21 January 2016

[#GoneGreen2016] Day 21: Alpaca Accessories ... and vegans


TODAY'S GREEN MANTRA: "I will purchase Lovemade Alpaca accessories over accessories made without animal cruelty, synthetics, acrylics, or other man made fibres"

Day 21 / 365

In the winter months, those of us North of the equator, and even some of us dwelling South of it, must wrap up warm for our comfort and survival, regardless of our ethical beliefs.

Our purchases of these Winter warmers are often based on practicality and, for those of us lucky enough to be in an economic state which allows it, aesthetics and ethics as well. 

I'm part of the Ethical Writer's Coalition, and within this group there are women writing about various topics within the ethical issues realm; whether it be veganism, palm oil, beauty, fashion, production, animal welfare, or conservation ... the list of passions and talents goes on. 

It's an incredible community to be a part of and there hasn't been one day since I joined where I haven't learned my token 'sometin' new'. While we all share commitment to dedicated rhetoric on at least one subject, none of us are experts in them all. Because of this, we're able to share our knowledge and be educated by others in turn. 

Recently an interesting question about ethical accessory options for vegans came up, and it was one I hadn't thought about before.

If you're a vegan, you've committed to living void of animal harm and animal byproducts in both your nutritional endeavours and product procurement. That means no leather, no wool, no alpaca, no cashmere, no beeswax, no dairy, no meat, no nada. It's a huge dedication and one which takes an incredible amount of effort to properly pull off.

In an article I found by vegan Hip & Zen blogger, Elisa Camahortshe, she stated that: "most vegans believe that the vegan lifestyle is healthier for people, healthier for the environment, and of course healthier for the animals". This is arguably true when it comes to food production, but falls heavy on its head when it comes to fashion and other items produced by mankind.  

(most) Vegan leathers and (all) acrylic accessories for example, are more harmful to the environment than their natural counterparts, and therefore are harmful to all the species who inhabit the planet on which these products are created. Vegan leathers are pollutive to produce, and never biodegrade once they're in existence, same goes for acrylic yarns

Though I respect the ethos of vegans - especially when it comes to animal welfare - and appreciate the positive effects that eating a vegan diet has on the planet, especially in the reduction of methane (the main cause of climate change), I can't help but wonder feel something is missing from the strict and non-circular culture that has been created.  

I've always let myself be lead by the traditions and wisdoms of the First Nations Peoples, and though vegans might not agree with the carnivoreistic side of these cultures, they coexisted symbiotically with the animal kingdom, respecting the natural rhythms of the Earth. They were lead by the seasonal patterns of the weather, the migration of the animals, and the cycle of plants which turned in a ceaseless circular motion of life and renewal. 

So, when it comes to animals which shed their fleece naturally in the Spring, following that circular motion of renewal, I see no harm in us using their fibres for clothing and warmth. 

Unless those animals are being harmed in any way during the production and that's where fast fashion has to once again hang its head in shame.

Hidden in the production lines of brands you love most, and likely in the fibres of the knit accessories you wear most, are terrible truths about the treatment of sheep and goats that are SO HORRIFIC you'll struggle to pull that cosy cashmere sweater any closer or want to wear your wool. 

This is yet another reason why one must be weary of fast fashion brands and search for transparency from companies when it comes to clothing consumption of any kind, especially products which come from animals.

Though wool and cashmere are difficult subjects in terms of fibre production and eco friendliness (which I'll touch on in a few weeks), there is one fibre you can pretty much rely on in terms of animal welfare and eco friendliness, and that's Alpaca.


- An Ode To Alpaca -



My previous post on Ally Bee's Alpaca knitwear educated me on how truly moving the circular story of this fibre is. When done properly, it represents how completely logical, beautiful and balanced product production can and should be, not just for Alpaca fibres but for everything, and the story should go a little like this:

The Gentle Grazer.
Alpaca are 'ruminants', which makes them natures perfect lawnmowers, as they cut grass rather than ripping it out from the roots like a sheep or a goat. Alpacas originated from the plateaus of the South American Andes and the ancient Incas referred to them as 'Fibre of the Gods' because of the luxuriously soft and durable fibre they produce. 

Sensitive Souls.
One the amazing thing about Alpacas, is they won't work for fast fashion brands. They just can't. Alpacas become physically ill and produce a hard fleece if they are treated with anything but love by their owners, they're heard animals and sociable creatures as well and will fall into depression if they don't have a companion alpaca by their side. The fibres produced can only be sheared in the Spring, meaning the farmer can only profit once per year from the alpaca's gifts, but must love them all year round all the same. Some alpaca owners are even known to bring out the aromatherapy candles on shearing day to reassure these sensitive creatures.

Waste Free.
Once the fibres have been collected, they are graded by hand and divided into two sections:
firsts. Which are used in knitwear like Ally Bee and Fair Trade Designs.
seconds + thirds. which are used for insulation in duvets by companies like Penrose.

Proper Production.
Once the yarn has been sorted, the bits for knitwear are spun and washed. Alpaca fibres should remain undyed (alpacas naturally produce a rainbow of beautiful beiges, creams, browns, greys, charcoals and blacks with a colour palette of 22 possible shades that look bangin' on natural skintones), leaving the fibres their natural colour ensures the entire process of production uses only a small trail of un-tainted, chemical-free water in its production path. 

Nice Knitters.
Once spun and washed it is sent to the mill to be knit into limited edition runs (fairly paid) knitters who are experienced in the traditional techniques.

Customer Care.
Once the garment is finished and finds a home, it will live a long life so long as it is loved (alpaca yarn is incredibly resilient), when it comes to the end of its lifecycle, because it has been untainted by man kind's creations (dyes and chemicals) it can return to the earth to biodegrade, enhancing the soil with its nutritious fibres and aiding in growth once more. A circular story complete.

Eco + Ethical Alpaca Brands Featured In This Post.





Photos: [1] me [2,3] Shane Woodward

1 comment:

Natalie Kay Smith said...

Such a great read!!! Ugh, how terrible of me not knowing how awful vegan leathers are for the environment! I have a few items with vegan leather, which have not held up nearly as well as the real leather in my closet. Another let down - not nearly as sustainable in its use!