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Chad Love: Why Real Fur Is Greener Than Fake

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January 13, 2010

Chad Love: Why Real Fur Is Greener Than Fake

By Chad Love

Considering that fake fur is almost exclusively made from petroleum, I’ve never followed the argument that it’s morally and environmentally superior to the real thing. After all, real fur is made out of horny mammals -- an imminently renewable natural ingredient.

Neither, apparently, does the author of this article in Yesterday's Slate.

Let's run down what we do know about the two options. The knock against fake fur is that nylon, acrylic, and polyester are made from nonrenewable petroleum.
And it takes some energy to process that oil into synthetic fibers: According to design consultant Kate Fletcher's Sustainable Fashion and Textiles, producing one kilogram of polyester requires 109 megajoules of energy, with 46 megajoules going toward the raw materials and 63 megajoules used to turn those materials into a finished fiber. Nylon consumes 150 megajoules per kilogram; acrylic, 157. A handful of designers are now making faux furs out of cotton, which uses just 50 megajoules per kilogram. (Producing cotton can take a lot of water, though.) The other major downside with fakes is that synthetic fibers take a really, really long time to break down -- anywhere from 500 to 1,000 years , if estimates for plastic-bag degradation are anything to go by.

Real fur would seem to address these concerns. It can be awkward to frame the issue in these terms, but animals happen to be renewable resources (The vast majority of furs -- 85 percent-- come from farmed animals.) And according to the Fur Council of Canada, despite the fact that pelts are treated to retard the degradation process, real fur will break down eventually. In theory, then, you could compost your fur coat when you were done with it.

The story goes on to compare some of the pros and cons of each, and does so in a balanced, well-reasoned tone. It's worth a read, and while I obviously disagree with the author's final conclusion that there really isn't any hard, empirical data to suggest one's better than the other, it certainly wasn't a knee-jerk treatment. The only thing that really puzzled me was the first sentence (Now that fur is back in vogue , I've been thinking about splurging on a coat this winter): If fur is back in vogue, then why are pelt prices in the dumper right now? The guys I've talked to around here either aren't trapping this year or they're holding on to their pelts in the hopes that prices will rebound. Is it just a regional thing? Any trappers out there care to chime in?

Comments (13)

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from ejunk wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

I read that when it was first published. I think the real challenge that author faces is that, quantitatively, you really need to distinguish between wild fur and farmed fur. it would be hard to believe that fake fur is greener than wild fur, but given the nature of large scale agriculture, it isn't difficult to imagine farmed fur at least competing with fake fur in terms of energy consumption.

yrs-
Evan!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntnow wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

very informative chad. i agree that it seems more "green" than faux fur, i'd rather have the petroleum in my tank than around my neck. btw, there really aren't enough articles that you can use the word "horny" in either.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sb Wacker wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

Interesting post Chad, and a great example of just how difficult it is to really be sure of the environmental impact of a product.

As for fur in fashion - yeah the hot young things are wearing it in old london town - and looking all the better for it.

SBW

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bob81 wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

I think Evan makes a great point in pointing out the difference between farmed and wild animals.

I also think the author misses the point in comparing the two from an ethical stand-point: I've never once heard anyone argue against fur due to its carbon-footprint. The argument is instead usually based on two completely different issues:

-The humaneness of trapping animals.
-The ethics of killing animals purely for thier fur and not to eat.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from ENO wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

I'm still celebrating the news from yesterday that global warming is over. Although the fact that now we're looking at 30 years of global cooling according to the UN might make this issue a big deal.

P.S. Grass is green. Fur tends to come in varied shades of black and brown (Natural and Synthetic).

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rjwak2003 wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

I find it funny that people rarely talk about the main point of wearing fur...to keep warm! I personally own/operate a fur products company and find that, now that the "Lower 48" states are experiencing such cold temps, my website hits have gone through the roof. When people talk about killing animals "purely for their fur," I have to wonder if they've ever dealt with temps that require fur hats/mittens/etc. to survive. Just as I need protein to survive, I also need to stay warm (with fur)!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WVOtter wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

The biggest obsticle will always be with the publics resource priority. A lot of animal rights folks would trade the energy usage of fake furs to keep animal pelts from being used. Me, I'd rather see animal pelts used than more non-biodegradable polymer filling the landfills. Just like how it takes more energy to produce a paper cup than styrofoam, but then how long does a styrofoam cup hang around vs. paper?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from seadog wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

Gotta love this. Let's drive a wedge between the green movement and the animal rights freaks. I'll be happy to take most of the greenies on my side if I can kick the animal rights activists into the extremist corner where they belong and stick a dunce cap on their heads. WOOT WOOT!

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from 86Ram wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

very good article. Man has been using fur, hides and bone tools for thousands of yrs so that proves they are are very renewable and obviously efficient.
Bout as green s you can get.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Creek Chub wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

"nylon, acrylic, and polyester are made from nonrenewable petroleum"

This is true. It's made from the by-products of the refining process for gasoline, natural gas, etc. (ethane and propylene)

No more oil is pumped from the ground because people want fake fur. It's the same material used to make medical catheters, tooth brushes, and the keyboard I'm typing on.

