How To Create A Cruelty-Free Closet and Home

How To Create A Cruelty-Free Closet and Home

Millions of animals are raised, abused and killed everyday for our clothing, shoes, jewelry and home furnishings and accessories. From cashmere and wool blankets, to down comforters and silk sheets, we buy and use products and fabrics that come from animals without thinking about the harm, exploitation and violence it causes for them. Sheep, cows, goats, lambs, reptiles, rabbits, ducks and geese are subjected to deep suffering and cruelty for their wool, skin, hair, fur and feathers that we use. But today, there are many comparable and even superior non-animal alternatives. These non-animal fabrics are highly sophisticated, technologically advanced, superior to their animal counterparts, and are equally warm, soft, and beautiful. Instead of buying that scarf or pair of boots, or that throw or comforter that is made from animal parts—consider these cruelty-free, more sustainable, luxe alternatives.

Making a commitment not to buy products made from animals for your home and closet is a compassionate and ethical decision. Today the synthetic and natural alternatives to leather, fur, suede, shearling and wool look incredibly good, feel good, are highly aesthetic, well crafted, comparably priced, are warmer in many cases, are stronger and last longer, and best of all—don’t hurt animals. These natural and man-made synthetic alternatives not only help animals, but help the environment because non-animal products are less environmentally destructive and more sustainable than raising and farming animals. Non-animal materials and fabrics don’t contribute to deforestation due to grazing, don’t contribute to species extinction and wildlife habitat destruction, and don’t kill billions of animals. And why wear something that comes from an animal when you can buy something else that doesn’t cause suffering, and looks and feels as good if not better?

Building your cruelty-free closet and home will require you to search for specific fabrics and carefully read labels. You will want to search online for “cruelty-free,” “vegan,” “man made,” “animal-free” and synthetic plus the type of product you’re looking for like—a coat, boots, handbag, comforter or throw. You’ll find a bounty of search results that give you exactly what you’re looking for. First, let’s look at what to avoid and why:

What to Avoid / Where It Comes From

Avoid all products made using animals including leather, suede, fur, animal skins, shearling, silk, down, wool, rabbit, cashmere, Angora, mohair, pashmina, alpaca and llama.

