I grew up with the notion that wearing or producing real fur was immoral. As a child, watching 101 Dalmatians, I learned to hate Cruella De Vil for trying to kill those cute little puppies for their skin. I thought it was cruel, immoral, and it should be against the law!
Today, it technically isn’t, but real fur isn’t exactly looked upon favorably. Campaigns by PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, have worked hard showing the negative side of fur farming and have been successful in turning people off of fur or certain woolen garments.
For example, the popular UGG boots are made from the skin and wool of Australian sheep (Mikkelson). Many have thought it was sheared wool from sheep attached to a ground fabric of synthetic material. PETA has posted gruesome, viral videos of the process in which people kill the sheep. Other popular videos from PETA include Chinese fur-farmers beating the animals and skinning them alive, their skinless exposed bodies alive for sometimes five to ten minutes before their heart finally gives out (PETA, The Chinese Fur Industry).
Despite all this, many organizations invested in fur farming have now been working hard to promote fur in fashion. Fur Europe, being one of them, is an organization created to provide information about European fur farming and endorse the European Fur Breeder’s Association. They state that fur farming and the use of fur in fashion is not unethical as long as the animals are given a good life throughout the time they’re alive and are killed in humane ways. They state many arguments that it is actually good for the environment in the sense that the garments can last 20-30 years, be reused and still also have the ability to decompose as opposed to faux fur (Europe).
Faux fur is made of petroleum-based synthetics such as polyester or acrylic. It has been said that an “estimated gallon of oil [is] used in every three jackets” (McCutcheon). As everyone knows, plastics and other synthetic materials do not break down and can remain in landfills for hundreds of years. Some sources indicate it can take 500-1,000 years for a simple plastic bag to decompose fully. And even so, they might not even fully decompose until nothing remains of it. Instead, what may remain are “microscopic granules” (Lapidos). If this is the case for a thin, flimsy plastic bag, how much worse could it be for a synthetic fur or pleather jacket?
One concept some fur-lovers are trying to utilize for guilt-free fur use are recycled fur (World). These would be the old fur jackets that have been around for decades but are no longer used because they are out of style. As for me, reusing is the best way to be sustainable in our environment. There is already enough junk created on our Earth. Why make more new things when we can just reuse what we already have? The damage has already been made with these real fur jackets and old fur pelts. There is no way to bring the animal back alive. In that case, why not change the way it’s being used and design it into something new and fashionable that people will want to use now a days. It can be labeled “recycled fur” and show it is more sustainable than using petroleum-based synthetic fibers that will basically never decompose. It is also less tricky than the whole moral issue of raising animals in potential inhumane ways just for the use of their fur. Despite both sides of faux fur or real fur trying to argue that their side is more eco-friendly, really, the best way to wear fur is recycled fur!
Handbag made of recycled fur found at Audas
A trend seen are bags made of actual packaging material such as soda cans, bags of chips, or drink pouches that can’t be recycled. The term for this type of reuse is “upcycling”. A website called “The Ultimate Green Store” sells products just like these, and many other organic or eco-friendly consumer items including clothing (Store). At first thought, you would never think there are any negative sides to doing something like this. These companies are taking trash that would otherwise end up in landfills because they cannot be recycled and repurposing them into something trendy that people will want to use. A lot of the packaging used for these bags are disposable items that are used once to provide two ounces of candy or chips to a consumer and then are intended to be thrown away. They utilize a whole lot of packaging to transport the goods from the manufacturer to the consumer just so that they could be utilized for five minutes while the consumer is snacking. The amount of resources used does not equal the amount of value that item gives in the end!
The problem with this idea is that they are essentially enabling these companies that create these unrecyclable bags or containers that are used for such a short amount of time for its intended purpose. Not every candy wrapper or chip bag ends up in the hands of the companies that repurpose these items. 95-97% ends up not being repurposed (O’Connor). What really needs to happen are that manufacturers come up with a better way to package their products so that less waste is created. Do people really need to throw another 7.5 fl oz mini soda can away every time they drink or should they just buy a 2 liter bottle and get more soda while creating less waste? Products need to be provided in larger quantities so as to not create more waste; which occurs by providing the same amount or less of product but creating more waste in the end by selling in smaller packages each.
