Is Down Vegan + Sustainable?

By Adriane Marie •  Updated: 11/03/22 •  8 min read

Is down vegan and sustainable? These are questions every ethical consumer asks. Here is how buying down will impact you, the environment, animals and laborers. 

is down vegan and sustainable

Fabric, materials and textiles are things we consume often. If you’re like me, you do all the research you can to make sure you don’t hurt yourself, the planet, animals or others when shopping. As an ethical consumer myself, I am giving you all the info I’ve found on down.

You are going to learn all about down’s vegan and sustainability status. Additionally, the following info will include down advantages and disadvantages for your home, whether down is a natural fiber, biodegradable…or perhaps even destructive!

After learning if down is vegan and sustainable you will be able to make the best choices you can the next time you shop.

This post is all about learning if down is vegan and sustainable.

All About Down + It’s Impact On Animals, People, Planet

HOME

Durability:
Versatility: down uses include thermal insulators, warm, used for cold-weather garments, sleeping bags and bedding, pillows, comforters
Accessibility: down is typically expensive, prices may vary

Down is…

ENVIRONMENT

Fiber source: natural, down is a natural fiber, made from feathers of ducks, geese and other waterfowl

Biodegradable: yes, down is biodegradable

Destruction: high, down production is relatively destructive, feathers have the lowest carbon footprint of any other fill material but toxins from animal excrement pollute air, water, soil, high CO2e carbon emitted, strain on natural resources such as land, food and water, contributes to deforestation, with the large 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, water, soil, etc.

Down is…

ANIMALS

Kills: potentially ducks, geese and other waterfowl, if feathers are plucked from deceased birds

Harms: ducks, geese and other waterfowl, if feathers are live-plucked animals are constrained wile feathers are torn from their chest region, sometimes while they are alive, causing bloody wounds which may be so bad the workers sew their skin back together without painkillers, some even die as a result of the procedure

Indirectly kills or harms: birds, wildlife and ecosystems, down also supports the foie gras and meat industries, as many farmers who raise birds for food make extra profit when selling bird’s feathers as well

Down 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

Down…

What are down uses?

Down uses typically include pillows, comforters, duvets, quilts, mattress covers, sofas, winter coats, jackets, sleeping bags, vests, down feather dusters and more.

What are some ethical vegan brands that use faux down?

Embassy of Bricks and Logs and Keep are ethical vegan brands that use faux down, a great alternative to feather down.

down is

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 is 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!

down is unsustainable.

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.

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.

Vegan and sustainable fashion near you is easier than ever with this: Vegan Clothing Brands Per Country List

down is not 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. 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.

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

down 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
Can Down Be Ethical or Green?
Ducks and Geese Suffer for Down
Textile School: Textile fabric types
Down Production: Birds Abused for Their Feathers
The Spruce: Types of fabric A to Z: What are you wearing?
Grandview Research: Synthetic Leather Market Worth $40.9 Billion By 2027 | CAGR: 4.4%

Adriane Marie

Grocery Guru, Material Maven, 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! Use it for personal and global improvement and empowerment.

Keep Reading