  • Leather/Suede – Leather is animal skin made from cows, sheep, pigs, horses and deer that are farmed and slaughtered mainly in the U.S., China, India and in developing countries. Suede is made from the underside of the skin, primarily from lamb, goat, calf and deer. Millions of these animals are industrially farmed for their leather hides and experience extreme crowding, inhumane conditions, mutilations, nonexistent animal welfare, and are slaughtered using very cruel methods. Leather or animal skins can be raised independent of the meat market, but most often animal skin is an important by-product of the meat industry—and the more profitable driver for the industry. Leather also contributes to extremely harmful environmental impacts due to the tanning process of the hides.
  • Fur – Fur is a horrifically cruel industry. More than 50 million animals are raised and killed for their fur every year. Most fur animals are farmed for fur, including raccoon dogs and cats (China), foxes, minks, rabbits, lynxes, beavers, and chinchillas. They experience horrifying cruelty confined to small wire cages, in overcrowded conditions, living on painful wire floors, where they self-mutilate and chew on their own bodies due to the extreme stress, trauma and suffering they are experiencing, then are cruelly killed by anal electrocution, are skinned alive, gassed, poisoned, or strangled—all to leave their fur intact for fashion. Other wild animals used for fur are painfully trapped or brutally killed and skinned fully conscious like baby seals in Canada. It can take many animals and animal skins just to make one coat, or several animals to make one fur collar.
  • Exotic Skins – Skins that come from snakes, alligators, crocodiles and other reptiles including lizards, are mostly farmed and these reptiles are usually skinned alive. Their bodies are discarded and disposed of like waste. It can take many snakes or crocodiles to make just one handbag.
  • Shearling – Shearling comes from the skin of a recently sheared sheep or lamb, with the wool still attached. It is made from the sheep or lamb shorn just before slaughter. It can take dozens of individual sheep or lamb skins to make just one shearling coat.
  • Silk – Silk comes from the caterpillars of the silk moth or worm, who spin a cocoon around themselves to protect their bodies. To harvest the silk, farmers take the cocoon with the silk worm inside, and kill it by steaming, boiling or baking the cocoon. Approximately 3,000 silkworms die to make every pound of silk.
  • Down – Down comes from the soft layer of duck and geese feathers that are closest to the skin, usually in the chest area. They can be plucked repeatedly and painfully while alive, which is very cruel for them, or can be plucked immediately before slaughter for meat. Plucking is painful and stressful for them, and often causes deep wounds and infection. It can take tens of ducks and birds to make just one comforter or jacket. Buying down also supports the cruelty of the foie gras industry.
  • Wool – Wool comes from sheep that are often sheared too quickly, cruelly causing multiple injuries, deep wounds and festering infections. Plus sheep today have been genetically modified to produce an unnatural amount of wool, which causes them heat stroke and overheating. Most sheep are raised on industrial-size farms in the U.S., Australia, England, and China, where baby lambs are castrated and mutilated by the practice of “mulesing” without any anesthetic. When they are no longer wanted for their wool, sheep from Australia are shipped to the Middle East for the meat market, where they incur more suffering and totally unregulated and inhumane slaughter techniques.
  • Angora (Wool) – Angora wool comes from Angora rabbits that are farmed in tiny cages mainly in China, where they are strapped to boards for shearing and get injured while fighting the pain of shearing. Proper wool gathering is to wait for molting, then collect their fur, but in China these rabbits experience terrible suffering while they are painfully plucked or sheared every four months. They live on wire cage floors that are painful for their delicate feet. Newly born male rabbits are often killed immediately if they aren’t wanted for breeding.
  • Mohair (Wool) – Mohair comes from Angora goats that are sheared. Mainly they are farmed in Australia on industrial-size farms which can be very unethical.
  • Cashmere (Wool) – Cashmere is wool that comes from shearing the soft underside of Cashmere goats in China and Mongolia. The goats are also used for milk, and eventually they are killed.
  • Pashmina (Wool) – Pashmina comes from Tibetan mountain goats, where they are farmed for their wool then eventually killed.
  • Alpaca/Llama (Wool) – The alpaca and llama will either have their long hair cut or shorn. Native to South America, alpaca and llamas thrive in cold climates, but unfortunately many are raised and forced to live in warm climates where they overheat and can be subjected to heat stroke. In South America they are eventually farmed for their meat, whereas in the U.S. they are often kept as pets.
  • Camel Hair (Wool) – Camels are raised primarily in the Middle East, and their hair is combed out during their yearly molt. They are usually killed for meat in Arab countries.

What to Buy?

Any natural fibers including canvas, cotton, linen, hemp, and wood pulp; and any synthetic man-made materials including synthetic products such as faux or vegan leather (Pleather), polyurethane (PU), polyester, fleece, nylon, tencel, rayon, acrylic, viscose and recycled plastic.

You don’t have to make the transition all at once. You can decide to keep what you already have, and from this point forward choose not to buy any more clothes or home goods that use animal products. Or if you feel you no longer want to wear or possess any animal products, then donate your goods to a thrift store, consignment store, or charity nonprofit that sells used goods or sell them online. Then start replacing the items that you donated with animal-free, synthetic alternatives. Handbags and shoes will be the difficult areas, but there are now many great brands that offer well designed vegan shoes and handbags using beautifully crafted man-made materials.

More About Animals Used for Clothing and Home Accessories

The Animals used for Exotic Skins

The Animals used for Fur, and the Fur Industry

The Rabbits used for Angora, and the Angora Industry

The Sheep used for Wool, and the Wool Industry

The Cows, Goats and Sheep used for Leather, and the Leather Industry

How to Create A Cruelty-Free Closet

  1. Don’t Buy Leather – Instead look for non-animal leather fabrics and products.  They are easy to find and readily available and mimic the aesthetics of leather. In some cases, you won’t know the difference. You want to look or search for words such as—vegan leather, faux leather, microfiber synthetic leather, pleather, synthetic or artificial leather, vinyl or PVC, polyurethane (or degradable polyurethane), canvas and even reconstituted post-industrial materials including recycled or scrap materials like recycled PET polyester that are now being used for purses and shoes. Some synthetic materials to look for include: Naugahyde, Durabuck, pleather, NuSuede and Hydrolite. Vegan microfiber is similar to leather in looks, durability and flexibility. Plus there are many genuinely eco-friendly vegan leathers as well like cork, paper, barkcloth, waxed cotton, coolstone leather, tree bark leather, pinatex (from pineapple), and recycled rubber. See PETA’s Compassionate Shopping Guide and Vegan Guide to Leather Alternatives 2017, or download the Guide to Leather Alternatives, from Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG) and see our Cruelty-free Vegan Fashion Guide.
  2. Don’t Buy Down and Feathers – Avoid down- or feather-filled coats, vests, and
    How to Create A Cruelty-Free Closet and Home

