consommation responsable, vêtement écologique

Is vegan fashion an ecological guarantee?

ecological clothing

Veganism does not only refer to fashion and clothing.

Rather, it is a way of life which consists of not consuming any products from animals or their exploitation. This way of life is adopted in connection with an ideology of what relations between humans and animals should be. More generally, veganism can be part of an action to defend animal rights ( Wikipedia, 2017 ).

Our first instinct is to think about adopting a vegan eating practice. That is to say a diet that excludes all animal traces: meat, fish, dairy products, eggs and honey.

However, veganism has a much more global approach. It excludes the consumption of any other product coming from animals, their exploitation or what is tested on them. Here we can refer to products created from beeswax or even to cosmetics or medicines containing substances of animal origin or having been tested on animals.

When it comes to textiles, vegan people exclude leather, fur, wool and silk.

The impact of breeding

impact of breeding

In 2010, given the harmful effects of factory farming, the UN announced that the best way to protect the environment is to adopt a vegan or vegetarian diet.

Indeed, during my environmental studies we had access to numerous scientific reports which demonstrated that livestock farming is one of the main causes of the most pressing environmental problems. This affects aspects of global warming (18% of total greenhouse gas emissions), land degradation, atmospheric and water pollution as well as loss of biodiversity ( Spanish and Leterme, 2010 ).

In addition, as the world population grows, there is an increase in the quantity of animals intended for all forms of consumption. An FAO report indicates that grazing occupies 26% of the earth's land surface and that livestock represent around 20% of the total terrestrial animal biomass.

The example of leather

direct impacts of livestock farming on the environment

In addition to the direct impacts of livestock farming on the environment, leather processing is not without trace. Tanneries use processes that involve toxic metals (chromium) which are harmful to both the health of workers and also to surrounding waterways and animal life. They therefore use a large quantity of water and chemical compounds to shape, soften and tint the skins before marketing them.

Some countries have imposed rules to minimize the impact of tanning. However, some companies have decided to relocate so as not to have to comply. This involves being even more vigilant about the origin of the desired item.

Vegan fashion, an ecological guarantee?

vegan fashion an ecological guarantee

A fundamental question arises here. Are textiles of vegan origin ecological? Are they more so than textiles of animal origin? Take the example of synthetic leather. Although it does not contain any animal trace, in almost all cases it is made from petroleum! Although we haven't found any studies comparing the ecological impact of synthetic and natural leathers, we know that anything made from petroleum is neither ecological nor sustainable. In both cases, and for different reasons, the ecological impact can be significant.

Then, synthetic leathers are less expensive than animal leathers but are also less durable. For example, a leather bag of animal origin can last for decades with minimal maintenance. On the other hand, a similar bag made of synthetic or artificial leather will wear out much more quickly. This therefore involves replacing it on a much more regular basis and generating more oil-based waste.

However, some take between 500 and 1000 years to degrade! So research has been carried out in recent years to create and market plant-based synthetic leather. Indeed, Richard Wool , a research professor at the University of Delaware, has developed an eco-leather produced from natural fibers such as linen or cotton mixed with corn, soy and other vegetable oils. The fibers produced are then assembled on several layers and the result would be very similar to animal leather although it would be more resistant. However, it is not yet accessible to ordinary people but certainly a great avenue to follow.

Also, there are some great vegan fashion alternatives that will use plastic bottles as a raw material instead of sourcing new plastic. We are talking here about revaluation and it is commendable from an ecological point of view. However, this raises other questions about the long-term impact of such practices. Indeed, it has been shown that the use of plastic in clothing and accessories could cause the appearance of plastic microparticles in the oceans.

Cruelty-free and eco-friendly animal-based textiles

We have discussed the impact of livestock farming on the environment, but leather is not the only textile of animal origin. There are much more sustainable textiles of animal origin. Merino wool and organic silk are examples. In both cases, their breeding can be done with respect for the animal. Both can carry the Global Organic Textil Standard (GOTS) certification, the benchmark for eco-friendly textiles.

When it comes to merino wool, a single sheep can produce 8,000 km of wool yarn per year. Wool has limited ecological impacts which mainly reside in the treatment of the fiber and in the antiparasitic treatment of animals. Wool has exceptional characteristics that are not found in natural vegan textiles.

cotton grandiose environmental impact

Conventional silk comes from farms in which the silkworms are first force-fed with antibiotics before being killed when collecting the silk thread. Organic silk is an innovation on the textile market. It is produced within a strict organic framework. The mulberry trees intended to feed the worms are grown sustainably, the silkworms do not receive antibiotic treatment and the silk thread is only collected when the caterpillar has left its cocoon. It can be made with wild or farmed silk.

Ultimately, vegan fashion or not, there is no guarantee that the finished product will be more ecological and more sustainable. We saw the example of leather and could also have talked about the example of traditional cotton which has a grandiose impact on the environment. In any case, when purchasing a product or item of clothing, a basic question should guide your purchase. Including cruelty-free treatment, will your purchase be sustainable for you and for future generations?

Ecological yours,


eco loco


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