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7 Animal Friendly Alternatives to Wool

7 Animal Friendly Alternatives to Wool

Whether you’re looking to ditch wool from your wardrobe or find an animal friendly alternative to knit with, thankfully there are now a whole host of cruelty free fibers available to you.

Many people tout wool as an eco friendly choice, claiming it is much more sustainable that petroleum-based products, but at what price to the animals? From the horrific practice of mulesing and selective breeding causing unnaturally thick wool to their inevitable and terrifying slaughter, the wool industry isn’t as innocent as you may imagine.

Fortunately you can have the best of both worlds. If you care about the planet and the animals, then check out the following seven alternatives:

1. Bamboo

Naturally antibacterial, bamboo is a beautiful renewable fiber which grows rapidly without any need for pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. Fabric and clothing made from bamboo can be manufactured and produced without any chemical additives, and it’s 100% biodegradable and can be completely decomposed in the soil without releasing any harmful pollutants into the environment. Bamboo is also an increasingly important plant in terms of global deforestation as it generates up to 35% more oxygen.

2. Banana

Made from either the young shoots or the outer bark of banana trees, harvesting of this fiber does not hurt the tree and it is a completely renewable resource. Although time intensive, the process of banana production is nonetheless a sustainable one that offers numerous possibilities for those looking for wool alternatives.

3. Hemp

Well known for its durability and strength, hemp is one of the oldest and most versatile fabrics used in textile production. It is 100% biodegradable, recyclable and reusable, it grows fast and thrives in all sorts of climates, it improves soil structure and even cleans up toxins from the ground through the process of phytoremediation. Like cotton, hemp can also be made into a variety of fabrics, including high quality linen.

4. Flax

Named as one of the “optimal materials for America” by leading environmental site, flax is an incredibly useful plant that can be utilized in a number of ways. Growing naturally and requiring much less water than conventionally grown cotton, flax is gentle on the land and the processing of its fiber leaves little to no impact on the environment.

5. Organic Cotton

Organic cotton offers all the benefits of conventional cotton but without the environmental impacts. Cotton makes for a soft and versatile material that is super easy to work with and ideal for everything from blankets to clothing.

6. Tencel

Made from the natural cellulose found in the pulp of the eucalyptus tree, Tencel represents a milestone in the development of earth friendly textiles. The fiber is very economical in its use of energy and natural resources, and it is fully biodegradable. Tencel is created through a closed-loop process whereby 99% of all solvents and emissions are recovered, recycled or decomposed.

7. Recycled Plastic

Polar Fleece is made from 100% recycled PET plastic bottles and has numerous advantageous environmental and fabric qualities. The fabric is created by melting down old plastic bottles into pelts which are then spun out into yarns ready for creating the fleece. The fleece fabric has great insulating properties and has a low water retention value of just 1%. The process prevents billions of PET products from ending up on landfill sites and the fleece can even be recycled again in the future, giving an endless cycle of reuse.

Of course all of the above alternatives are not without their faults, but when grown, sourced and manufactured ethically and organically, they are solid replacements for wool-based products.

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Photo Credit: olduser

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4:36AM PDT on Aug 21, 2015

thanks for the article.

10:06AM PST on Mar 3, 2015

thanks for sharing :)

1:21PM PDT on Jun 8, 2014

Thank you. As for woolen socks in the Polish winter, I agree with dale and Myriam.

6:57PM PDT on Apr 13, 2014

Very true, Shan D. There are some people who have allergies to wool. There is some wool that I find very itchy and other wool that is fine, no reaction. I like cotton and in the cold air when going out, wool certainly is marvellous. I knit a warm wool scarf years ago that I still use in the cold winters.

5:14PM PDT on Apr 11, 2014

When I'm indoors, I find cotton quite comfortable. Mind you, I wear layers, and have some knitted sweaters (made with acrylic yarn). I'm allergic to wool - can't even touch it with a fingertip without a rash and a lot of pain, so I've had to make some compromises with synthetics as well as cotton.

5:05PM PDT on Apr 11, 2014

Agreed Myriam G, Marina B. You are certainly correct, Marina B when you state that: "I wear wool and will keep wearing it. But I buy wool items that come from designers like Stella McCartney, who makes sure that her suppliers treat sheep humanely."

Many people are able to find their wool from humane sources.

Very true, Myriam G. Not all climates are warm all year around and when the wind chill is -40, few people are going to wear cotton. I am not interested in products that are plastic based either.

5:59AM PDT on Mar 27, 2014

noted ...thank you for sharing

7:46PM PDT on Mar 25, 2014


3:05PM PDT on Mar 25, 2014

I wear wool and will keep wearing it. But I buy wool items that come from designers like Stella McCartney, who makes sure that her suppliers treat sheep humanely. Or I go to vintage stores and pick up items there. I bought a wool jacket made in the 1960s that is warmer and fits better than lesser-quality garments found in the fast-fashion stores. Also, brands like Icebreaker produce high-quality wool garments that can be traced back to the original farms that supply the wool.

Try avoiding wool in the NYC winter. It's impossible.

9:06AM PDT on Mar 25, 2014

Organic cotton would be a good replacement for wool?!? This morning, it was -15 Celcius where I live, and it's been pretty much like this for the past 4 months. To me, in weather like this, cotton (or bamboo, or banana, etc) does not replace the warmth of wool. Maybe polar fleece could replace wool, but certainly not cotton.

I try to knit with alpaca or wool from companies that I trust to raise their animals in a humane way. For me, organic cotton and the like is good for summer, maybe late spring or early autumn. If you live in a warm region where you can wear cotton all year round, good for you! If you don't... well, you may understand me...

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