    Women’s Thermoball Hooded Parka by The North Face

    clothing altogether. Instead look for synthetic-fill and natural fibers and synthetic down designed to mimic lofty duck down. Checkout polyester insulation fills like Polarguard, Polartec, PrimaLoft, Fiberfill II, Thinsulate and Thermore, ThermoBall (North Face uses), ThermaFill (Eddie Bauer), ThermaCheck (Lands End) and Tencel insulation. Today PrimaLoft is the premier supplier of insulation for the U.S. military to be used in extreme cold and wet conditions. Most of these are hypoallergenic and will not cause allergies like down or feathers. Be sure to examine the label and look for “polyester or man-made materials.” Several outerwear brands like Patagonia and The North Face now offer excellent synthetic options. Or you can consider buying a pre-worn down jacket or coat from a thrift shop.

  3. Don’t Buy Jewelry Made From Animal Parts – Avoid pearls, tortoise-shell, animal bone, ivory, horn, and elephant hair. There is even a page of “Taxidermy Animal Parts Jewelry” on ETSY to avoid. This jewelry supports and encourages the trapping, hunting and killing of animals to use their parts unnecessarily, frivolously and cruelly. It sends the wrong message. Many bone products come from Africa and India, and ivory is illegal in most of the world. Instead look for faux pearls, plastic, beads, metals, crystals, anything man-made – that does not cause animals to suffer and die for one’s occasional fashion statement. Some 20,000 endangered sea turtles are killed every year in Mexico, many when they are most vulnerable, just after they lay their eggs on shore.
  4. Don’t Buy Animal Fur – Instead buy faux fur or no fur. Many people now are
    How To Create A Cruelty-Free Closet and Home

    SpiritHoods Brown Rabbit Faux Fur Coat

    abstaining from wearing anything resembling fur at all, so they are not mistaken for wearing the real thing. Watch out for mislabeled faux fur. To make sure it’s faux, check the material at the base of the fur—it should clearly be a fabric or cloth base. The tips at the end of the hair should not be tapered but blunt cut, and if still in question, burn some hairs—if they smell like human hair burning, it’s from an animal. Some stores that only sell faux fur are H&M, Zara, and JCPennys. Here’s a list of fur-free retailers, and Imposter4Animals has 100% cruelty-free apparel, so does SpiritHoods.com, FabulousFurs.com, and faux-fur fashion brand Shrimps. For warm coats, try Patagonia, Vaute Couture, Fjallraven and Arc’teryx. Online shopping portal Net-A-Porter only offers faux fur apparel. For home goods, like faux fur throws, blankets and pillows try POSHPELTS and FabulousFurs.com. Check here for faux fur Q&A. Faux fur fabrics to look for are Modacrylic and acrylic, silk viscose, synthetic acrylic knits, woven mohair (Steiff Schulte), cotton jersey (Taenaka Pile), and polyester. Faux fur is easy to find at most department stores and clothing shops. See PETA’s Compassionate Shopping Guide and checkout our Cruelty-free Vegan Fashion Guide.

