Want Sustainable Clothing? Animal Fibers Are Not The Answer.

Throwing a vegan wet blanket on the idea that animal "natural fibers" are the most sustainable option.
Are animal natural fibers more sustainable?

Data for this article is from a Future Perfect Newsletter by Marina Bolotnikova, deputy editor, Vox.


Usually we stick to talking about cosmetics, but we have to jump in on the conversation happening in fashion right now about natural fibers. 

We are DOWN with staying away from plastic fibers like acrylic, or more “natural” fibers that are actually super toxic to produce like viscose. But we can’t ignore the elephant in the room, which is that animal-derived “natural” fibers are just as bad for the environment as industrial meat production, as well as being super cruel to the animals that produce them.

  • Vox reported that more than 1.2 BILLION sheep are farmed for wool annually. 
  • Like cows, sheep are ruminants, so they emit a poop-ton of methane, a major greenhouse gas. We're talking so much methane that the production of ONE wool sweater emits 27 times more greenhouse gas than a comparable cotton sweater.
  • Not only that, but it also takes up 247 times more land to graze the sheep, which is a huge threat to native vegetation and wildlife.
  • We need to stop believing the myth that wool and leather are by-products of the meat industry. They’re not. They’re co-products. Sheep and cattle farmers depend on selling ALL of it to make their operations profitable. So if you’re supporting wool, you’re supporting meat.
  • We also need to accept that industrial wool farming is cruel. These animals ARE harmed during shearing and outside of it, as by tail docking and/or mulesing, where skin from the hind quarters is cut off to try to prevent flystrike.
  • Last thing, if your animal-derived natural fiber is blended with a synthetic, like polyester, that garment, as a whole, is no longer biodegradable. So what’s the point?

All to say, animal fibers are not "better" by a whole slew of metrics just because they're "natural." The best bet, overall, is to buy used, whatever the fiber. If it needs to be new, let's aim for VEGAN natural fibers like cotton, or hemp, or linen. Shoot, even recycled polyester because at least that’s recycled and recyclable. We’ll come back to microplastics later. 

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