Since 40% of the makeup of most landfills in the U.S. consists of discarded clothing, if you want to save the environment, you should look into wearing long-lasting materials that eventually biodegrade when their useful life is over. If you also care about cruelty to animals, this limits your choices further. However, always going for the green and cruelty-free choice will make you feel better and make the world a better place at the same time.

Cruelty-Free Wool

Wool has always been the best choice for outerwear for several reasons. The same dense fibers that keep sheep warm in frigid conditions also keep people warm. In addition, wool contains lanolin which acts as a moisture repellent. Irish sweaters are a great idea to add a second layer of warmth under your coat. They are extremely durable, warm and even stain repellant so they’re suitable for everyday wear.

Although wool comes from sheep, the animals actually need their wool removed every spring. Over the winter it becomes long, dirty and tangled and would make the sheep overheat in warm weather. Most shearers are well-practiced and highly skilled so the sheep are not harmed during the process.


Although fleece originally meant an animal hide, now fleece more often means the fuzzy product that results when plastic items like single-use water bottles are shredded and turned into fiber. This material is also referred to as rPET or recycled polyester. There are three great things about fleece.

The first is that it keeps thousands of plastic bottles out of landfills and the ocean. The second is that it’s very warm. The third is that it is lightweight so it’s easy to pack or carry with you. It also has a nice feel and is easily washable.


In all seasons, the best fabrics to wear as the first layer next to your skin include linen, hemp, bamboo and organic cotton. Make sure the cotton is truly organic. Cotton from other countries with less strict pollution rules often have been treated with pesticides and fungicides and may have been bleached.

This affects the health of the environment as well as that of the people doing the cotton farming. Also, these chemicals can linger in the cotton fiber long after it’s been harvested and turned into a garment.

What Not to Wear and Why

It’s actually quite difficult to find a winter coat these days that isn’t filled with down. Once, goose feathers were the by-product of geese used for food. Now, however, the down is “harvested” while the geese are alive. This is extremely painful for them and since other warm materials exist, it’s an unnecessary choice for winter.

Silk has always been a popular first layer for hikers and skiers. It is warm but not any warmer than linen or other cruelty-free fibers. Silk is obtained from the cocoons of silkworms. Unfortunately, the silkworms are killed after spinning their cocoons. That’s because the best way to obtain the silk fiber is by putting the cocoons in boiling water and unraveling the silk threads in one long piece. 

Angora, a fiber obtained from a special breed of rabbit, was once harvested responsibly by simply brushing the animals when they shed. However, the demand for this warm and fuzzy material grew. To increase supplies quickly, the irresponsible and cruel practice of pulling out the fur while still attached at the root started.

Check to make sure whatever wool products you buy either don’t contain Angora fiber or specifically state that the fiber was obtained without animal cruelty.

You have the power to save the environment and to help animals by choosing cruelty-free one garment at a time. All it takes is a little investigation into what your new potential purchases are really made of and where those materials came from. 

Once you start making the right choices, you’ll inspire others and the world will become a better place for us all.

Author: Finnegan Pierson

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