Some people are against the use of plastic in any way, shape or form. Author Beth Terry wrote a book titled Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too. She began making the effort to not use plastic after seeing a photo of a dead bird and the contents left behind from its stomach: a toothbrush, bottle caps, cigarette lighters, and many more miscellaneous plastic trinkets (Terry). An article on five products from companies guilty of greenwashing states the following on the issue:
“The companies – such as Kraft Foods and Frito-Lay – whose products are diverted from landfill underwrite the costs of collecting and processing them into new products. In return, these manufacturers not only get green cred, they also receive additional marketing thanks to their logo-packed packaging being turning into everything from backpacks to belts. What these manufacturers do not receive with this model, however, is a strong incentive to stop making non-recyclable packaging in the first place (O’Connor).”
Backpack made of recycled juice pouches found at The Ultimate Green Store
If plastic were never used, you would never have to create juice pouch schoolbags in the first place or worse have our descendants find it in 500 years because it never decomposed after all that time. Companies should strive to use paper-based packaging or bio-degradable materials. So, although The Ultimate Green Store is trying to help by selling items that have been repurposed, it’s doing nothing about the actual process of making plastic or encouraging manufacturers to not use plastic for disposable means.
Another product that attempts to help but not really is Sunlight’s Green Clean laundry detergent, used to clean our fashion clothing so we can reuse them. It sports a typical “green” looking bottle that invokes thoughts of sustainability and eco-friendliness in shoppers. Apparently, other types of detergent are not able to decompose due to the fact they are typically made of petroleum based ingredients (Chemeng). This one in particular states in an ad that it uses plant-based materials and can break down in 28 days under specific circumstances. The downside to it is that “once water is eliminated, 38 percent of the product is made of petro-chemicals” (News).
Unfortunately, this still isn’t a complete solution to our environmental issues. It’s better than nothing but the best way to clean your clothes is using basic, non-toxic ingredients found in the supermarket such as fragrance free bar soap, Borax, washing soda, baking soda, or glycerin (Tipnut). If you would like to add fragrance, you can add organic essential oils. Recipes can be easily searched online and although it requires extra time in making it, it is much safer for you and your local water municipalities. Sunlight Green Clean is a product for people not exactly ready to switch over to living a different lifestyle. It’s for people who want to keep living the same way but are willing to make minor tweaks and adjustments that are easy to do and don’t require any additional effort. So, at the end of the day, this product is “green-ish” and not entirely safe for the environment.
All of these products may have the greatest intentions but sometimes fail at providing the proper solution. Corporations are taking action to do something but to really make an impact, we as a society need to try harder. The more time we take to create great solutions, the more we sacrifice the land we live on. Companies are at least trying. These products however, are all guilty of greenwashing.
Published July 16, 2016
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Europe, Fur. “Fashion & Design.” 2016. Fur Europe. http://www.fureurope.eu/fur-society/fashion-design/. 14 07 2016.
Lapidos, Juliet. “Will My Plastic Bag Still Be Here in 2507?” 2016. Slate. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2007/06/will_my_plastic_bag_still_be_here_in_2507.htm. 14 07 2016.
McCutcheon, Jody. “Is Fur Eco Friendly? We Look At Both Sides.” 2016. Eluxe Magazine. http://eluxemagazine.com/magazine/is-fur-eco-friendly/. 14 07 2016.
Mikkelson, David. “The Uggly Truth: Ugg Boots Are Made From Sheepskin?” 18 11 2013. Snopes.com: Rumor Has It. http://www.snopes.com/critters/crusader/uggs.asp. 14 07 2016.
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O’Connor, Mary Catherine. “Five Sustainable Boondoggles: Greenwashing All the Way to the Bank.” 25 08 2014. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/aug/25/5-sustainability-greenwash-products-ecofriendly-boondoggles-design. 14 07 2016.
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—. “The Chinese Fur Industry.” 2016. PETA. http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-clothing/fur/chinese-fur-industry/. 14 07 2016.
Store, The Ultimate Green. The Ultimate Green Store. 2016. http://www.theultimategreenstore.com/p-1164-terracycle-honest-kids-upcycled-backpack.aspx. 16 07 2016.
Terry, Beth. “About Me.” 2016. My Plastic Free Life. http://myplasticfreelife.com/about-me/. 14 07 2016.
Tipnut. “10 Homemade Laundry Soap Detergent Recipes.” 04 01 2007. Tipnut. http://tipnut.com/10-homemade-laundry-soap-detergent-recipes/. 16 07 2016.
World, Eco Fashion. “A Furry Issue.” 25 09 2008. Eco Fashion World . http://www.ecofashionworld.com/Ethical-Hotwire/A-FURRY-ISSUE.html. 14 07 2016.