I first read about Furisgreen.com at Treehugger, and I have to admit, the web site is compelling. Animals breed, making the main component of a fur coat a renewable resource. A fur coat in good condition can be repurposed into other accessories, which is a form of recycling, and maybe even composted. Kept well, fur garments are durable, which could translate into fewer new garments for fur enthusiasts. And the Furisgreen.com folks, aka the Fur Council of Canada, argue that fur is humanely trapped and farmed, super non-polluting to process, and provides a much-needed livelihood for indigenous peoples in the north.
On the other hand, the Humane Society tells a different story:
Mink, foxes, raccoon dogs, rabbits and other species with the misfortune of having attractive fur are raised in wire mesh battery cages on fur confinement operations, described euphemistically as “fur farms,” to account for 85% of the world’s production of animal fur.3 The animal wastes contain high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus.
A 2003 Michigan State University study in the Fur Rancher Blue Book of Fur Farming states that “the U.S. mink industry adds almost 1,000 tons of phosphorus to the environment each year.”
The 2003 European Commission Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Bureau “Reference Document on Best Available Techniques for the Tanning of Hides and Skins”
recognizes the tanning15 industry as “a potentially pollution-intensive industry.”
The Industrial Pollution Projection System rates the fur dressing and dyeing industry one of the five worst industries for toxic metal pollution to the land.
Personally, I don’t wear fur, but I’ve always found it a bit difficult to accept the OMG FUR IS SUPER GROSS argument from someone wearing a leather jacket made of leather that came from who knows where. Tell me, is leather more acceptable because it’s made from a big dumb cow while the fur in a fur coat is made from a majestic wild animal?
As for whether fur is green, I think the arguments on both sides are clothed in shades of gray.
Furisgreen.com claims that fur in general is fair trade, non-polluting, and sustainable – in other words, quite green – but provides no actual evidence to back up its claims. But while processing and dyeing fur requires some gnarly chemicals and can lead to industrial pollution of waterways when factories are less-than-careful about disposal and containment, so can the processing of leather – which happens on a much larger scale. The same goes for energy consumption and whether it’s good for the primary producer versus the manufacturer who sells a fur or leather product for hundreds of bucks.
Do I think that some fur (and leather) can be produced in a green way? Absolutely. Do I think the fur and leather on an average pair of boots made in China and sold at the department store has much chance of being green? No. With regards to Furisgreen.com, my greenwashing detector is going off in a big way.