing may include table salts, alum salts, acids, soda ash, sawdust, cornstarch, lanolin, degreasers and, less commonly, bleaches, dyes and toners (for dyed fur). 
  • The chemical treatment of fur to increase its felting quality is known as carroting, as the process tends to turn the tips of the fur a carrot orange color.
  • Workers exposed to fur dust created during fur processing have been shown to have reduced pulmonary function in direct proportion to their length of exposure.
  • Fake fur (or “faux fur”) designates any synthetic material that attempts to mimic the appearance and feel of real fur.

– wikipedia.org

 

Mislabelling Of Fur and Faux Fur Is A Problem

  • Pelts [can be] deliberately mislabeled in China and sold overseas to the US as something else i.e. real fur shipped to the US and labelled as faux fur or something else
  • Real domestic animal furs have even been found in products that were sold as fake fur in the UK.

– goodonyou.eco

 

Attempts At Increased Animal Welfare In Fur Industry

  • In an attempt to reassure consumers about its treatment of animals, the fur industry launched the voluntary Fur Europe scheme in 2016. It aims to regulate fur farms across Europe and improve animal living conditions through what it terms ‘Welfur’ assessments. The scheme looks at cage size, location, food and overall treatment of the animals.

– goodonyou.eco

 

Comparing The Leather & Fur Industries

  • PETA argues that leather production is just as violent, painful, and deadly as the fur trade.
  • The environmental impact of leather is arguably worse too. … [some have pointed out] the toxic leather tanning industry in Bangladesh that puts workers and children in danger.  The sheer scale of the leather industry compared with fur is a environmental and health disaster for the communities that produce the material.
  • … [some say] an ethical consumer motivated by the interests of animals would not consider purchasing any new product made from fur [regardless of how it compared to leather].
  • Some argue fur is more sustainable because it can last a long time

– goodonyou.eco

 

Real Fur Demand Still Much Higher Than Faux Fur

  • In 2018, the global industry [of real fur] is still valued at more than $40 billion (a number that dwarfs the market for faux fur)

– fashionista.com

 

Some Arguments In Favor Of Fur As Being Ethical, Or Being Acceptable In Some Instances

You can read more at https://www.truthaboutfur.com/blog/why-fur-is-the-ethical-clothing-choice/ 

 

There’s also this from Fashionista:

  • [the] trapping [of] wild animals like fox, beavers and coyotes, which constitutes about 15 percent of the trade, helps manage wildlife populations and provides a continued livelihood for many indigenous communities … The fur trade provides a crucial, finely-tuned symbiotic relationship that helps to achieve the objectives of wildlife management and conservation and society as a whole

– fashionista.com

 

One of the arguments people make about real fur is that it biodegrades quicker than faux fur, and lasts far longer – making it more eco friendly and sustainable in those aspects. You can also recycle real fur, whereas that is not as likely with faux fur.

 

Sources

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fur_clothing 

2. https://www.animallaw.info/intro/fur-production-and-fur-laws 

3. https://www.truthaboutfur.com/blog/why-fur-is-the-ethical-clothing-choice/ 

4. https://goodonyou.eco/how-ethical-is-fur/  

5. https://www.peta.org.au/issues/clothing/farmed-trapped-animals-fur-suffer/ 

6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruelty_to_animals  

7. https://fashionista.com/2018/04/real-faux-fur-sutainability-ethics-debate 

Real Leather vs Faux Leather: Differences, Which Is Better, & Which Is More Ethical?

Real Leather vs Faux Leather: Differences, Which Is Better, & Which Is More Ethical?

It’s important to know the differences between real leather and faux leather.

We’ve put together a Real Leather vs Faux Leather Comparison Guide where we outline those differences, and outline which might be better for the buyer (based on features and qualities), as well as more ethical.

 

Summary – Real Leather vs Faux Leather: Differences, Which Is Better, & Which Is More Ethical?

If you are against animals being used for products altogether – fake leather would be a better option for you.

However, you should also know that fake leather is a chemical based product, and has negative environmental effects attached to it’s production, as well as concerns for how it breaks down when it is decomposed (although there are some sustainable farms, and natural tanning refineries)

So, neither are completely ethical. They both have their upsides and downsides.

Some may choose to stay away from leather altogether.

It’s interesting to note that even some sustainability and eco friendly advocates choose real leather because the hides/skins are a by product that would go to waste if not used, and they are against the environmental impact of producing and disposing of faux leather.

In terms of qualities and features – real leather is usually more expensive, requires more maintenance and can crack if not cared for properly. It also can’t be modified or customised in production like artificial leather. But it does tend to have a high quality appearance and be quite strong.

Faux leather can be more affordable, and can be produced to have a wider range of features and appearances. PVC faux leather usually doesn’t breathe very well so isn’t good for contact with skin which can sweat, and polyurethane plastic can be made to be a bit more breathable, lighter, flexible, and softer. Cheap faux leather can break down very quickly and not be very durable compared to real leather.

New developments and technology with faux leather towards bio based and eco friendly/sustainable based faux leathers could be a good thing in the future.

