There’s nothing like a warm fleece jacket for keeping the chill off when camping. But, most are made from polyester or other fabrics that shed millions of plastic microfibres when they’re washed. Those fibres end up in the sea, not just harming sealife, but getting into seafood too.
We’ve been scouring the manufacturers and shops for alternatives. So, here’s our round-up of earth-friendly warm jackets for men and women.
Plastic-free alternatives to polyester, acrylic and nylon
Did you know the National Trust is aiming to kit out all its staff in non-plastic fleeces? There’s a growing number of manufacturers who are really working hard to come up with alternatives.
Cotton, hemp, bamboo and other plant fibres
It’s possible to make lovely outdoor clothes out of these natural fibres. They’re easy to care for too. It’s best if they’re grown organically, of course. Not so easy to find just yet, but we’ll update this article as new brands appear.
This is a newish material and Vaude are the only company we’ve found who are using it for some of their fleeces in their Green Shape range. Expensive, though, but as more people get on board, it should become more affordable.
Warm and way better than plastic. But not for vegans. Sheep-shearing might not kill the animal, but it’s stressful and wool production is intrinsically bound up in meat product
ion. Even if you are happy to buy wool, you won’t want to buy merino wool that comes from farms that use mulesing. I won’t go into the details here, but it’s a barbaric practice (mostly in Australia).
Ask the retailer about farming standards and animal welfare. If they can’t answer the question, don’t buy it! Incidentally, we asked Bam, who use some merino in their jackets, and immediately got a great and reassuring reply. It’s worth doing!
Environmentally friendly plastic clothing?
Some brands market polyester clothes as environmentally friendly because they make the garments from recycled plastic bottles or waste plastic from the sea.
These are obviously better than new polyester because the process uses less energy and produces about half the greenhouse gas emissions. But, they do still shed microfibres.
UPDATE: Researchers at Newcastle University have found that a delicate wash, which uses up to twice as much water as a standard cycle, releases on average 800,000 more microfibres.
Affordability and making compromises
Polyester is everywhere. It’s a mass market material and that makes it cheap. We’ve seen fleece jackets for under £5. At the moment alternatives like Vaude’s wood cellulose aren’t mainstream, and that makes the clothes expensive. If you can afford to pay, then do. A £5 jacket will wear out faster and will create pollution and, chances are, it wasn’t made in a happy factory by well-paid people.
If you’re on a tight budget, here are some compromises you can make.
– 1 –
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Opt for products with a greater percentage of cotton. There are lots of fleeces and hoodies with cotton outers, but a plastic-based fleece lining (and then do 1.)
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Buy the highest quality clothes you can afford. They last longer and plastics are shed more in the first few washes.
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Buy fleeces made from recycled plastic. They still shed fibres, but you’ll at least be minimising new production.
And now our top choices for fleeces and fleece alternatives…
££ – £50 to £100
£££ – Over £100
Know what you’re buying…look for these certifications
- Bluesign for the entire production process of all types of textiles
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) for all natural fabric materials
- Responsible Down Standard or Global Traceable Down Standard for down-insulated products (but much better to avoid down altogether)
- OEKO-TEX Standard 100 to certify the absence of harmful chemical substances in textiles
- Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) for products containing wool
- Leather Working Group (LWG) standard for leather, suede and nubuck product or parts