Sustainable Fashion and Wildlife Conservation

The connection between what you wear and animal welfare

Sustainable fashion is the way fashion has started. Originally most clothes were made by hand. Every item was created individually for the person who would wear it. The invention of the sewing machines and the Industrial Revolution resulted in mass production of clothing, which simplified the design and boosted the regularity of modifications in fashion.

Not too long ago, clothing was made to last for a very long time. Once broken, apparel would be fixed or modified to carry on serving a purpose. The idea of walking into a shop to pick up an item of clothing or ordering it online is relatively new. Yet, currently the habit worldwide is to buy multiple pieces of clothing to only wear them a couple of times before chucking them.

Thankfully, more and more individuals and businesses are starting to select clothes not only based on the look and price. People want to know where their clothes comes from, what fabrics are being used and if the materials are produced in a way that is damaging to the environment or animal welfare.

Where do Sustainable fashion and Wildlife conservation meet?

Sustainable fashion must preserve resources whilst supplying, developing, transporting, marketing, retailing, and consuming fashion items. For fashion to be classed as sustainable, people, animals, and the nature must be taken into consideration. Essentially, the wellbeing of humans, wildlife and the environment are very closely interconnected.

Cruelty to animals in the fashion industry is one of the main unethical sides of fashion. Cows slaughtered for their skin; foxes packed into tiny cages and sent to fur farms to be killed; birds live-plucked for the feathers… all the animals that are destined to die to become a fashion item live a life of constant suffering and die painfully.

Apart from the animal cruelty side of fashion, there is a massive issue with the volume of clothing that goes to landfills and incinerators. Statistics say that the number of clothing that ends up as environmental waste has doubled in the past 20 years. Actually, over 80% of all used apparel ends up as trash, which makes fast fashion one of the key waste generators globally.

Some mistakenly believe that unwanted clothes made out of natural fabrics can be composted. That is not the case. Natural materials go through a lot of chemical processing on the path to become a fashion item. When clothing ends up in landfills, it releases toxins into the air, groundwater and soil. Many materials will take thousands of years to biodegrade. All of this affects wildlife directly by poisoning its habitat and pushing the progression of climate change, which is an enemy of all life on the planet.

Let’s take a further look at some of the main solutions to problems concerning fast-fashion and wildlife wellbeing.

Wool

sustainable fashion

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that wool is kindly shaved off those happy sheep on the fields that we sometimes see driving past.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Most of the time, shearers are paid by volume, so for them speed is money. Such hurried shearing is painful and leads to injuries, as bad as chopped or torn off tails, ears, teats, and strips of skin.

The more sustainable alternatives are:

  • Purchase second-hand wool items. Most thrift stores and vintage boutiques have cute woollen sweaters and coats.
  • If you have no other options but to buy new, go for wool substitutes, such as certified organic cotton, bamboo, linen, and hemp.

Leather

sustainable fashion

Leather shoes, belts, bags, and coats have long been our wardrobe must haves. Yet, there is no secret that leather industry puts animals into inhumane conditions before they get killed for their skins. Many people believe that leather is simply a by-product of the meat industry, yet this is often not the case.

The more sustainable alternatives are:

  • Second-hand or recycled leather should be our number one choice.
  • Plant and vegetable based leather is a good substitute. Yet, keep in mind that not all vegan leather is environmentally friendly. Some pleather is practically Polyvinyl Chloride plastic (PVC), which is extremely damaging to the environment. Look out for materials like Pinatex, which is pineapple leaf fibres. Materials like that are the heroes of the leather industry.
  • Silicone leather. It’s not toxic and isn’t plastic; therefore, is harmless to the animals and the environment.
  • Here is a more detailed guide to pleather.

Fur

sustainable fashion

Fur is one of the most well-known clothing taboos for animal lovers. Some of the most popular animals farmed and killed for their fur are minks, foxes, rabbits, llamas, alpacas, as well as Cashmere goats and Angora rabbits. Similar to the leather industry, fur farms kill animals through gassing, electrocution and other torturous actions. Some animals get skinned alive. Apart from farming animals for their fur, some fur clothing is made out of wild caught animals, what brings its own set of issues.

 The more sustainable alternatives are:

  • Pre-loved fur clothing is our number one go to if we feel like a fur item is an absolute must. Bear in mind that by wearing something you don’t support can create a trend. Often people want something they see on others. Hence the reason faux fur is a much more preferable option.
  • Faux fur holds a lot of retail shelf space during cold months. Most of that mass-produced faux fur is made from materials based on petroleum, like polyester and nylon. You should look for recycled and sustainable materials instead.

Down

sustainable fashion

Down feather is a go to material for freezing temperatures, which promotes a low carbon footprint. However, feathers from ducks, geese, and swans are often gathered whilst they are alive. Since feathers do tend to grow back, most birds live a horrible life with constant inhumane torture.

The more sustainable alternatives are:

  • Go for vegan coats and jackets, which hold the same functionality.
  • Avoid live-plucked down. Look into the brands before you make that purchase.
  • Google searches are likely to confuse you, as organic and promotional contents are usually hard to differentiate. Try looking up or asking about brands and materials on NatureHub. NatureHub is a platform that helps people discover good, green, and socially responsible businesses around them, making it easier for us to be responsible consumers. It is a good platform to look for sustainable fashion alternatives locally.

Silk

Silk has always been seen as a luxurious material, which feels amazing on your skin. It is made out of the threads that create the cocoon of the mulberry silkworm. The cocoons get boiled with the pupae living inside. For those of us who believe all animals deserve protection, large or little, take this fact into your decision making as a consumer.

The more sustainable alternatives are:

  • Believe it or not, there is silk that is made out of the mulberry silkworm cocoon after it has left it as a moth. It is called Ahimsa or ‘peace silk’. In this scenario, the silk strands are broken, so they need to be woven together in order to end up a high-quality silk. Sadly, there are no regulations or certifications to control this.

As any other industry, fashion needs to satisfy a demand in order to be profitable. If there is no demand for unsustainable fashion, the fashion world will change. You are welcome to join Sustainable Fashion September on NatureHub for more relevant information, ideas, and advice.