 

Real Leather

  • Made from animal (mainly bovine/cows) hides and skin as a by product of livestock raised for their meat and milk (so the animals aren’t raised specifically for leather)
  • Animal agriculture has it’s own set of animal welfare and environmental issues like deforestation, fertilizer and pesticide use, animal greenhouse gas emissions etc.
  • Uses leather tanneries – which can be responsible for a lot of chemical pollution (one of the most polluting industries in the world)
  • Can be very high quality and last a long time as a product (good for sustainability)
  • Can be recycled
  • Animal skin and hides biodegrade in nature much quicker than synthetic leather
  • Can be expensive for high quality leather
  • Not able to be designed from scratch or modified for different appearances and features like faux leather can be
  • Can be produced by sustainable farms/ranches and natural chemical tanneries – but these are more rare
  • Can be produced from animals that have to be culled as part of conservation, pest control, and species control – which could be considered an ethical approach

 

Faux Leather

  • Does not come from an animal by product, but instead made from chemicals (like petrochemicals)
  • Main types are PVC faux leather, and the most common – polyurethane/plastic faux leather. Both are adhered to a fabric backing, such as polyester. Synthetic based chemicals and materials are obviously not as sustainable or renewable
  • Other types can include cork, barkcloth, glazed cotton, waxed cotton, and paper – but these are uncommon
  • Has it’s own environmental concerns – such as the use of solvents, coatings, phthalates and so on – which can leach into or be dumped into the environment
  • Is far more customisable and modifiable than real leather with it’s appearance, design, features and qualities. So, the range of faux leathers available is very wide because of this, and can be used for a wide range of products and uses
  • Usually a more inexpensive leather option to real leather
  • Can be lighter than real leather
  • The PVC version does not breathe (it’s not porous) and can be very hard to clean – it’s not often used for surfaces that come in contact with the skin.  
  • The polyurethane version is usually machine washable and can be dry cleaned. It’s also slightly breathable, softer, and more flexible. Can have a shiny appearance
  • Doesn’t decompose/biodegrade as quickly as real leather in the environment, and plastic based leather can break down into micro plastics
  • New technology and developments are exploring new types of faux leather like bio based materials

 

Read More About Real & Faux Leather

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/what-is-vegan-leather-is-it-ethical-sustainable-eco-friendly/

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/is-faux-leather-pleather-eco-friendly-sustainable-animal-friendly/

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/is-leather-eco-friendly-sustainable-animal-friendly/

What Is Vegan Leather, & Is It Ethical, Sustainable & Eco Friendly?

What Is Vegan Leather, & Is It Ethical, Sustainable & Eco Friendly?

There can be some confusion when it comes to vegan leather, what is it, and whether it’s actually a better option than other types of leather.

In this guide, we provide an overview of what vegan leather is, and whether it’s ethical, sustainable and eco friendly.

 

Summary – Is Vegan Leather Ethical, Sustainable & Eco Friendly?

Real leather uses the hide and skins of bovine livestock that are usually raised for meat and milk anyway – so it can be a secondary by-product (animals aren’t usually used just to make leather, but in some cases they are).

The big problems with real leather are the indirect problems caused by animal agriculture, and the leather tanning process.

On the other hand, real leather can last a long time (so you get a more sustainable use out of the product), it can biodegrade and it can generally be re-used or recycled.

There are ranches and farms that could be classified as sustainable farms, and natural leather tanning refineries – but, these are more rare.

Vegan leather/faux leather does not use animals to manufacture the leather.

However, the trade off you make is that the polyurethane or PVC used to make the vegan leather has it’s own environmental pollution problems (with plasticizers etc), faux leather takes far longer to break down and biodegrade, it can release micro- plastics when it breaks down, and making faux leather from petro chemicals is not sustainable or renewable.

If bio based or other types of more eco friendly or renewable faux leathers become available in the future – this would start tipping the ethical rating in faux leather’s favor a lot more.

 

With any leather product, or product in general, you might ask yourself overall how it’s made, how long you can use it before you need to replace it, and then, what will happen when you need to dispose of it.

 

What Is Vegan Leather, & What Is It Made Of?

Vegan leather is leather that does not come from animal product i.e. it is not leather from animal skin and hides.

Vegan leather is faux/synthetic leather.

The two most common types of faux leather are PVC faux leather, and the most popular/widely used – polyurethane faux leather (plastic leather).

Faux leather can also be made from other materials such as cork, barkcloth, glazed cotton, waxed cotton, and paper.

Faux leather is usually adhered to a fabric backing, such as polyester.

 

Is Vegan Leather Ethical, Sustainable & Eco Friendly?

Vegan leather is faux leather – and we’ve already written a guide on how animal friendly, sustainable and eco friendly it is.

 

Vegan Leather vs Real Leather – Which Is More Ethical?

Some additional pros and cons, and things to consider in each type of leather product are:

 

Vegan Leather

Some of the environmental problems with vegan leather are:

  • Polyurethane Vegan Leather – the main concern with polyurethane-based synthetic leather is that solvents are used. The production process involves painting polyurethane in liquid form onto a fabric backing. Making polyurethane into a liquid requires a solvent, and those can be highly toxic … newer waterborne coatings are better environmentally … [but] the type of polyurethane used in a piece of clothing is only one part of the environmental equation. Its impact will also depend on the quality of the supply, the way it’s put onto fabric, and the sorts of chemistry used in every step of the manufacturing process. With so many steps, there is plenty of opportunity for bad things to happen.
  • PVC Vegan Leather – production challenges and because they release dioxins, potentially hazardous chemicals, if burnt. Increasing the worries are substances known as phthalates … which is a plasticizer that can leach out … and depending on the type of phthalate used, can be toxic
  • Faux leather technology is advancing to help make it more customisable and sustainable

