Naked Science Forum

General Science => General Science => Topic started by: katieHaylor on 23/07/2018 17:00:23

Title: Is faux fur environmentally friendly?
Post by: katieHaylor on 23/07/2018 17:00:23
Michael asks:

Is faux fur more or less environmentally friendly, as I believe faux fur is made of synthetic petrochemicals. Does this have a greater impact on the planet versus traditional farming or hand-me-down family heirlooms?

What do you think?
Title: Re: Is faux fur environmentally friendly?
Post by: chiralSPO on 23/07/2018 18:14:34
That is a very tricky question! (and I don't know the answer)

Making these types of comparisons is very important, but it is also very complex, and often depends highly on what issues one takes into account, and how they are compared.

A good general approach is to address the following (for each of the items you wish to compare):

What goes into producing the item and getting it to you? (energy, materials, source of those materials, human labor etc... these impacts actually often track fairly well with price, but sometimes it is WAY off)
What else is produced while making the item? (does its manufacture produce hazardous waste? Are the raw materials a byproduct of another process that is happening anyway (ie is the fur a byproduct of the meat/dairy industry?), or are some of the byproducts of its manufacture useful for other industries, etc.)
How long does the product last? (If one product is 5 times worse for the environment on a "per product" basis, but last 20 times longer than the alternative, then it is 4 times better on a "per time" basis)
What are the effects of using the product? (Perhaps one type of fur more insulating that the other, allowing for less energy use for heating? I also suspect that washing the faux fur may release plastic microfibers into the environment, which might be a significant portion of the overall impact, depending on several other factors, but real fur may need to be dry cleaned--which comes with its own set of impacts)
How is the product disposed of at the end of its "life"? (can it be recycled, repurposed, or reused? is it hazardous waste? is it going to sit in a landfill for 2,000 years?)

These are all questions that can be answered fairly unambiguously, given enough research. Then you have to balance the various pros and cons. How does one calculate the tradeoff between greenhouse gas emissions and number of fish killed? Do we consider only the damages done over the next year, decade, century, millennium? How does one count land use implications of land that will be used for one industry or another (ie this particular plot of land that is currently forested will be clearcut and turned into a chinchilla ranch if demand for fur remains high, but if that demand is not high, it will be cleared for a monster truck arena...)

You get the idea...
Title: Re: Is faux fur environmentally friendly?
Post by: chiralSPO on 24/07/2018 14:50:13
For more info on life cycle assessment (or life cycle analysis, conveniently both shortened to LCA), see here:

https://www.gdrc.org/uem/lca/life-cycle.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life-cycle_assessment
http://wap.sciencenet.cn/home.php?mod=attachment&id=4637 (pdf download--125 kb)