  5. Don’t Buy Wool – Instead buy natural and man-made synthetic alternatives to wool. Look for organic cotton, cotton flannel, linen, bamboo, flax, hemp, polyester and recycled polyester (rPET or Recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate), polyester fleece, synthetic shearling, and other cruelty-free fibers including Tencel and Lyocell (both made from wood pulp), which are breathable, durable, and biodegradable. Another newer fabric that is a high-density fleece and has four times the wind resistance of wool is Polartec Wind Pro. It also effectively wicks away moisture. It is made mainly from recycled plastic soda bottles. Bamboo fiber feels like a cross between silk and cashmere. It is strong, soft and light. Linen and flax are excellent alternatives to wool, they are strong, absorb moisture, wick moisture and are non-allergenic. Modal, the original artificial silk, comes from Beech trees, absorbs moisture well, is very soft and smooth, drapes well, and dyes easily. Vegan felt is another great option made from synthetic fibers. Recycled Polyester has become very popular with high-fashion designers and is easily found in retailers Armani, H&M, Patagonia and Esprit.
  6. Replace Suede With Faux Suede – Faux suede is a man-made synthetic material
    How to Create A Cruelty-Free Closet and Home

    Womens Trench Faux Suede Coat from James&Co Vegan Boutique

    made from 100 percent polyester. It is also called faux suede leather. Another faux suede fabric is microfiber suede leather and suede microfiber synthetic leather. The fabric is made from nylon and polyurethane and is 100 percent synthetic material. Microsuede is also very similar to suede, made from a knit blend of fibers woven together. It is wrinkle resistant, making it a great choice for bedding, furniture upholstery and curtains. There are many benefits to faux suede over real suede—faux suede is water-resistant, more durable, much easier to clean and maintain, and costs way less. Faux suede looks and feels just like genuine suede, but is a fraction of the cost and much easier to care for.

  7. Replace Cashmere – Instead of buying cashmere from Cashmere goats, which is completely not sustainable nor ethically produced, buy Lenpur, from white fir wood in Southeast Asia, that is just as soft as cashmere. A more sustainable source, although animal-based, but cruelty-free, is Yak’s fur (Tibetan ox), which loses their hair spontaneously due to seasonal change. The Yak is a sacred animal in Tibet, and is free-range and not subjected to the cruelties of industrial-size farming practices. Two companies using the hair are Myak and Maeko, both from Italy. We still recommend going with vegan, man-made alternatives.
  8. Don’t Buy Exotic Snake- or Reptile Skins – Instead look for vegan snakeskin, faux snakeskin or snakeskin-embossed faux leather. Not vegan, but fish skins and fish leather is another option, are very durable and far more sustainable than animal skins. For faux snakeskin purses, belts, and accessories checkout Polyvore (use the Search function), also visit ETSY, ShopStyle, Overstock, Amazon and Beyond Skin. You can buy faux snakeskin and synthetic leather at Alibaba.com. Here’s a great vegan fashion shopping list along with our Cruelty-free Vegan Fashion Guide.
  9. Buy Vegan Shearling, not Sheep or Lamb Shearling – Instead of killing a lamb
    How To Create A Cruelty-Free Closet and Home

    Jambu “Arctic” Vegan Shearling and Vegan Leather UGG Boot

    or sheep to get shearling, buy microfiber alternatives that is lined with a synthetic polyester fake wool fabric. Also look for acrylic fabrics and synthetic polyester that mimics wool. Checkout these vegan UGG boots and more vegan UGG boot alternatives. There is also Eco-Shearling, which does not require the skinning or killing of any animals. Instead, Eco-Shearling fibers are sheared from live lamb/sheep using a process designed specifically to be cruelty-free. For faux shearling coats, checkout Polyvore and Lyst, and checkout this great vegan fashion shopping list along with our Cruelty-free Vegan Fashion Guide.

  10. Replace Silk with Faux Silk and Artificial Silk – You can hardly tell the difference between artificial silk and real silk today. Artificial silk is made from rayon and/or polyester, nylon, rayon, hemp, Lyocell or Tencel. Tencel and Lycocell are made from wood pulp and are a great replacement for silk. Both are extremely soft, drape well, are wrinkle free, can be washed, easily dyed and can mimic the texture of suede, leather, moleskin, wool and silk. Lyocell 500-Thread Count Stripe Sheet Set comes in beautiful colors at Bed, Bath & Beyond. Modal is a type of rayon made from the renewable fiber of the Beech tree. Modal fabric is very soft, and silky smooth, drapes beautifully, and has a slight sheen, and is considered the original “artifical silk.” Modal does not need to be ironed and retains its shape, color and size even after repeated washings. Learn more about the practices involved in silk production.
  11. Never Buy or Wear Feathers – Protect the birds. Bird feathers are not fashionable, they support the capture and breeding of captive birds that are imprisoned in cages never taking flight. Or feathers come from exotic birds imported to the U.S. that die during capture, transit and quarantine.
  12. Buy Cork Products – Falling demand for cork is having a huge negative impact on endangered populations of Iberian Lynx, the Iberian Imperial Eagle, and the Barbary Deer. It is often more profitable to destroy the cork oak forests and replace them with other less environmentally-friendly forms of forestry and agriculture. Cork is impermeable and buoyant from the bark of a cork-oak tree every nine years. You can buy fashionable purses, shoes, and jewelry, and of course wine!