Real Leather

  • Most real leather (animal skin and hides) comes from cattle and livestock that are raised for their meat and milk – so the animals aren’t raised specifically for leather production. Some argue real leather is a beneficial by-product of livestock and more sustainable in this regard
  • Raising animal livestock has indirect environmental issues to consider like deforestation, fertilizer use, pesticide use, greenhouse gas emissions from animals and other types of pollution
  • The chemicals used in real leather tanning production includes formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and some finishes that are cyanide base. These chemicals are some of the most environmentally damaging amongst all industries
  • Real leather may have an edge in sustainability because it can last longer than faux leather, and usually be recycled (whereas it’s hard to recycle faux leather – it might be able to be repurposed – but that is limiting). 
  • An animal hide or skin [might] break down easier and quicker than a synthetic petrochemical based faux leather

– vocativ.com

 

Sources

1. https://www.vocativ.com/news/281599/vegan-leather-isnt-as-ethical-as-you-think/index.html 

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/is-leather-eco-friendly-sustainable-animal-friendly/

Is Faux Leather/Pleather Eco Friendly, Sustainable & Animal Friendly?

Is Faux Leather/Pleather Eco Friendly, Sustainable & Animal Friendly?

As most people are aware, there are alternatives to real leather.

In this guide, we provide an overview of whether faux leather/pleather is eco friendly, sustainable and animal friendly.

If you want to read our previous guide on real leather, you can do so here.

 

Summary – Is Faux Leather/Pleather Eco Friendly, Sustainable & Animal Friendly?

The main trade off with faux leather/pleather is that animals are not used or farmed to make this material.

However, faux leather is made out of chemicals like petrochemicals, which makes it not very eco friendly or sustainable.

It also takes a very long time to biodegrade and can break down and produce micro-plastics (microscopic pieces of plastic).

With faux leather, it must be considered that it is a product/material with different features and qualities than real leather.

 

What Is Artificial Leather, & What Is It Used For?

  • Artificial leather is a material intended to substitute for leather in upholstery, clothing, footwear, and other uses where a leather-like finish is desired but the actual material is cost-prohibitive or unsuitable.
  • Artificial leather is marketed under many names, including “leatherette”, “faux leather”, “vegan leather”, “PU leather” and “pleather”.

– wikipedia.org

 

What Is Faux Leather & Pleather Made Of?

  • [fake leather is] made from oil in the form of plastic – either PVC or polyurethane. Pleather is simply a slang term for “plastic leather”, made by bonding the plastic to a fabric backing. 

– oecotextiles.wordpress.com

 

Types Of Faux Leather

  • Plastic/Polyurethane Faux Leather –  made from a plastic coating (usually a polyurethane) on a fibrous base layer (typically a polyester). The type of polyurethane used in a piece of clothing is only one part of the environmental equation. Its impact will also depend on the quality of the supply, the way it’s put onto fabric, and the sorts of chemistry used in every step of the manufacturing process. With so many steps, there is plenty of opportunity for bad things to happen
  • PVC Faux Leather – is also made by covering a fabric base with a plastic. The fabric can be made of natural or synthetic fiber which is then covered with a soft polyvinyl chloride (PVC) layer. This is less popular now due to concerns over the last few years about … production challenges and because they release dioxins, potentially hazardous chemicals, if burnt. Increasing the worries are substances known as phthalates … which is a plasticizer that can leach out … and depending on the type of phthalate used, can be toxic

Other less common Faux Leather types can include:

  • Cork leather is a natural-fiber alternative made from the bark of cork oak trees that has been compressed
  • Faux leather can also be made of barkcloth, glazed cotton, waxed cotton, and paper

– wikipedia.org, and vocativ.com

 

  • Polyurethane is currently more popular for use [in faux leathers] than PVC.

– wikipedia.org

 

Carbon Footprint Of Faux Leather, & Energy Use

  • The polyurethane version [of faux leather has] plenty of CO2 is emitted during the production.
  • According to the Association of Plastics Manufacturers in Europe, producing a pound of polyurethane emits 3.7 lbs. of CO2 – slightly less than burning a gallon of gas.

– oecotextiles.wordpress.com

 

Water Use Of Faux Leather

  • According to a report by globalfashionagenda.com, faux leather doesn’t have as much of an impact on water scarcity as real leather

– globalfashionagenda.com

 

Environmental Pollution By Faux Leather, & Impact On Humans & Animals/Wildlife

  • The PVC version of pleather is made from polyvinyl chloride, which is loathed by Greenpeace, calling it the “most damaging plastic on the planet,” because its production releases dioxins and persistent organic pollutants. The polyurethane version doesn’t have quite the same toxicity problems as PVC

– oecotextiles.wordpress.com

 

  • The production of the PVC used in the production of many artificial leathers requires a plasticizer called a phthalate to make it flexible and soft.
  • PVC requires petroleum and large amounts of energy thus making it reliant on fossil fuels.
  • During the production process carcinogenic byproducts, dioxins, are produced which are toxic to humans and animals. 
  • Dioxins remain in the environment long after PVC is manufactured.
  • When PVC ends up in a landfill it does not decompose like genuine leather and can release dangerous chemicals into the water and soil.

