Fiber Watch: Is Faux Fur Really More Eco-Friendly Than the Real Deal?

A study from CE Delft, a non-profit environmental consultancy, shows that animal fur is far worse for the environment than its faux counterpart.
Researchers at the Dutch organization CE Delft studied the effects of mink fur versus faux fur, coming to the conclusion that mink fur is far harsher for the environment than fake fur, even if re-used once or twice. The study included calculations for various scenarios involved in the processing of both fur types, showing that ” the use of five faux fur coats has less impact than the use of one natural mink fur coat.”
The study conducted by CE Delft (which you can download here) is a continuation of a 2010 study which assessed the life-cycle impact of 1 kilogram of mink fur compared to the impact of 1 kilogram of other textile fibers such as cotton, polyester (PET), wool and acrylic. The new study compared the impact of a natural mink fur coat to a faux fur coat and a natural mink fur trim to a faux fur trim. Different variables were taken into account, such as the impact of raising mink for fur production, the lifespan of both fur types, the maintenance of both fur types, and the impact of production processes.
The study shows that natural mink fur coats outperform faux fur coats only if the lifespan of a mink fur coat is significantly longer than that of the faux fur coat. “The impact of a natural mink fur coat in all cases is at least 3 times higher than the impact of a faux fur coat. For a large number of environmental effects the factor of difference is 10 or higher.”  Research also shows that the same result applies to comparisons between mink fur and faux fur trims, which are often added to fur coats as accessories.

Although the study provides evidence that natural mink fur has a much higher environmental impact than faux fur, the lifespan between the two types of fur is open to debate. A consumer might be more likely to discard a faux fur coat much quicker than a valuable, natural fur that can be passed on from generation to generation. This relates to the issue of maintaining the quality of the fur, as natural furs need to be stored at low temperatures during warm summer months to elongate its lifespan, adding another factor to its environmental footprint. But lifespan aside, if someone used 5 faux-fur coats compared to one mink coat, the environmental impact of the faux fur coats would still be lower.

It will remain to be seen how this type of research will impact the fur industry, which has been under much scrutiny for the last few decades over the suffering of the animals killed for their fur. Although fur garment producers have spent millions of dollars trying to present fur as a natural and therefore more eco-friendly alternative to faux fur, this recently released study could mean big trouble for fur dealers. However, the reliance of oil-based raw materials for faux furs cannot be ignored – hopefully all the developments in the realm of plant-based synthetics and recycled polyester and acrylic could provide truly sustainable faux fur options that take animal slaughter out of the picture entirely.

Image: joeldinda
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