Fur, Fashion and Ecocred

www.cbc.ca

A significant increase in fur use within the fashion industry over the last two or so years indicates a departure from the anti-fur and animal rights sentiment and campaigns that characterized much of the green and ethical consumption discussions between the 60’s and 90s. I find this quite interesting given the increasing attention of the world on sustainability and green issues that has been brought about by a greater awareness of environmental degradation, equity, resource scarcity and climate change.

Fur use has a long history spanning from ancient use of fur to current fur use. A (very) brief history would be something like;

  • Necessity where our ancestors killed an animal for necessity i.e. for sustenance (meat) and used the rest of the animal in a sustainable manner such as using the inedible parts of the animal for clothing, tools etc
  • Status symbol: the association of fur and royalty (specifically ermine, mink)
  • This in turn resulted in fur being farmed (1800’s) and becoming a costly luxury item.
  • The development of cheaper options such as dyed and fake fur
  • Anti-fur campaignscommencing in -+ 1960’s (onwards), that resulted in reduced fur use. e.g.
    • PETA was established in 1976 and Lynx in 1980
    • Naomi Campbell and other super models in PETA campaigns
    • Lynx “it takes up 40 dumb animals to make this and only one to wear it” campaign

Fur sales have seen an increase of approximately 70% between 2000- 2010, and fur seems to be de riguer in most winter fashion collections and those in the fashion forward and trend setting scene. In many of instances the fur used is real and not fake, and there seems to be a growing acceptance of fur as a sustainable and natural choice. Considering the speed at which trends spread, especially in the fashion industry, this trend does not bode very well if you happen to be a creature with a beautiful and silky pelt.

In light of the above, given rise in sustainability, environment, green wash,ethical consumption and the fact that fur is a natural “resource” that is being positioned as a benign natural product by the fur industry, I thought it wise to look into the ecocred of fur. Is fur sustainable,green, ethical, equitable and good for us?

These are the issues that I think one should consider;

  • History shows that the fur trade has negative impacts on biodiversity and has resulted in species decline and biodiversity loss. As we know we need to maintain our biodiversity to ensure the provision of ecological services etc
  • Fur and leather are natural, recyclable and reusable.
  • The impact of fur farming includes pollution, waste, habitat loss, loss of biodiversity unethical treatment of animals and is hardly sustainable and or ethical, just like large-scale cattle or sheep farming.

“Compared with textiles, farmed fur has a higher impact on 17 of the 18 environmental themes, including climate change, eutrophication and toxic emissions. In many cases fur scores markedly worse than textiles, with impacts a factor 2 to 28 higher, even when lower-bound values are taken for various links in the production chain. The exception is water depletion: on this impact cotton scores highest.” (Bijleveld et al, 2011)

  • According to the International Fur Trade Federation (IfTF) “Both scientists and governments agree that after more than 100 generations, farmed fur animals are effectively domesticated. In a statement to the Dutch Government in 1999, the Danish Justice Ministry noted that “The farmed mink’s temperament, for instance, has changed from being a nervous, agitated animal fleeing to its nesting cage upon approach of human beings, to now often reacting curious and examining.” Not really sure I like where this train of thought is going…!?
  • A lot of us eat meat, (though hopefully you try to eat free range, local and organic etc to try to reduce the ecological footprint of your meat consumption and be more sustainable), so technically you are involved with the killing of animals as well as habitat loss and loss of biodiversity already. Does this make wearing fur more acceptable, sustainable or ethical?

“ The climate change impact of 1 kg of mink fur is five times higher than that of wool which was the highest-scoring textile” in a study on the textile industry and climate change impacts. (Bijleveld et al, 2011)

  • Even if you are vegetarian or vegan you are to some degree involved in habitat loss, loss of biodiversity, killing of living things etc unless you are able to grow your own food and verify that there has been no negative ethical or environmental impact arising from your source of food.
  • International Fur Trade Federation (IfTF) also states that “the majority of wild species used by the fur trade are not taken specifically for their fur, but as part of wildlife management programmes. These are necessary for the maintenance of biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, population and disease control and the protection of public lands and private property. The international fur trade does not handle any endangered species and to this end supports the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
  • There is also a great deal of evidence of inhumane treatment of animals as part of the fur manufacturing process.

I haven’t covered all the impacts or aspects of fur and I could go on and on and on about the ethics and environmental impacts, some positive, most negative.

My aim is to highlight the fact that it is up to each of us to ensure that we recognize the real impacts of our fashion choices. Personally it’s about necessity, demand and not falling for the green wash that fur is green and sustainable within our current context.