– wikipedia.org

 

Faux Leather Pros & Cons, Features, & Differences To Real Leather

Differences between real leather and faux leather depend on the manufacturer and where it’s made of course.

But, there can be some common differences.

 

Faux leather can be:

  • Inexpensive compared to real leather
  • Lighter than real leather
  • Can be more durable that real leather
  • Doesn’t decompose as quickly as real leather in the environment
  • The PVC version does not breathe and can be very hard to clean – it’s not often used for surfaces that come in contact with the skin.  
  • The polyurethane version is usually machine washable and can be dry cleaned. It’s also slightly breathable, softer, and more flexible.

– oecotextiles.wordpress.com

 

[Pleather is] lighter than real leather … It doesn’t wrinkle. It travels really well. It’s waterproof, so if you wear it in the rain it completely repels water. 

… unlike actual leather, the technology can be gamed to suit design strategies. “It’s very hard to alter the surface of a cow

– thecut.com

 

  • One disadvantage of plastic-coated artificial leather is that it is not porous and does not allow air to pass through; thus, sweat can accumulate if it is used for clothing, car seat coverings, etc.
  • One of its primary advantages, especially in cars, is that it requires little maintenance in comparison to leather, and does not crack or fade easily.

– wikipedia.org

 

  • Leather … is another hurdle entirely [compared to faux leather]. Apart from animal welfare issues, leather tanneries use toxic chemicals that pose severe health risks to workers and surrounding communities, usually in regions like Bangladesh, India, and China where government protections are scarce, and end up in local waterways.
  • Leather also tends to be less controversial because cow hides and sheepskins are co-products of the food industry [and livestock generally aren’t just raised for the sole purpose of leather].

– fashionista.com

 

New Technology & Developments With Faux Leather

New technology and developments are always being research and explored with real leather and conventional faux leather alternatives:

 

  • [there is a] leather alternative [in development] which is entirely non-plastic, and bio-based: it’s made from flax or cotton fibers, which are laminated together in layers using palm, corn, soybean or other plant oils to create a leather-like material. And unlike pleather – it’s breathable. 

– oecotextiles.wordpress.com

 

  • We’re seeing a third lane emerge [apart from real leather and plastic/PVC faux leather]: biofabricated leathers, which are grown in a lab using animal-free collagen … that looks and feels like animal skins, without compromising the environment or animal welfare. [but, in reality, bioleather and also bio fur is scientifically challenging]
  • What we do know for sure is that cheap, disposable clothing (and our habit of buying and throwing out so much of it) is wreaking havoc on the environment, so choosing high-quality pieces that will hold up over time, shopping vintage where possible and making conscientious choices about your wardrobe is always a step in the right direction.

– fashionista.com

 

  • A fermentation method of making collagen, the main chemical in real leather, is under development.

– wikipedia.org

 

Cradle To Grave Environmental Impact Of Faux Leather

You can find a cradle to the grave environmental impact of faux leather and other materials at:

  • https://www.ethicalgallery.com.au/blogs/ethicaltimes/the-environmental-impact-of-animal-leather-vs-faux-leather
  • http://globalfashionagenda.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Pulse-of-the-Fashion-Industry_2017.pdf 

 

Some Forms Of Ethical Real Leather Are Becoming Available

  • [some sustainable fashion advocates choose] animal by-product furs over synthetics because of the environmental impact of the latter, [but] the trade-off is that they aren’t cruelty-free. [one brand uses] Kudu skins produced from government-regulated culling, locally-sourced rabbit and springbok in Kenya and South Africa, and vegetable dyes.

– fashionista.com

 

Sources

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_leather 

2. https://fashionista.com/2018/04/real-faux-fur-sutainability-ethics-debate 

3. https://oecotextiles.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/whats-pleather/  

4. https://www.ethicalgallery.com.au/blogs/ethicaltimes/the-environmental-impact-of-animal-leather-vs-faux-leather 

5. http://globalfashionagenda.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Pulse-of-the-Fashion-Industry_2017.pdf 

6. https://www.thecut.com/2013/06/pleathers-back-but-dont-call-it-vegan-leather.html 

7. https://www.vocativ.com/news/281599/vegan-leather-isnt-as-ethical-as-you-think/index.html

Is Leather Eco Friendly, Sustainable &/Or Animal Friendly?

Is Leather Eco Friendly, Sustainable &/Or Animal Friendly?

Whether you own leather clothing, or you are looking to buy…

You should know where that leather might come from and how it is made + what impact these stages each have.

In this guide, we give an overview of how eco friendly, sustainable and animal friendly leather is.

 

Summary – Is Leather Eco Friendly, Sustainable & Animal Friendly?

In short, for traditional leather (and more so in developing countries than developed countries) – no, no, and no.

Leather is known as being one of the most polluting and damaging products and industries (the leather tanning process especially) in the world (although the production process causes far more negative impact in poorer countries than in developing countries where treatment of waste and environmental protection laws can be far better and safer).

Also, leather comes from animal hides and skin – which presents animal rights and cruelty issues.

The whole lifecycle of leather production must be considered – from the farm/agriculture (animal agriculture itself present a whole range of greenhouse gas and resource usage issues), to production and tanning, to finishing (you can’t just look at leather production and tanning).