How To Create A Home Cruelty-Free

  1. How To Make A Cruelty Free Closet and Home

    Hypo-Allergenic ComforLOFT Polyester Fiberfill Comforter

    Don’t Buy Down – Avoid down- and feather-filled comforters, pillows, sleeping bags and furniture cushions. Instead look for luxurious synthetic-fill fibers like polyester insulation filling and synthetic down. For household bedding, consider organic cotton or hemp-filled comforters and duvet covers. Look for synthetic-fill fibers designed to mimic lofty down, like polyester insulation fills such as Polarguard, PrimaLoft, Thermore and Tencel insulation. Most are hypoallergenic and will not cause allergies like down or feathers. Be sure to examine the label, and look for “polyester or man-made materials.” Many celebrity-driven lifestyle labels, such as Martha Stewart for Macy’s, Cindy Crawford for JCPenney, Daisy Fuentes for Kohls, and Jenny McCarthy for Target, have introduced synthetic down in their bedding collections. Another option is to buy a pre-owned down product from a thrift store, then send it to the cleaners and it’s good as new. For sleeping bags, look for a new range of insulation material like Tencel or Lyocell (fiber made from tree pulp). When buying sleeping bags, if you must buy down, then consider the alternatives offered by outdoor sleeping bag brands like TundraCrux and Bask.

  2. Don’t Buy Leather – Instead look for non-animal leather fabrics and products. They are easy to find and readily available and mimic the aesthetics of leather. In some cases, you won’t know the difference. Plus there are many genuinely eco-friendly vegan leathers as well like cork, paper, waxed cotton, coolstone leather, tree bark leather, pinatex (from pineapple), and recycled rubber. You want to look or search for such words as – vegan leather, faux leather, microfiber synthetic leather, pleather, synthetic or artificial leather, vinyl or PVC, polyurethane, canvas and even reconstituted post-industrial materials including recycled or scrap materials. Some synthetic materials to look for include: Naugahyde, Durabuck, pleather, NuSuede and Hydrolite. Vegan microfiber is similar to leather in looks, durability and flexibility. See PETA’s Compassionate Shopping Guide and Vegan Guide to Leather Alternatives 2017, or download the PDF Guide to Leather Alternatives, from Vegetarian Resource Group and our Here’s a really good vegan fashion shopping list and our  Cruelty-free Vegan Fashion Guide.
  3. HOW TO MAKE A CRUELTY-FREE CLOSET AND HOME

    Faux Fur Throw by Christopher Knight

    Don’t Buy Animal Fur – Instead buy faux fur or no fur. Many people now are abstaining from anything resembling fur at all, so not to be mistaken for the real thing. Watch out for mislabeled faux fur. To make sure it’s faux, check the material at the base of the fur—it should clearly be fabric or cloth. The tips at the end of the hair should not be tapered but blunt cut, and if still in question, burn some hairs—if they smell like human hair burning, it’s from an animal. Some stores that only sell faux fur are H&M, Zara, and JCPennys. Here’s a list of fur-free retailers, and Imposter4Animals has 100% cruelty-free items, so does SpiritHoods.com and FabulousFurs.com. For home goods, like faux fur throws, blankets and pillows try POSHPELTS and FabulousFurs.com and Urban Outfitters. Check here for faux fur Q&A. Faux fur fabrics to look for are Modacrylic and acrylic, silk viscose, synthetic acrylic knits, woven mohair (Steiff Schulte), cotton jersey (Taenaka Pile), and polyester. Faux fur is easy to find at most department stores and clothing shops. See PETA’s Compassionate Shopping Guide and our Cruelty-free Vegan Fashion Guide.