I would rather not add to the demand for something that is not a necessity and also has a significant environmental impact, despite the fact that I love fashion and would love to wear something awesome, soft, warm and beautiful. If I have to keep warm I would prefer to do so with something that has the lowest impact and not something that adds unnecessarily to environmental degradation even if it’s is the height of fashion. If you have to up/ recycle an old, over 20 or 30 years) fur item but don’t add to the needless demand for fur.

Reference and additional readings for the super keen:

History of Fur: http://www.furgifts.com/?p=90

http://www.historytoday.com/carol-dyhouse/skin-deep-fall-fur

IfTF: The Socio-Economic Impact of International Fur Farming www.iftf.com

Marijn Bijleveld, Marisa Korteland, Maartje Sevenster The environmental impact of mink fur production. Delft, CE Delft, January 2011

http://www.oikeuttaelaimille.net/materiaali/esitteet/information%20about%20fur%20farming.pdf

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Victoria’s (Green Wash) Secret Highlights Why If You Want To Be An Angel You Need To Act Like One!

In the latest we didn’t know but we will be looking in to it story the Victoria’s Secret “Pesticide-free, 100% rain-fed cotton. Good for women. Good for the children that depend on them.” range has been exposed for using cotton that is not so good to children and not really Fair Trade. (For more information on this please click on the links at the bottom of this post!)

Victoria’s Secret LTD thought they were sourcing fair trade cotton… and so they thought they were being good global citizens…. As did the Victoria’s Secret die-hards (and a few not so die-hards) who thought that by wearing the Victoria’s Secret undies (and other little bits of lace and stuff) they would not only transformed into looking like a Victoria Secret Angel… but also be doing quite an angelic deed.

So where does the blame lie? Does the blame lie solely with Victoria’s Secret LTD? Or with the fair trade certifying body? Or the consumer? Things to consider when buying / consuming …

  • Paying premiums for organic and fair-trade cotton has — perversely — created fresh incentives for exploitation (www.bloomberg.com). This applies to most areas where there has been a realization that there are profits to be made in the next big thing…greening, green wash… etc
  • A consumer cannot abdicate ethical, moral, green decision-making by leaving the “big, green, ethical” issues for fair trade certifying bodies, multinational organizations, politicians etc.
  • Just as not all that glitters is gold… not all that is labeled green/ good/ ethical etc is green, good or ethical.
  • Don’t be a gullible consumer.

The same principle applies to carbon credits, the green economy and the climate change COP17 discussions etc Just because the politicians, leaders etc fly around the world and meet to discuss things like emissions reductions, sustainable development and the green economy transition it does not mean that they are in fact guiding us towards a more equitable and sustainable future. We each have a role to play and leaving the big decisions to the worlds “leaders” is not going to get us any closer to an equitable and sustainable future.

Additional reading:

What Is Victoria’s Secret? Actually, It’s Child Labor

Victoria’s Secret to probe child labor claims

Victoria’s Secret Revealed in Child Picking

Extras, Ethical Consumption & My Paul Smith Handbag Crush

I think it particularly important that the extras, luxuries and nice to “haves” that one buys are the ones that need to go that extra mile not just to show value for money but also value for the environment and ethics.

The BAG! (www.paulsmith.co.uk)

(This post should have been or could have been entitled “I am no greenie saint….but I try in my own little way… now please can I have that bag!”)

Being a “greenie” and wanting make the greenest, most ethical and earth-friendly decisions is not always easy. In fact green decision-making and consumption is fraught with speed-bumps and pot-holes in the form of green wash, the misrepresentation of products as green, ethical, sustainable and or ecological friendly. Green, sustainability and environmental issues have been hijacked and often products are labeled as green/organic etc when in my opinion they are pretty far from green or good for the environment or the consumers. In many instances i try to buy green, ethical or sustainable products but end up buying products that don’t quite fit your/ or my idea of ethical, green or sustainable. A few examples are;

  • Organic produce that ends up having the most awful carbon miles, having been shipped/flown in from a far off continent.
  • Buying a natural, recyclable etc product but it has been made in a sweatshop with GM cotton or some other nasty type of raw material.
  • Using a natural face cream (that doesn’t harm animals) but has resulted in the monoculture and deforestation (resource inputs such as palm oil, shea butter etc) of large tracts if land which has negatively affected the biodiversity of an area.
  • Installing solar panels in your home in an attempt to reduce your carbon footprint only to find out that the panels are produced in a far off country that doesn’t really mind if you the solar panel factory is polluting the catchment within which it is located causing the ill-health and loss of livelihoods to entire villages etc….

And there I was thinking that I was making ethical consumption choices that would help the planet …. ??