 

Animal Cruelty Issues Related To Leather Production

  • Can be made from cows, pigs, goats, kangaroos and sheep; exotic animals such as alligators and ostriches; and even dogs and cats
  • Today, most leather is made of cattle hides, which constitute about 65% of all leather produced. Other animals that are used include sheep, about 13%, goats, about 11%, and pigs, about 10%.
  • Most leather comes from developing countries such as India and China, where laws don’t protect animals killed for their skins.
  • Buying leather directly contributes to factory farms and abattoirs because skin is the most economically important by-product of the meat industry.
  • Animals are know to suffer both in farms, and on their way being transported to abbatoirs
  • The labelling of leather can make it hard to know where it came from, and how it was made

– peta.org.au, and wikipedia.org

 

Environmental Impact & Problems Related To Leather Production

Leather related environmental problems are mainly caused by:

  • The carbon footprint of cattle rearing
  • Use of chemicals in the tanning process (e.g., chromium, formic acid, mercury and solvents)
  • Air pollution due to the leather transformation process (hydrogen sulfide during dehairing and ammonia during deliming, solvent vapors)

– wikipedia.org

 

  • With leather, pollution is caused by the toxic chemicals that are used in tanning to artificially preserve the animal skins
  • There is also environmental degradation with factory farming and animal farming of different types

– peta.org.au, and wikipedia.org

 

Carbon Footprint Of Leather, & Energy Use

  • Among the different industries [in the economy], tanning of hides and skins is not an energy and carbon intensive sector [overall, all industries and manufacturing as a whole only contribute for 19% of total GHG emissions].
  • … [but] more than 99% of the world leather production is coming from the processing of raw hides and skins deriving from animals which have been raised mainly for milk and/or meat production [mainly bovine].

– leatherpanel.org

 

  • In the US, 9% of Greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture in total

–  epa.gov

 

Not only is there CO2 emissions from raising livestock, but cattle are responsible for a large amount of methane emissions too, and methane is 23 times more potent than C02.

 

Water Footprint Of Leather 

  • One ton of hide or skin generally produces 20 to 80 m3 of waste water. With solid wastes representing up to 70% of the wet weight of the original hides, the tanning process represents a considerable strain on water treatment installations.

– wikipedia.org

 

This does not take into consideration the amount of water used to raise livestock.

 

Chemicals & Pollution Involved In Leather Production

Chemicals used during the leather production process, specifically tanning, are a huge hazard, and can be dumped into the environment (causing contamination, and harming wildlife) untreated.

 

  • Tanning is the process of production of leather from raw animal hides and skins.
  • It involves the use of a variety of chemicals to remove flesh, oil glands, and hair from the raw hides.
  • A significant volume of waste is generated in the process.
  • Irresponsible industrial practices often lead to the contamination of the environment with harmful chemicals like chromium, alum, tannins, etc., that are used in tanning.
  • All these chemicals are highly detrimental to human health and some are even cancerous in nature.
  • More than 100 such toxic tanning sites have been identified by Pure Earth. These sites endanger the lives of 1.5 million people living in or around such sites.

– worldatlas.com

 

  • Tanning is especially polluting in countries where environmental regulations are lax, such as in India, the world’s third-largest producer and exporter of leather. 
  • Chromium is a problem chemical in leather production waste
  • In less developed countries or countries with poor environmental laws, it usually costs more to treat production waste than to dump it and receive a penalty fee for irresponsible behavior
  • To give an example of an efficient pollution prevention system, chromium loads per produced tonne are generally abated from 8 kg to 1.5 kg. VOC emissions are typically reduced from 30 kg/t to 2 kg/t in a properly managed facility.

– wikipedia.org

 

  • In leather production wastewater, there can be chromium levels of 100–400 mg/l, sulfide levels of 200–800 mg/l, high levels of fat and other solid wastes, and notable pathogen contamination. Producers often add pesticides to protect hides during transport.

– wikipedia.org

 

  • If a tannery is properly managed, the waste will be handled in a way that avoids pollution. 
  • Most first-world countries have strict environmental regulations to ensure that these chemicals are handled properly, rather than being discharged. Unfortunately, some developing nations do not.

– sciencing.com

 

Human Health & Worker Issues Related To Leather Production

  • Leather tanneries use toxic chemicals that pose severe health risks to workers and surrounding communities, usually in regions like Bangladesh, India, and China where government protections are scarce, and end up in local waterways. 

– fashionista.com

 

Biodegradability Of Leather

  • Leather biodegrades slowly—taking 25 to 40 years to decompose

– wikipedia.org

 

Leather Tanneries, & Toxic Pollution As A Whole

  • [in assessing] the most dangerous sources of toxic pollution in the developing world … Leather tanneries came in at number four on the list, behind battery recycling, lead smelting and mining and ore processing. According to the Blacksmith Institute, some 100 sites around the world have been, or are being, polluted by tanneries, potentially endangering more than 1.8 million people.

– sciencing.com

 

Steps In The Leather Production Process

Read more about the leather production process at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leather_production_processes 

 

Sources

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leather 

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruelty_to_animals 

3. https://www.peta.org.au/issues/clothing/leather-industry/ 

4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leather_production_processes  

5. https://leatherpanel.org/sites/default/files/publications-attachments/lca_carbonfootprint_lpm2012.pdf  

6. https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions  

7. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-top-10-polluting-industries-in-the-world.html 

8. https://fashionista.com/2018/04/real-faux-fur-sutainability-ethics-debate  

9. https://sciencing.com/leather-industry-pollution-23249.html  

10. https://oecotextiles.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/whats-pleather/ 

The Most Common Fibres & Fabrics Used For Clothing & Textiles (Stats On Production, Consumption etc.)

