Natural equals good, right?
Who does not love the look and feel of cashmere? Since it is a natural fibre, all is good in the world, right? Surely there can not be an unsustainable side to cashmere. Unfortunately there is.
Yes, cashmere is a natural fibre, so unlike polyester, nylon and other synthetics, it will decompose and does not leave a trace as big as synthetic fibers. And it is more accessible and popular than ever.
However it is this very accessibility that is at the root of the sustainability problems related to cashmere. What was once a very expensive luxury commodity is now available on main shopping streets via fast-fashion brands. This means mass production, of course: the soaring demand for cashmere means soaring demand for the goats who are used in its production – but those goats have a carbon footprint, of course, and also need somewhere to live – which is leading to the destruction of natural habits and unsustainable land use.
Cashmere is typically farmed and made in Mongolia and China, where the natural environments are suffering. According to the United Nations Development Programme, 90 per cent of Mongolia is fragile dry land and under increasing threat of desertification, while the temperatures in China are, much like anywhere else, getting more extreme. These difficult conditions will mean it is increasingly difficult to produce cashmere, and that is even before considering the increase in demand.
Recylced cashmere is the way forward
A small number of slow-fashion brands are taking action to address this problem. One of them is People Tree, who have just introduced their first ever recycled cashmere jumper – this beautiful piece with roll neck and side splits comes in a versatile biscuit shade. The use of recycled cashmere means you can enjoy the wonderful qualities of this fabric without harming the environment.
Stella McCartney stopped using virgin cashmere as it has the highest environmental impact of all fabrics – roughly 100 times that of wool. Instead, she uses a platform for recycling cashmere from post-factory cashmere waste.*
Used cashmere garments are collected and sorted into colour groups. They are then cut into smaller pieces and put through a machine with combs them back into fibre, ready to be spun into yarn. This innovative sustainable process is chemical free and gives a second life to beautiful cashmere fibres.
So next time you are tempted by that soft feel, think again and find a jumper that uses recycled cashmere. The planet will thank you, even if the goats don’t :-).
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