Wearing a wool coat is a great way to stay warm in cold climates. Wool is an animal-derived material often used to make winter clothing such as hats, gloves, sweaters, socks, and jackets.
Wool is also cruel, unethical and not environmentally friendly. I gave up on wool in 2015 and now use better eco-friendly alternatives to stay warm, such as organic cotton, linen, lyocell, or recycled fabrics.
Globally, more than 95% of all wool comes from mass production. To protect people, animals, and the planet, it's a lot better to choose clothing that doesn't involve the mass farming and killing of animals, water, air, and soil pollution with toxic chemicals, and greenhouse gas emissions.
With a bit of research and without breaking the bank, it's now possible to stay warm in an ethical and eco-responsible manner without wearing any wool.
What's wrong with wearing a wool coat
Billions of animals are brutally slaughtered each year for the fashion industry to produce clothing made from wool, cashmere, mohair, fur, silk, leather, goose down, or down feathers.
Wool is obtained from animals such as sheep, goats, muskox, rabbits, and camelids. And wool farming conditions are horrible most of the time.
Contrary to popular belief, sheep don't need shearing, They don't like being sheared at all. It's simple to understand because they never like being caught for any reason.
Sheep naturally produce the right amount of wool it needs. In natural environments, they shed their winter coat before spring like many other animals.
Sheep live in crowded conditions and must walk very long distances, as reported by PETA. They will often end up dying from dehydration, infection, starvation or injury. Of course, sheep who didn't die prematurely are shipped off to slaughter as soon as they don't produce enough wool.
Learn more about the reasons why you should stop wearing wool in my other article.
Wool also has a very negative environmental impact. Australia and New Zealand are major producers of wool, respectively 23.4% and 9.1% of all wool production worldwide, as reported by the International Wool Textile Organisation.
In Australia and New Zealand, the primary contributor to global warming is methane, a very potent greenhouse gas and a by-product of sheep digestion.
Wool is one of the fifth most environmentally damaging fiber worldwide, as reported by the Global Fashion Agenda. Wool production involves high human and eco-toxicity due to processing with chemicals.
Many social media personalities and celebrities choose to avoid textile fibers obtained from animals completely. They don't support the cruelty of the wool industry and use sustainable alternatives.
Watch Joaquin Phoenix in an exclusive interview with PETA, explaining the importance of cruelty-free options.
What to wear to stay warm instead of wool
If you've been wearing wool in winter to stay warm until now, you might be wondering what to wear instead.
Luckily, you don't have to rely on wool to stay warm anymore. There are plenty of other viable alternatives. Have fun the next time you go out shopping and look at the labels carefully.
You will find other options available. Of course, choose the most environmentally friendly materials you can find. You have a wide range of fabric options:
- natural fibers such as organic cotton and linen,
- regenerated fibers made from cellulose such as lyocell,
- and recycled fibers such as recycled nylon and polyester.
Organic cotton requires fewer resources than wool, dries faster, and grows without dangerous chemicals. It's a natural fabric, soft, easy to care for, lightweight, and breathable.
Organic linen is less available than cotton and more expensive but very durable, absorbent, quick-drying, environmentally friendly, recyclable, and biodegradable.
Lyocell is a regenerated cellulose fiber. It falls into the same category as viscose rayon and modal. It's made from renewable resources wood or plants. Lyocell is bio-based, biodegradable, and recyclable.
Other sources of cellulose fiber to manufacture viscose rayon include soy, sugar cane, bamboo, and coconut. Be careful when buying viscose rayon because its manufacturing involves heavy chemical treatments that oftentimes aren't eco-friendly. A great manufacturer of eco-friendly and sustainable lyocell is Austrian Lenzing with Tencel fibers.
Recycled polyester and recycled nylon are great sustainable materials that help reduce plastic waste. They are high-performance materials, resistant, water repellant, and durable. Be careful when you wash them as they may still release micro-fibers into waterways. Micro-plastics pollute the air, soil, rivers, and oceans.
I would stay away from any acrylic and polar fleece. They are made from cheap materials with a very damaging process to the environment. Their recycled version made from plastic waste is expensive and hard to find. A lot of infrastructure development and textile research are needed to make these materials economically viable and environmentally friendly.
Read up my list of the top 10 eco-friendly and sustainable fabrics for clothing to get an overview of all the environmentally friendly materials you can choose from.
The simplest way to stay warm without wool is to add layers to your outfit. You can wear 2 to 5 layers of clothing at a time and keep the cold away very easily.
Wear multiple shirts, sweaters, pullovers, cardigans, jackets, or coats on top of each other. Try it out! It's a very effective and tried-and-true strategy to:
- wick sweat off your skin,
- keep body heat to protect you from the cold,
- and shield you from wind and rain.
You can also wear a scarf to keep your neck warm a little longer. A scarf is a key accessory to prevent colds and can be used to cover your nose as well.
It will keep the lower region of your face protected from the outside. Try to wear it around your mouth for complete insulation with a pocket of warm air, cutting down any discomfort from breathing harsh winter air. Recycled polyester or cotton make excellent materials for scarves.
Here are some excellent places to shop sustainable and ethical clothing to stay warm without wool:
You don't have to wear a wool coat to stay warm in winter. Just do a bit of research and you will find plenty of other alternatives. It only takes a little more effort. Look around a bit more and read the labels. Support and buy from companies that are committed to cruelty-free, eco-friendly fashion.
Sustainability is much more than a trend. It's a revolution. We all benefit from your decision to live a more ethical and eco-responsible life. The people, the animals, and the planet will thank you!
As consumers, we have the power to make change happen to transform this wasteful industry into a more regenerative and circular one.
Fashion designers and brands are starting to produce more sustainable clothing because consumers demand it. If we ask for more cruelty-free alternatives, we will get them as well!
Do you have any tip to stay warm without wearing wool? Let us know in the comments below.
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks four languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.