The Most Common Fibres & Fabrics Used For Clothing & Textiles (Stats On Production, Consumption etc.)

When getting a good idea of how any industry operates – it’s a good idea to start from the top and work down.

For fibres, fabrics and the clothing/fashion industries, knowing the most commonly used materials means you can get an idea of where to start looking for problems and solutions in these industries.

Below are some figures and stats on the most commonly used, produced and consumed fibres and fabrics.

 

Stats On Fibre Production & Consumption, & Most Common Fibres/Fabrics (By Type)

In 2015, the global mill consumption of fibres was:

  • Polyester – 55%
  • Cotton – 27%
  • Cellulosic Fibres – 7%
  • Polypropylene – 4%
  • Nylon – 5%
  • Acrylics – 2%
  • Wool – 1%

– waterfootprint.org

 

In 2017, the distribution of fiber consumption worldwide, by type of fibre, was:

  • 64.2% synthetic fibres
  • 24.1% cotton
  • 6.2% wool based fibres
  • 4.4% other natural fibres
  • 1.1% wool fibres

– statista.com

 

In 2010, the global textile industry’s use (referred to as ‘consumption’) of synthetic non cellulosic fibres, cellulosic fibres (including viscose) and natural fibres was:

  • 69,728,000 (69.7 million) total tonnes
  • Most of that was synthetic non cellulosic fibres, followed by cotton 
  • Cellulosic, wool and flax make up a very small % too (after synthetic and cotton fibres)

– waterfootprint.org

 

In 2013, the world apparel fibre consumption was:

  • About one third natural fibres (mainly cotton), and two thirds synthetics (polyester, nylon, acrylic)

– textilebeat.com

 

In 2018:

  • The world fiber market arrived at 103 million tonnes
  • Natural fibers grew almost 3% which was the fastest pace in eight years.

– thefiberyear.com

 

In 2017, global chemical fiber production by fiber type was:

  • 64.9 million metric tons of synthetic fibres produced
  • 6.7 million metric tons of cellulose fibres produced

– statista.com

 

In 2016:

  • The market for staple fibers was at 55 million tons (natural fibers 30 million, synthetic fibers 19 million, and cellulosic fibers 6 million)
  • The market for nonwovens and unspun applications was at 16 million tons
  • The market for manmade fibers was at 71 million tons

– nonwovens-industry.com

 

In 2014:

  • the Cotton Board estimated global production of TENCEL at just 243,000 tons  – compared to 28.6 million for cotton

– businessinsider.com.au

 

Forecast For Fibre Demand (Made Made & Natural) In The Future

By 2030, fibre demand is forecasted to be:

  • Close to 70 million tons for polyester
  • Just over 30 million tons for cotton
  • Around 10 million tons for cellulosic fibres
  • Around 5 million tons for polyprop, and nylon
  • Around 1 to 2 million tons for wool, and acrylic

– textileworld.com

 

Countries That Consume The Most Textiles

There are 12 high income countries – Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom and the United States.

Their joint share in global textile consumption was 36% in 2005 – 13% of world population consumed more than a third of textiles. This share has substantially lost weight over time to account for 25% in 2016.

– thefiberyear.com 

 

Sources

1. https://waterfootprint.org/media/downloads/WFA_Polyester_and__Viscose_2017.pdf

2. https://www.fibre2fashion.com/market-intelligence/industry-insight/industry/ 

3. https://textilebeat.com/the-numbers-on-textile-waste/  

4. https://www.statista.com/statistics/741296/world-fiber-consumption-distribution-by-fiber-type/  

5. https://www.thefiberyear.com/news/textile-per-capita-consumption-2005-2022/ 

6. https://www.thefiberyear.com/news/the-fiber-year-2018/ 

7. https://www.nonwovens-industry.com/contents/view_online-exclusives/2017-05-23/the-fiber-year-reports-on-2016-world-fiber-market  

8. https://www.statista.com/statistics/271651/global-production-of-the-chemical-fiber-industry/ 

9. https://www.businessinsider.com.au/how-tencel-compares-to-cotton-2015-9?r=US&IR=T 

10. https://www.textileworld.com/textile-world/fiber-world/2015/02/man-made-fibers-continue-to-grow/  

LENZING™, TENCEL™, VEOCEL™ & LENZING™ ECOVERO™: What Are They, & What’s The Difference Between Them?

LENZING™, TENCEL™, VEOCEL™ & LENZING™ ECOVERO™: What Are They, & What's The Difference Between Them?

You may have heard about TENCEL being associated with lyocell before.

But, TENCEL is actually a brand/product that falls under the Lenzing group of brands and products.

In this short guide, we provide an overview of what LENZING™, TENCEL™, VEOCEL™ & LENZING™ ECOVERO™ are, and the differences between them.

 

Who Is The Lenzing Group?

The Lenzing Group is an international group with its headquarter in Lenzing, Austria, and production sites in all major markets.

Lenzing produces wood-based viscose fibers, modal fibers, lyocell fibers and filament yarn, which are used in the textile industry – in clothing, home textiles and technical textiles – as well as in the nonwovens industry.

