In this guide, we consider how ethical, sustainable, eco friendly, and animal friendly faux fur (also called fake fur, synthetic fur, and vegan fur) might be.
If you like, you also can read a guide here about the ethics, sustainability and animal friendliness of real fur here.
Summary – Is Faux Fur More Ethical, Sustainable, Eco Friendly, & Animal Friendly?
It depends on the ethics of the consumer.
Obviously, if a consumer’s ethics are that no animal products should be used, then faux fur is more ethical than real fur.
But, others might argue that real fur is a far bigger industry than faux fur that provides and income and employment for many people, is worth a lot to the economy, and in some cases, local communities rely on income from fur for their livelihood, and to invest back into the local environment.
These same people might also argue that faux fur coming from synthetic plastic fibres (made from non renewable petrochemicals and fossil fuels) are in some worse than natural fibres from animal fur.
Sustainability & Eco Friendliness
Most faux furs are made from synthetic fibres i.e. fibres that come from a petrochemical/fossil fuel feed stock – mainly oil, but also coal. There’s obviously mining and refining involved with fossil fuels, and there’s also the production of the synthetic fibres to consider (which has it’s own carbon footprint, energy usage, chemicals used, and waste water potentially being dumped into the environment).
Fossil fuels are also non renewable.
So, animal agriculture (run off from manure, agricultural chemicals used, emissions, etc.) and the chemical treatment of real fur at the production stage is substituted with the production of synthetic fibres that come from petrochemicals, but also a production stage.
There’s also the consideration that real fur might be able to be re-fashioned better, and recycled better than faux fur. Faux fur may also take a long time to decompose, and may release micro plastics when breaking down after being disposed.
Faux fur does not involve the use of animal products, and does not involve animal farming or trapping like real fur does.
There is a question though about how faux fur made from synthetic fibres might indirectly affect animals at the mining stage (in the form of habitat displacement for example), and also at the production stage (if waste chemicals, and waste water are dumped into aquatic environment untreated for example).
Some also note that there are ‘humane’ Mink and other fur farms in operation, and some wild caught fur is a result of controlling overpopulated or pest species in some areas.
There’s also the consideration that faux fur can be manufactured for different traits and features in the final product compared to real fur. It may be cheaper for example because of a lower production cost.
*Note – developments in technology related to making bio based faux furs could change the pros and cons of faux fur. A more heavy use of recycled polyester fibres could also impact the eco footprint of faux fur. But, this guide is based mainly on newly produced synthetic petrochemical based faux fur.
What Is Faux Fur?
Faux fur is a material that doesn’t come from animal by product. Other phrases for faux fur are fake fur, synthetic fur, vegan fur and artificial fur.
- Fake fur (or “faux fur”) [is] any synthetic material that attempts to mimic the appearance and feel of real fur.
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.
- 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)
- Faux fur is typically made from polymeric fibers that are processed, dyed, and cut to match a specific fur texture and color
How Are Fake Furs Made?
- Manufacturers make artificial furs by weaving and knitting synthetic fibers into pile fabrics.
- Pile consist of soft, clipped fiber ends, Manufacturers treat the pile to make it look like real fur.
- Natural fur fibers are sometimes woven into the pile to make it feel more like genuine fur.
Environmental Impact Of Faux Fur – Is It Eco Friendly?
Potential eco issues related to faux fur might include:
Sourcing of feedstock for synthetic fibres – petrochemicals come from mining and have to undergo refining too
Production of synthetic fibres – chemicals used and waste produced in the synthetic fibre production process, such as dying, finishing and other treatments. Waste water for example might be dumped into the environment unless some type of closed loop process is used
Disposal of faux fur – there’s the break down of the material to consider if it isn’t recycled, and also the prospect that it might break down into micro plastic particles
- [faux fur] synthetic materials can take a long time to break down, possibly anywhere from 500 to 1,000 years.
- [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]
Making Faux Fur More Eco Friendly
Making faux fur from recycled polyester might decrease the carbon footprint.
- [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]
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 …
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 than what you expect.
But, this loophole in labelling has supposedly been fixed in the US (wikipedia.org)
New Technology Developments For 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.
Look Closely At What Fur & Faux Fur Is Being Substituted With
Some people want to be done with fur for good – both fur and faux fur.
But, you have to consider what fibre or material is being used instead.
If it’s cotton for example – cotton is know for being water hungry, and the heavy use of pesticides, herbicides and nitrogen based synthetic fertilizer.
There’s always pros and cons to each fibre – natural and synthetic (and also semi synthetic/regenerated fibres)
Comparing Real Fur & Faux Fur