Is Calico Vegan + Sustainable?

By Adriane Marie •  Updated: 07/03/22 •  9 min read
is calico vegan and sustainable

Is calico vegan and sustainable? This is a question every ethical shopper asks when buying new clothes. Here are calico pros and cons. How will this material impact your home, the environment, animals and laborers? Let’s find out!

Clothes are so cheap and trendy these days we buy them even when we don’t ‘need’ them. If you’re like me, you do all the research you can to make sure materials accommodate your needs but don’t hurt the planet, animals or others. As an ethical consumer myself, I am giving you all the info I’ve found on whether calico is vegan and sustainable.

You are going to learn all about calico’s impact on animals and the planet. This will include calico benefits for you regarding the durability, versatility and accessibility of the material. You’ll find out if calico is sustainable and if calico is vegan…or maybe even impacts animals in other ways!

After learning if calico is good or bad for your lifestyle, the environment, animals and human rights, you’ll be able to make the best choices you can the next time you shop.

This post is all about asking is calico vegan and is calico sustainable…something every ethical shopper must know.

Shop Smart! Is Calico Vegan And Sustainable?

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Calico advantages may include:

Environment

Fiber source: natural, calico is a natural fiber, made from unbleached and not fully processed cotton

Biodegradable: yes, calico is biodegradable, if cotton is organic it can take as little as 1 to 5 months for organic cotton to completely biodegrade

Destruction: low, calico production is relatively sustainable if organic cotton is used, uses less water than non-organic cotton, can be bleached/dyed with toxic chemicals, if organic cotton is used, it is grown on fields where the soil is free of all artificial pesticides or insecticides, “Up to 16% of the world’s pesticides are used in (non-organic) cotton farming every year.  The chemicals degrade soil and pollute water as well as poisoning cotton pickers”, grown without harmful chemicals, doesn’t destroy ecosystems, known to improve soil quality

Calico is…

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Animals

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

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

Indirectly kills or harms: none, no pesticides are used when producing organic cotton, which spares ecosystems and wildlife from exposure to toxic chemicals, buy organic, as pesticides undoubtably harm and kill wildlife and ecosystems by contaminating soil, water, air and plants that animals eat

Calico 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 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

Additionally, calico…

Calico material uses include bags, aprons, curtains, furnishings and more.

calico is durable.

durable, long lasting fabrics, materials and textiles

Is calico durable or delicate?

Calico is durable and long lasting when cared for properly.

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!

calico is sustainable when organic.

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

Is calico eco friendly and sustainable? Yes, calico is sustainable when organic.

Animal materials are a natural fiber 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.

With the high number of animals unnaturally bred onto the planet in the name of human utilization, specifically ruminants (cows, sheep, goats, deer, camels, etc.), they emit high volumes of carbon emissions and contaminate air, soil and water with their waste (excrement). This is also toxic to ecosystems and wildlife. 

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.

calico is vegan.

vegan-material

Is calico vegan? Yes, calico is vegan.

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. 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.

Material from animals may involve slaughtering like leather and fur production, for instance. In regards to wool or feathers, animals struggle while workers hold them down and beat them in order to shear their coat or rip feathers from skin. This leaves them bloody and wounded in pain. 

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

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

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

Is calico a material that has labor issues?

At this time, there are no specific reports of worker mistreatment with calico production but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Calico may or may not have laborer 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. 

So, is calico vegan and sustainable? Yes, calico is vegan. If made with organic cotton, calico is sustainable. If made with non-organic cotton, calico is unsustainable.

This post was all about answering if calico is vegan and sustainable.

Sources:
What Is Calico? Take a Look at the History of the Fabric
Sew Guide: Fabric glossary
Textile School: Textile fabric types
PETA: Vegan Fabrics: Organic Cotton

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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