In addition, the company is active in mechanical and plant engineering.

The broad product categories of Lenzing Group are:

  • Textile fibers, nonwoven fabrics, pulp, thermoplastics, PTFE, acrylic fibers

– wikipedia.org

 

What Are TENCEL™, VEOCEL™, LENZING™ & LENZING™ ECOVERO™?

TENCEL™, VEOCEL™ and LENZING™ are Lenzing’s product brands.

LENZING™ ECOVERO™ is a new product by Lenzing.

There is a focus on all these fibers with being both eco friendly and sustainable/renewable in the growing and/or production phases of the fibers.

 

What Is TENCEL™?

They are fibers for textiles.

Specifically, they are TENCEL™ branded lyocell, and modal fibers, produced by environmentally responsible processes from the sustainably sourced natural raw material wood.

TENCEL™ fibers are used in several applications and can be blended with other fibers in the TENCEL™ Denim, Intimate, Active, Home, Luxe and Footwear ranges, and with REFIBRA™ technology.

– tencel.com/about

 

What Is VEOCEL™?

They are fibers for nonwovens.

These fibers are for delicate purposes in body and health care, and mainly used in hygiene and daily care products (such as sanitary and baby care products, facial sheet masks, cosmetic pads, and all other kinds of wet and dry wipes.)

These fibers originate from the renewable raw material wood created by photosynthesis, are certified bio based, and manufactured in an environmentally responsible production process. VEOCEL™ cellulosic fibers are certified as compostable and biodegradable

– lenzing.com/en/products/veocel-tm

 

What Is LENZING™?

These are fibers for industrial applications.

These are standard Lyocell and Modal fibers that have been certified as compostable and biodegradable under industrial, home, soil and marine conditions. They have also been certified for food contact (making them good for food packaging), and are very strong.

They can be used in many industrial applications such as agriculture, workwear, protective wear, engineered products, packaging, and more.

– lenzing.com/en/products/lenzing-tm

 

What Is LENZING™ ECOVERO™?

It is eco responsible viscose fibers.

It is derived from certified renewable wood sources and pulp using an eco-responsible production process.

Other features include being awarded the EU Ecolabel, having lower emissions (up to 50% less than regular viscose) and having supply chain transparency.

– ecovero.com

 

What Quantity Of Fibers Does Lenzing Group & TENCEL™ Produce Per Year?

  • Lenzing Group (as a whole) – As of 2007, the corporate group had an annual production of over 500,000 tons of fibers

– wikipedia.org

  • TENCEL™ – In 2014, the Cotton Board estimated global production of TENCEL at just 243,000 tons (compared to 28.6 million for cotton)

– businessinsider.com.au

 

Sources

1. https://www.lenzing.com/en/

2. https://www.lenzing.com/en/products/lenzing-tm/

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenzing_AG

4. https://www.businessinsider.com.au/how-tencel-compares-to-cotton-2015-9?r=US&IR=T

5. https://www.tencel.com/about

6. https://www.ecovero.com/

7. https://www.lenzing.com/en/products/veocel-tm/

8. https://www.lenzing.com/en/products/lenzing-tm/

Factors That Can Determine How Eco Friendly, Sustainable Or Animal Friendly Different Fibres & Fabrics Are

Factors That Can Determine How Eco Friendly, Sustainable Or Animal Friendly Different Fibres & Fabrics Are

You may already have a good idea of what the most eco friendly and sustainable fibres and fabrics are.

But, what factors determine how eco friendly and sustainable they are exactly?

We outline those factors in this guide.

 

Not only do these factors take into account the environmental, sustainability and animal rights issues, but also practicality factors.

 

Factors That Contribute To How Eco Friendly,  Sustainable & Animal Friendly Different Fibres & Fabrics Are

The main factors are:

  • Whether it’s a synthetic, regenerated or natural fibre – natural plant, wood/tree and vegetable type fibres are more eco friendly than synthetic fibres like polyester, nylon, acrylic etc. (synthetic fibres are made from chemicals and fossil fuels, and shed micro plastics into the environment when washed or disposed of)
  • How the fibre is grown (if it’s a natural fibre grown in a plant)
  • How the fibre is retted, or separated from the plant – mechanically (with a machine, with water, with dew, with enzymes etc.), or chemically
  • How the fibre is spun into a yarn – dry spinning, wet spinning and other spinning methods
  • How the fibre is turned from a yarn into a fabric
  • How the fabric is treated and finished – bleaching, dying, and other chemical treatments

^ The above steps can be broken down as the growing stage, and the production stage (although synthetic fibres are produced straight from chemicals). There are also other stages such as transportation of the finished product.

