Is Vegan Fashion Sustainable?
By Ecosalon |
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Is it possible for everything we wear to be 100% vegan? That is the question.
Story by Amy DuFault first published March 2010 on
Just as there are political and religious divisions, there are opposing groups
in the world of sustainability. Each believes they are more logical and
justified than the other. I experienced an unexpectedly unpleasant exchange
recently that made this reality plain as day. On the phone with a friend and
animal rights activist, I hazarded a casual question: “Vegan isn’t really
sustainable, is it?”
Her response was chilly to say the least.
And here I thought I was simply stating what we all know. Perhaps foolishly,
I went on to share that I’d had a revelation just that morning that
fashion, comprised of mostly man-made materials, couldn’t possibly be eco — at
least not exclusively so. How many of these vegan companies truly pay attention
to good earth stewardship and use non-petroleum based materials, organic cottons
and non-toxic dyes?
Save Bessie, great, but pollute groundwater, soil, air, all while supporting
Maybe we environmental folks have more factions in the camp than we realize.
I’d like to ask in all earnestness, if you’re passionately vegan, why would you
want to wear shoes that simulate the skins of animals? I understand the leather
industry is a large contributor to climate change and water supply
contamination, but similarly, these man-made materials are often harming the
I started researching the most frequently used vegan materials to find out just
Naugahyde: A brand
name of pleather that combines textiles and polyurethane.
Lorica: A fabric made from
microscopic animal shells or casings (external), coated with polyurethane.
Suedette: Made from cotton
a plastic polymer with micro fibers to create a durable, washable, breathable,
Birkiflor: An oil derivative used to make synthetic shoe uppers for Birkenstock.
It is a combination of acrylic and polymer felt fibers that create a
leather-like finish that is waterproof and breathable.
Vegetan: Available as Vegetan Active, Bucky and Micro, it is a combination of
polyurethane and cotton.
Not all vegan shoes are made of synthetic leather. Other natural and organic
alternatives are available, like hemp, cork,
wood and linen.
Some of these vegan shoe and accessory lines have great missions and are
becoming more eco-conscious but certainly they are few and far between. Here are
four that stand out:
TOMS: Offers a vegan line made from a blend
of recycled products, faux suede insoles and rubber outsoles. Not to mention the
“One For One”
campaign that gives a pair of shoes to a needy child in a developing country.
Neuaura: Recently awarded a Green Seal award for manufacturing based on
compliance with Brazil’s environmental laws. This includes recycling and
disposing all the material waste generated from the factory at a recycling
facility located in the vicinity, using water-based adhesives and less toxic
solvents and chemicals and advocating recycling and protection/preservation of
endangered animals to their surrounding communities.
Olsen Haus: This company uses
alternative, sustainable and renewable plant-based and man-made, non-animal
materials such as ultra suede, organic cotton, canvas, nylon, velvet, linen,
cork and synthetic eco-lining. 100% vegan: no leather, fur, wool or silk is ever
used. Soles are a composite of rubber, glues are rubber-based and vegan and
paint is vegan and non-toxic.
eponymous shoe house has developed a recyclable plastic called Melflex that has
flexibility for comfort. Their patented, hypo-allergenic PVC shoes are totally
cruelty free and devoid of animal products. The Brazilian-based company recycles
99.9% of factory water and waste and they also go the distance by recycling
overstock styles into next season’s collection.
We all have to consider our camps. Is your number one priority saving animals
from cruelty or is it supporting sustainable fiber production? Maybe you are a
protector of watersheds? How about manufacturing solely in the US? And how do we
do it all?