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Green Tips: Winter Coats

Green Tips | November 5, 2020

It may not feel like it lately, but winter is right around the corner, which means frigid temperatures and probable snow storms. Winter coats are a must to keep warm during the frosty season but did you know that not all materials used to keep you warm are so eco-friendly? Check out our Green Tips on which winter coats are less harmful choices for our planet.

Down Feathers

Winter coats can be made with numerous materials. One of the most popular materials is down, which is an insulating material made from the shorter and softer feathers found on the chests of ducks and geese. There are aspects of the down industry to consider when opting for products with down, and we recommend conducting research before making a decision. 

If you’d prefer avoiding down, there are several down alternatives. If down alternatives are not an option, opt for brands that use “ethical down.” To ensure that your down is produced ethically, we recommend products that have been certified by the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) and/or the Global Traceable Down Standard (Global TDS). The following companies have made public commitments to follow the RDS. 

Natural Fabrics

Coats can also be made of a host of other natural materials, including wool, leather, and cotton. There are a few things to keep in mind about these industries when shopping for cold weather clothing.

Wool production has ecological impacts, as the animals release a large amount of methane (a potent greenhouse gas) and need a lot of land to graze on, contributing to deforestation and desertification.

Another popular material used for coats is leather, made primarily from the hide of cows, sheep, and goats. Just like the cultivation of sheep for wool, the cultivation of livestock for leather leads to the release of methane and deforestation. However, the production of leather includes an added step of tanning to avoid the decomposition of the hide. This process has been restricted in the United States and Europe because it produces toxic chemicals, among them chromium, a carcinogen. In developing countries where the tanning process is unregulated, toxic chemicals are often released into waterways and the workers at tanneries are at risk for developing short- and long-term ailments. Consider environmentally conscious leather manufacturers before purchasing a product made with leather.

Cotton production has environmental impacts, as well. It is very water-intensive to grow cotton. The production of just one kilogram of cotton uses 20,000 liters of water, and more than 250 billion tons of water are used to produce cotton every year. The cultivation of the cotton crop frequently involves the release of pesticides and other toxins into the environment. We recommend opting for sustainable or organic cotton.

Man-made Fabrics

Synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon, and acrylic are manufactured from oil and produce a significant amount of greenhouse gases during their production. Opt for biosynthetic fabrics made from corn, plant oils, and sugar can instead of petroleum. 

Decrease the Demand

Every consumer has the right to decide what is best for them, and we hope the information above is helpful. Considering the environmental impact for many common winter coat materials, we recommend second-hand shopping. Reducing the demand on manufacturing and preventing a coat from entering a landfill is a great way to keep warm and reduce environmental burden. Consider shopping at a thrift store this season or doing a clothing swap with a friend. If you have any coats that can go to someone in need, we encourage you to donate! 

Thank you for reading this week’s Green Tips! Be sure to check in next week for more eco-friendly tips! 


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