There is no added "carbon footprint" for faux fur. It would either be made into fake fur coats, or fishing line and shotgun shells.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from logan.vandermay wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

HELP MANAGE WILDLIFE, WEAR FUR!!!!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from steve182 wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

Anything fake is rarely green, really. Most things that are marketed as "green" are far from it, unless they're referring to profits.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bella wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

I don't like the way Faux Furs feel, the texture is just wrong. Fur is fur and plastic is plastic. I have tawed a few hides myself, sheep, goat, rabbit and coon and it is a lot of work but the end result is far superior to the ersatz.
You like margerine better than Butter? Go wear your fish-fur then. (obscure history note: Russian troops in the "great Patriotic War" were issued ushankas (fur hats with earflaps)made with a synthetic pile the troops called fish-fur because it plainly came from no known animal).
If you have to provide a million fur hats to beat the Nazis, then synthetic fur may be the answer, but my Ushanka is made with rabbit fur.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from seadog wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

Gotta love this. Let's drive a wedge between the green movement and the animal rights freaks. I'll be happy to take most of the greenies on my side if I can kick the animal rights activists into the extremist corner where they belong and stick a dunce cap on their heads. WOOT WOOT!

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from ejunk wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

I read that when it was first published. I think the real challenge that author faces is that, quantitatively, you really need to distinguish between wild fur and farmed fur. it would be hard to believe that fake fur is greener than wild fur, but given the nature of large scale agriculture, it isn't difficult to imagine farmed fur at least competing with fake fur in terms of energy consumption.

yrs-
Evan!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bob81 wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

I think Evan makes a great point in pointing out the difference between farmed and wild animals.

I also think the author misses the point in comparing the two from an ethical stand-point: I've never once heard anyone argue against fur due to its carbon-footprint. The argument is instead usually based on two completely different issues:

-The humaneness of trapping animals.
-The ethics of killing animals purely for thier fur and not to eat.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from logan.vandermay wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

HELP MANAGE WILDLIFE, WEAR FUR!!!!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntnow wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

very informative chad. i agree that it seems more "green" than faux fur, i'd rather have the petroleum in my tank than around my neck. btw, there really aren't enough articles that you can use the word "horny" in either.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sb Wacker wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

Interesting post Chad, and a great example of just how difficult it is to really be sure of the environmental impact of a product.

As for fur in fashion - yeah the hot young things are wearing it in old london town - and looking all the better for it.

SBW

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from WVOtter wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

The biggest obsticle will always be with the publics resource priority. A lot of animal rights folks would trade the energy usage of fake furs to keep animal pelts from being used. Me, I'd rather see animal pelts used than more non-biodegradable polymer filling the landfills. Just like how it takes more energy to produce a paper cup than styrofoam, but then how long does a styrofoam cup hang around vs. paper?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from 86Ram wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

very good article. Man has been using fur, hides and bone tools for thousands of yrs so that proves they are are very renewable and obviously efficient.
Bout as green s you can get.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from steve182 wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

Anything fake is rarely green, really. Most things that are marketed as "green" are far from it, unless they're referring to profits.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from ENO wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

I'm still celebrating the news from yesterday that global warming is over. Although the fact that now we're looking at 30 years of global cooling according to the UN might make this issue a big deal.

P.S. Grass is green. Fur tends to come in varied shades of black and brown (Natural and Synthetic).

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rjwak2003 wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

I find it funny that people rarely talk about the main point of wearing fur...to keep warm! I personally own/operate a fur products company and find that, now that the "Lower 48" states are experiencing such cold temps, my website hits have gone through the roof. When people talk about killing animals "purely for their fur," I have to wonder if they've ever dealt with temps that require fur hats/mittens/etc. to survive. Just as I need protein to survive, I also need to stay warm (with fur)!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bella wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

I don't like the way Faux Furs feel, the texture is just wrong. Fur is fur and plastic is plastic. I have tawed a few hides myself, sheep, goat, rabbit and coon and it is a lot of work but the end result is far superior to the ersatz.
You like margerine better than Butter? Go wear your fish-fur then. (obscure history note: Russian troops in the "great Patriotic War" were issued ushankas (fur hats with earflaps)made with a synthetic pile the troops called fish-fur because it plainly came from no known animal).
If you have to provide a million fur hats to beat the Nazis, then synthetic fur may be the answer, but my Ushanka is made with rabbit fur.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Creek Chub wrote 4 years 14 weeks ago

"nylon, acrylic, and polyester are made from nonrenewable petroleum"

This is true. It's made from the by-products of the refining process for gasoline, natural gas, etc. (ethane and propylene)

No more oil is pumped from the ground because people want fake fur. It's the same material used to make medical catheters, tooth brushes, and the keyboard I'm typing on.

There is no added "carbon footprint" for faux fur. It would either be made into fake fur coats, or fishing line and shotgun shells.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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