High-end fashion brands are ditching the use of animal fur, major style magazines are refusing to promote it, and even cities (hello, San Francisco!) are set to ban the sale of it. Replacing actual animal fur with faux knock-offs is a huge step in the right direction for those standing on the Animal Welfare Protection side of the fence.
But as Refinery29 points out, folks with different perspectives, like environmentalists, are wary of the sudden interest in synthetic fur production. It might not be a sustainable or ethical alternative to animal fur at all.
First, there’s the biodegradability issue of synthetic fabrics like nylon, acrylic and polyester. Real fur decomposes — it was once a living thing, though treated with chemicals to stop rotting when used for fashion — but fake furs don’t break down the same way. It’s made from non-renewable petroleum-based materials, which take multiple decades — possibly centuries — to decompose in a landfill. In a 2014 report by the European Commission, acrylic was ranked worst among nine different fibres for the environment in terms of its impact on climate change and resource depletion.
Our oceans are at risk, too. Micro bits of these synthetic materials are ending up in our water systems and are slowly destroying them (fish ingest the microplastics and it either causes early death before reproduction has taken place or humans harvest, sell, and consume the plastic-filled fish).
According to research data by the International Fur Trade Federation (which, yes, it’s worth it to note they are the big guns behind fur farming, and definitely pro-fur), faux fur produces 94 per cent more carcinogens than natural animal fur and is a greater contributor to global warming.
So while faux fur certainly checks the ‘cruelty-free’ box, it’s far from receiving a passing grade in terms of being eco-friendly. If you’re feeling confused about your fashion choices, but want to do you part to better this planet we call home, you may want to consider buying clothes made from sustainably sourced fabrics like organic cotton, linen, wool or hemp. Another idea? Shop second-hand or vintage. Not only will your wardrobe be loaded with interesting, one-of-a-kind pieces, but you’ll avoid contributing to the behemoth that is fast fashion and the clothing waste epidemic.