  4. Replace Suede With Faux Suede – Faux suede is a synthetic man-made material made from 100 percent polyester. It is also called faux suede leather. Another faux suede fabric is
    How To Make A Cruelty Free Closet and Home

    Microsuede Sofa by Paige

    microfiber suede leather and suede microfiber synthetic leather. The fabric is made from nylon and polyurethane and is 100 percent synthetic material. Microsuede is also very similar to suede, made from a knit blend of fibers woven together. It is wrinkle resistant, making it a great choice for bedding, furniture upholstery and curtains. There are many benefits to faux suede over real suede—it is water-resistant, more durable, much easier to clean and maintain, and costs way less. Faux suede looks and feels very similar to genuine suede, but is a fraction of the cost and much easier to care for.

  5. Replace Silk with Faux Silk and Artificial Silk – You can hardly tell the difference between artificial silk and real silk. Today artificial silk is made from rayon and/or Modal, polyester, nylon, rayon, soysilk and Tencel. Tencel Lycocell is made from wood pulp and is a great replacement for silk, it’s extremely soft, can be washed, dyed and can mimic the texture of suede, leather, moleskin and wool. For soft silky sheets, buy Tencel Lyocell 500-Thread Count Stripe Sheet Set in beautiful colors at Bed, Bath & Beyond. Modal is a type of rayon made from the renewable fiber of the beech tree. Modal fabric is very soft, and silky smooth, with a slight sheen. A newer fabric is soysilk or soy cashmere, made from soy protein fiber left over after processing soybeans into food. It has the softness and luster of silk, drapes beautifully and is highly durable. It’s also extremely warm and comfortable, and is free of any petrochemicals. It’s a great alternative to silk.
  6. HOW TO MAKE A CRUELTY-FREE CLOSET AND HOME

    100% Cotton Blanket

    Replace Wool With Natural or Synthetic Alternatives – There are so many natural and man-made materials to replace wool today, that for many reasons are even better than wool. Many are warmer, easy to clean, don’t wrinkle, look beautiful and are cruelty-free. Look for organic cotton, cotton flannel, linen, bamboo, flax, hemp, polyester and recycled polyester (rPET or Recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate), polyester fleece, synthetic shearling, and other cruelty-free fibers including Tencel and Lyocell (both made from wood pulp), which are breathable, durable, and biodegradable. Another newer fabric that is a high-density fleece and has four times the wind resistance of wool is Polartec Wind Pro. It also effectively wicks away moisture. It is made mainly from recycled plastic soda bottles. Bamboo fiber feels like a cross between silk and cashmere. It is strong, soft and light. Linen and flax are excellent alternatives to wool, they are strong, absorb moisture, wick moisture and are non-allergenic. Modal, the original artificial silk, comes from Beech trees, absorbs moisture well, is very soft and smooth, drapes well, and dyes easily. Vegan felt is another great option made from synthetic fibers.

  7. Don’t Buy Ivory – Ivory comes from elephants and from marine mammals like whales, walruses and narwhals. It can be carved into sculptures, curios, figurines and jewelry. The elephant and mammal were killed for these decorations. Don’t contribute to their killing, instead buy a beautiful decoration that doesn’t come from cruelty.

All of these alternatives to animals don’t involve cruelty, and whether natural or synthetic, many of these options offer a lower carbon footprint, are more sustainable, are biodegradable, more eco-friendly, and are readily available to consumers.

Great Articles to Read

Definitive Guide to Curating a Cruelty-Free Closet, The GoCoCollective (Takes you step-by-step on how to create a fashionable closet)

Clothing, by AnimalEquality

5 Shocking Reasons You Should Skip Angora Wool This Winter, One Green Planet

14 Things the Leather Industry Does Not Want You to See, PETA

5 Worst Ways Animnals Are Exploited in the Fashion Industry, One Green Planet

Stella McCartney Sheds Light on Leather’s Dark Truth, PETA

9 Truly Eco Friendly Vegan Leathers, eLuxe Magazine

3 Alternatives To Leather Shoes, Is Leather The Best Material For Shoes? Quality Vegan Shoes, by Real Men Real Style

HSUS to FTC: Take Action Against 17 Retailers That Sold Animal Fur as “faux fur”, HSUS

 

 

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