So what is one to do….??  I guess in order to retain ones sanity and not over think each and every thing you end up consuming, the most logical thing make a difference where you can. The approach I take in trying to be a green consumer entails not blindly buying into advertising, green wash and misinformation etc by reading labels and using some logic. For me this implies (among other things)… trying to restrict my consumption patterns to;

  • Needs as opposed to wants.
  • Buying local, organic and ethical and making sure where possible that the claims about the product are not simply green wash.
  • Being logical about labeling and checking labels
  • Staying away from overly processed and packed products
  • Staying away from GM… though this can be very difficultly considering that GM produce is not always labeled etc
  • etc…

Sometimes my wants become needs… (often this relates to fashion items… which surprisingly have quite poor green/ethical track records…given that fashion is often regarded a luxury etc ) and then I try to find a “good green thing“ about the lust-have product that is hopefully not negated by a long list of really bad things about the product/lust have that is occupying my every waking moment.

My latest lust have is a handbag. More specifically, a Paul Smith handbag. Not being a brand hag but really liking nice things…. I was initially quite confused by my need for this specific bag….. however, it seems that I have fallen hopelessly in love with the handbag.

It is a multi-colour, leather bag that would work with almost all of my clothes… in other words it is almost perfect. I would be able to wear it for a good few seasons ..(I don’t believe in blindly following the glossies or what the fashion gurus say is the it item etc so I don’t mind wearing stuff that is considered as being “ohh so five seasons ago)… so I think the bag would be a good buy. I could probably use it until it falls apart, and / or is recycled into something else or used by someone else. I could see myself being a little old lady and still using the bag…in other words I would be willing to commit to the bag….

It would seem that I have already justified the addition of the bag to my world…. But when I tried to research Paul Smith and their environmental/ sustainability policy, to try to shut up my conscience and make me feel better about wanting something that I don’t really need… I didn’t find any information!? Is this even possible? In this day and age surely I am not the only person wondering what this particular brand thinks/ does etc about being more ethical, sustainable and green?

Maybe they are taking the highroad and not green washing their products until they can stand by all their green and ethical claims…?  … or maybe the brand is just not interested in ethical or green consumption?

Please can someone tell me that I am wrong? I really would like to be able to find something positive, ethical or green about Paul Smith?  And I really would like to buy the bag…..

Green Fashion, Educated Choices and Levi’s Waterless Jeans?!

"Levis Water<less" jeans

I was looking into what makes an item of clothing green/ greener/ good for the environment/ sustainable etc… and came across “Levis Waterless Jeans“. My first thought was “Greenwash.” My greenwash train of thought focused on the following issues;

What about:

  • The water and energy used in the production,packaging, transport and sale of the jeans
  • The monoculture cotton plantations and the impacts on biodiversity and water
  • The (very high) possibility that the denim is produced from Genetically Modified (GM) cotton
  • The dyes that go into the dying of the denim. What dyes do they use, what are they made of etc….
  • The water used to wash and dispose of the jeans….

My list could go on forever……

But then I decided to have a look at what Levi’s said made their jeans waterless and therefore better for the environment… and these are my thoughts:

  • It seems that even though the product is not entirely green or perfectly waterless…. it does at least start to engage with the issue of water and sustainability. Maybe “WATER<LESS” is a bit of an exaggeration in this regard?
  • Hopefully the product will start to get customers asking the right questions about ethical and green fashion and consumption.
  • The campaign provides some facts and figures about the production process and also links the issue of water conservation with people who live in water scarce areas.
  • The campaign did not adequately tackle the issue of monoculture, biodiversity and water. This is a key flaw in the campaign as the production of the cotton for the denim is a very large part of the water use debate as is the impact of monoculture agriculture on water catchements, ecosystems and our water resources. One should however note that Levis has aligned with the Better Cotton Initiative. However, I was unable to determine wether the initiative supports GM Cotton or not. The biodiversity impacts and GM issue are a key issue for me!
  • The Levis Waterless Jeans are one product in the Levis range… what about the other products?
In conclusion, I think that the Levi’s Waterless Jeans are (for me) not the amazing eco-fashion answer to eco-friendly jeans, though they are a step in the right direction and will (hopefully) get consumers asking questions about issues of sustainability, sustainable consumption and how our consumption patterns affect the natural environment.
It is very important that we consider all the aspects related to our consumption patterns and don’t simply buy into every headline and green marketing campaign. We may not be perfect but every informed decision we make is a step in the right direction.

Levis Water<less jeans lifecycle

*Please note that this is my opinion and that I am not endorsing any brand or product.

Stella McCartney To Launch An Eco-friendly Sunglass Line!

Great news for eco-friendly fashionistas!! Apparently Stella McCartney has been involved in the research and development of an earth friendly range of sunnies which should launch in 2012!


Nothing finishes off an outfit like the perfect pair of sunnies that are stylish and not harmful to nature! Super exciting! I can’t wait! I just hope that this isn’t another case of greenwash and the sunnies are in fact not harmful to out planet!


Check out this link for more information.