We all know once the cold hits it’s time to put on heavy clothing.
Yet, when you’re vegan it can be tricky. A lot of the clothes, especially sweatshirts contain materials that don’t blend well with vegan principles.
And so the real question remains… is fleece vegan?
Can you wear fleece without affecting an animal in the process?
Let’s find out in just a moment.
What Is Fleece, Anyway?
Fleece is a synthetic insulating fabric made from a type of plastic called polyethylene terephthalate (PET). It is used for sweaters, sweatshirts, jackets, mittens, hats, blankets… and it’s a lighter and animal-free alternative to wool.
Unlike wool, fleece is also light-weight and contains anti-perspiration properties that allow the moisture to evaporate and dry the garment more quickly.
One of the reasons fleece is picked over wool is because you can easily wear fleece to exercise due to its breathable fabric.
What you need to keep an eye out for are the types of blends that may be introduced after the synthetic fibers are made. The manufacturer may incorporate different materials into the poly fleece such as wool, hemp or rayon to add a different feel to the texture.
If the fleece is called “cotton fleece,” it’s likely just made from a cotton blend. However, if wool is included, then you might find it with “wool fleece” on the label.
Is Fleece Good For The Environment?
Being made from non-renewable materials — instantly puts fleece on the Zero Waste hit list.
While the use of synthetic fibers and other chemicals make it more durable against humidity, it ends up causing more harm than good. When placed on the washing machine it deteriorates more quickly than clothes with a natural fabric.
The real danger of polyester-made clothes lies in each machine wash.
Whenever you put poly-made clothing in your washing machine, you’re sending pesticides and chemicals to the ocean.
A recent study from the University of California at Santa Barbara found that on average, synthetic fleece jackets release 1.7 grams of microfibres each wash, or as many as 250,000 synthetic fibers.
They also found out that the older the garment is, the more synthetic fibers it releases.
As it stands, regular fleece is still bad for the environment. The synthetic microfibers are dangerous because they are consumed by fish, which then spread across all the food chain, including us humans.
As a countermeasure, companies have tried to find a permanent alternative in recycled polyester. You probably have seen ‘eco-fleece’ garments somewhere.
Is Eco-Fleece A Better Alternative?
Recycled polyester is easier to recycle and is a more eco-friendly option.
Numbers show that creating a plastic bottle made of recycled plastic uses 75% less energy than its counterpart. Even though energy and water are still used to process these plastics to create new products, the amount is inferior to first-time plastics.
What does this mean?
This means you’re using fewer resources (think water, petroleum, etc), and thus you’re able to significantly reduce carbon emissions.
Right now… 60% of first-time rPET production is used to create new clothes. This means fewer clothes are produced with first-time plastics… ensuring the plastic already in circulation is re-used and exiting the landfill.
This is a way better option than plastic… but is it viable?
Is rPET A Viable Option?
Clothes made from rPET still need to be washed. And just like any other plastic, it decays and lands on the ocean before rising through the food chain.
Are fish badly affected?
Yes, they are. Microplastics can block a fish’s digestive tract and reduce its hunger.
This alters the natural feeding pattern which has a significant impact on its growth and reproductive nature. Some fish may even starve and die from having their stomachs stuffed with microplastics.
As a vegan, this should concern you, because although it may appear like you’re not directly impacting an animal’s life… you are. Therefore, when you choose to wear plastic, you’re also playing a role in guiding the lives of creatures in the ocean.
And in spite of the fact recycled plastic uses less energy in production, the act of melting plastic can pose a real threat to the environment and wildlife surrounding the production site. When plastics containing PVC are burned, harmful quantities of dioxins are emitted.
Alternatives To Fleece?
If you’re looking to prevent your clothes from polluting waterways and putting lives in danger, I can easily come up with a few eco-friendly ideas you can consider before fully revamping your wardrobe.
Label: Organic Cotton
Why not just cotton? That’s because conventional cotton is possibly one of the dirtiest and most polluting crops in the world.
The abuse of chemicals and pesticides in this industry puts farmers and the environment at risk. Furthermore, there’s also a degree of forced child labor in this industry — not to mention how farmers are miserably paid for their hard work.
Because farmers get drown in debt, high rates of farmer suicide have gone up.
If you want to help farmers and negate these impacts, you must not support these industries who prey upon farmers. Learn more about organic cotton instead.
Label: Linen (Flax)
As a vegan, you’re probably familiar with flaxseeds. They’re your best source of omega 3 and they can be your finest piece of clothing.
Linen has been traditionally manufactured in Europe and Japan for thousands of years and they a natural, sustainable option in most cases. I say most cases because China uses fertilizers to grow linen, which has negatively impacted the environment.
If you’re searching for natural, high-quality linen, search for clothes manufactured in Europe or Japan. These grant you the most sustainable options.
Hemp is a weed, so it grows plentifully with little water and no pesticides. And it produces more pulp per acre than trees, while also being biodegradable.
Every part of this plant can be used. The stalk’s outer bast fiber can make textiles, canvas, and rope while its core (hurd) can be used for paper, construction and more.
Since the US and Australia lifted the ban on hemp production, it has risen in popularity.
Fun fact: Hemp uses half the water to produce twice the amount of fiber produced by cotton.
When grown organically, bamboo fabric is a great eco-friendly option.
An issue arises, however, when bamboo is grown in industrial quantities because farmers are then forced to use fertilizers to augment their harvest.
Furthermore, if we exploit it on a large scale, forests filled with bamboo will be cleared and pandas will cease to exist because we’ve put their habitats at risk.
It’s important that you only seek organic options.
The Verdict: It’s Not Vegan (IMO), But It’s Complicated.
Every vegan is different.
One vegan may despise animal cruelty, while another may despise animal cruelty and the fact farmers in India are being enslaved by modern society.
It’s your choice to seek more sustainable alternatives. You’re not forced to do it.
However, the same way you’ve opened your heart to animals, I believe you can do the same for everything (and everyone) else… one step at a time. And I speak for myself as well.
If I had the money to SOLELY wear sustainable clothing, I would… and I will certainly drive toward that direction. In the meantime, it’s our mission to make an impact in whichever way we can.
Stay vegan, stay true.