You’ll also want to consider in each of these stages:

  • How much irrigated/freshwater, land, fertilizer, pesticides, energy, and chemicals are required to grow and produce
  • How much land, air (air quality issues, and greenhouse gases), and water pollution the fibre growth and production causes
  • Whether the fibre/fabric causes issues for human safety, health (for farm or factory workers, and end consumers) or reasonable working conditions
  • Whether the fibre/fabric impacts animals and wildlife

 

Going into more detail, other factors to consider from an eco and sustainability point of view might be:

  • Is it a natural or synthetic fibre (natural fibres are usually far more eco friendly with lower energy usage and carbon footprints)
  • What are the overall inputs, time and resources to make the fibre?
  • Is it a conventionally grown, or organic fibre e.g. conventional cotton (with GMO seeds and conventional farming methods and synthetic chemicals), or organic cotton (with natural seeds and organic farming and production methods and chemicals or substances)
  • Is the fibre ethically or sustainably sourced and grown? e.g. like bamboo can be FSC certified for responsible forest management, or TENCEL can be sustainably sourced
  • If the fibre comes from a plant – how many uses does that plant have? How much of the plant can be used? e.g. cotton has the seed for oil, and the lint for fabric (this impacts the level of sustainability because a plant with more uses will utilise resources better)
  • Where is the plant currently grown – does it majorly come from one or two countries? This can be an issue for different reasons e.g. transparency of the growing and production of bamboo in China, expanding growth in other countries, supply and production chain issues with economics and feasibility
  • Is the plant a weed? e.g. hemp can be a weed that restricts other plants
  • What is the embodied energy use required to make the fibre?
  • What is the carbon footprint of the fibre? e.g. are there any carbon offsets/sinks like with hemp, bamboo etc.
  • How much pesticide is required to grow the plant?
  • How much fertilizer is required to grow the plant?
  • Are there any GMOs used to grow the plant?
  • Is there any air, water or soil pollution or degradation that arises out of the growing or production process for the fibre?
  • How much irrigated water does the plant use for growing? (as compared to rain fed water)
  • How much water does the fibre use in processing?
  • How eco friendly is the processing stage with chemical usage, capture and re-use, and treatment of waste water before disposing of it or re-using it?
  • What is the crop yield of the plant used to produce the fibre? – how fast the plant grows, how many times it can be harvested per year or per season etc. (yield is a measure of sustainability by using resources efficiently)
  • How does the plant impact land use and soil health e.g. a plant like hemp is beneficial for soil health
  • What is the biodegradability and compostability of the fibre e.g. natural fibres when untreated with chemicals or other synthetic fibres are biodegradable
  • What is the overall impact of growing the fibre/plant on animals and wildlife (have to consider level of pesticide, fertilizer and chemical use, and whether the fibre comes from animals directly like wool, silk, angora, down, leather and fur)
  • What is the overall impact of growing the fibre/plant on humans (health, workers rights, safety, fair working conditions etc.)
  • Are there any harmful chemicals and dyes used in the processing stage for the fibre (dyes, bleaches,)
  • Is the processing closed loop processing – re-use bleaches and dyes, and re-use wastewater? Or, is wastewater untreated, and harmful chemicals dumped?
  • What ethical certifications is the fibre eligible for?
  • Turning the fibre to a fabric – how eco friendly is this process? e.g turning the fibre into a yarn takes resources, turning the yarn into a fabric takes resources, and finishing the fabric takes resources.
  • How much transport is required for the fibre source, the spun yarn, the fabric, and the finished product etc.
  • What does the supply and production chain/line for the product look like – how transparent is it, how many countries are involved, can it be tracked and traced, is it economical and efficient
  • Consider the after purchase/after care of a particular fabric – cotton, silk, linen etc – how often do you have to wash, iron and maintain it? This can use energy and water

 

For animals specifically:

  • Silk, wool, down, angora, fur, leather – can all have animal cruelty issues, or use animals directly or indirectly to produce a product.
  • This can be an issue for those interested in animal rights, or vegans.
  • But, you also have to consider wildlife harmed directly and indirectly through other types of fibre production e.g. through pesticide sprays, through fertilizer run off, through farm machinery, through chemicals and water dumped from production factories and plants etc.

 

Some practical and feasibility considerations might be:

  • Are there any difficult laws or regulations around growing the plant commercially? e.g. hemp has restrictions in the US
  • Where can the plant be grown? – what growing conditions does it need, what soil conditions does it need, what sort of land does it need (how fertile does it need to be)
  • How far can the plant or source material be transported before losing value? e.g. Hemp loses value the further is moves from where it’s grown
  • Amount of time and effort to grow and gin/separate the fibre for processing – hemp is labor intensive compared to cotton (can use a decoritator to separate the bast fibre from the hurds)
  • Is the fibre spinning process efficient? – e.g. hemp spinning is far less efficient than cotton spinning
  • Can the fibre be used as a hybrid/partner with fibres to make one fabric?
  • What is the fibre scale of production? how many producers are there, what quantities can be produced? e.g. TENCEL currently isn’t produced in anywhere near the quantity that cotton is
  • Are there any barriers to entry to grow the fibre, or produce/manufacture it from a technology, cost, geographic or other perspective? e.g. TENCEL has their own technology and facilities to produce their fibres
  • How many uses does the fibre have based on the final features and qualities of fabrics produced e.g. does it have wide use, or niche use like linen and jute
  • What is the cost/price of the final fabric or product for the consumer?
  • What does the final fabric look like aethetically? Does it take dyes well? How many colors can be produced?
  • Qualities of the fibre – breathability, durability (how it handles washing, UV resistance), suitability for exercise and different activities, does it bunch up and wrinkle?
  • Can the fibre be grown locally?

 

Sources

1. https://oecotextiles.wordpress.com/2011/01/19/estimating-the-carbon-footprint-of-a-fabric/ 

2. Various Better Meets Reality eco, sustainability and animal friendly fibre guides and posts

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