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?