Is Burlap Vegan + Sustainable?

By Adriane Marie •  Updated: 03/03/22 •  6 min read
is burlap vegan and sustainable

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Durability: pros burlap is strong, durable

Versatility: pros burlap is loosely constructed, heavyweight, plain, coarse, heavy yarn cloth, used for wrappers, upholstery, used to make bags, table runners, many home décor products

Accessibility: pros burlap is typically inexpensive, easy to find

Burlap is…

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ENVIRONMENT

Fiber source: natural, burlap is a natural fiber, made from jute, hemp, or flax yarn

Biodegradable: yes, burlap is biodegradable

Destruction: low, burlap production is relatively sustainable, there is no known significant damage to air, water, land, soil, forests, etc. *as long as pesticides have not been used, be sure to buy organic, as pesticides contaminate soil, water, air, etc.

Burlap is…

ANIMALS

Kills: none, burlap production does not require any animals to be killed

Harms: none, burlap production does not require any animals to be used

Indirectly kills or harms: none, as long as pesticides have not been used. Be sure to buy organic, as pesticides undoubtably harm and kill wildlife and ecosystems by contaminating soil, water, air and plants that animals eat

Burlap is…

LABORERS

Health and safety: varies, overall, agriculture continues to be one of the most dangerous industries, farmworkers may be subject to dehydration, heat stroke, unprotected exposure to harmful, toxic chemicals and pesticides, unsafe machinery and clean drinking water may not always be accessible

Living conditions: varies, laborers are often exploited, they may face tough working conditions including long hours in the sun and heat performing physically exhausting tasks, labor laws and rights may or may not be in place, even if worker protection exists, employer violations may go unreported, refugees and migrant workers are especially vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment, fearing consequences of job loss or deportation

Wages: varies, generally farmworkers earn meager wages, there are many cases of underpaid agricultural workers, wage theft and no overtime payment or benefits

Burlap…

What are burlap uses?

Burlap is used to for gardening, home decor, DIY projects and more.

burlap is durable.

durable, long lasting fabrics, materials and textiles

For every 5 garments produced, the equivalent of 3 end up in a landfill or incinerated each year!

One reason for such wastefulness society’s ever growing desire to acquire. Fast fashion (creating low-priced items at high volumes) is problematic for a number of reasons and promotes the attitude that clothing is nearly disposable.

But another component of such a quick turnaround on clothing is because it’s just not lasting long enough. Snags, stains, warping and shrinkage render items unusable and unacceptable for the  donation pile. Avoid such problems by buying better quality, more durable, long lasting materials. Timeless wardrobe favorites that last for years and years are more sustainable and reduce the need for replacements. 

Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck full of textiles burns or goes to landfills…

Keep minimalism in mind and buy less, borrow and buy items second hand. Thrift shops offer many inexpensive, unique finds that have already proven to stand the test of time!

burlap is sustainable when organic.

sustainable shopping, for eco friendly brands and products good for the environment

Materials from animals are natural fibers and biodegradable unless heavily treated with chemicals. However, they are not at all eco-friendly or sustainable due to the overwhelming strain on natural resources; the water needed, food needed and land usage that must happen for such abundant amounts of animals to live.

Animal agriculture is not good for the environment, human health and of course, the animals themselves. Thus, animal derived, non-vegan materials are not only cruel and inhumane but environmentally unsustainable. 

That’s not to say that all vegan materials are sustainable. There are many vegan yet unsustainable fabrics, materials and textiles. Most of us don’t realize that washing one synthetic garment releases about 2,000 plastic microfibers which then enter the ocean and food chain…or that 30% of rayon and viscose used in fashion comes from endangered and ancient forests. So because a fabric is vegan it does not necessarily mean that it is sustainable, eco-friendly and so on. 

Natural fibers like cotton are actually really harmful IF they are not organic. How? Cotton seeds are often GMOs that require pesticides, which are extremely toxic! In fact, up to 16% of the world’s pesticides go to non-organic, GMO cotton farming every year. The chemicals degrade soil and pollute water as well as poison cotton pickers.

Wow! …So it’s time to start using sustainable fabrics, materials and textiles.

burlap is vegan.

vegan-material

Cows, sheep, alpacas, goats, ducks and foxes are animals commonly subject to exploitation for their skins, hair or feathers. In fact, BILLIONS of them die every single year simply in the name of fashion. 

Before buying a pair of shoes, a sweater, a purse, check the materials. Common and unfortunately popular animal-derived materials include:

These materials often come from places like India and China where there can be NO animal welfare laws or enforcement. But if the item does come from a more developed area of the world, such as the United States or Europe, that animal was likely a victim of factory farming. In such overcrowded farms there is confinement, disease and animals sometimes live their entire lives indoors, never seeing the light of day.

Dressing and decorating vegan is easier than ever with this: Vegan Fabrics, Materials and Textiles List

burlap is a material that may or may not have labor issues.

benefits of buying fair trade, labor rights, human rights and workers rights issues

Did you know that the single largest employer in the world is agriculture? Whether agriculture involves crops or animals, the labor behind each and every product made from cotton, leather, wool, etc. cannot go unrecognized. 

Sadly, many labor concerns exist around the world in both developed and developing countries. We must be vigilant to ensure what we buy is not contributing to industries that are unfair to their valuable workers.

Some known problems include workplace health and safety, sweatshops and child labor, gender inequality, inadequate pay, wage theft and exploitation. Workers can even experience harassment, humiliation and violence. Unfair employers often fail to provide laborers with access to shade, drinking water, restrooms and breaks. Consequently, laborers can face nausea, dizziness, heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke -the leading cause of farmworker death! 

Such mistreatment is like modern day slavery. Workers are often afraid to report issues because they fear it will result in losing their jobs or deportation. 

Fair trade organizations fight to ensure better social, environmental and economic standards. 

We can improve people’s lives simply by being mindful to buy items that are certified fair trade. 

Sources:

Sew Guide: Fabric glossary
Textile School: Textile fabric types
Grandview Research: Synthetic Leather Market Worth $40.9 Billion By 2027 | CAGR: 4.4%

Adriane Marie

Self-proclaimed Grocery Guru, Material Maven and all around Conscious Consumer Connoisseur. I organize ethical info for us to comprehensively see how purchases impact people, animals and the planet. I hope you find HEALabel helpful and use it for personal and global improvement and empowerment.

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