For any environmentally-focused individual or brand, the use of animal products can be a complicated issue. Some abstain because of the potential for cruelty in the process of creating a consumer good based on an animal product. Others are vegan because they are concerned about the future, with animal agriculture acting as a large contributor to annual greenhouse gas emissions. For many, it’s both.
Whatever the reason you may choose to be vegan, we’ve decided to move away from using animal products in our store. Currently, every single piece of apparel available at tentree.com is vegan. We phased out the use of leather in favor of sustainably harvested cork years ago and haven’t looked back. Full disclosure: some accessories still contain wool. Each product in our store will note the fabric content so you can make an educated decision about whether or not to buy.
But how can a hoodie or a tee be vegan?
One of the more common questions we get about this is simply “how can a hoodie be vegan?” When you think about veganism, you probably immediately think about vegan food. But most vegans consider it to be a lifestyle as opposed to just a diet. This is why they avoid leather, wool, and other animal products that might find their way into sweaters, shoes, and other consumer goods.
Your hoodies contain recycled polyester. Is that vegan?
Polyester is a synthetic fabric based on polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, which is a pretty common plastic widely used in packaging. Admittedly, PET is not the most environmentally friendly synthetic fiber out there, which is why we are vigorously exploring ways to phase it out of our products. However, most animal rights organizations list polyester as a vegan, cruelty-free fabric. Additionally, all of our polyester is recycled, which reduces the overall impact of the fabric.
But polyester is made of oil, and oil is made of animals. So how is that vegan?
Crude oil was formed over the course of millions of years by plankton, which are tiny plants and animals. The plankton, which died of natural causes, would fall to the sea floor, get covered in sediment, and over time, natural forces like heat and pressure turned it into oil.
There is an argument to be made that, because animal plankton was involved, polyester is not actually vegan. Most animal rights organizations aren’t particularly concerned with the natural deaths of animal plankton millions of years ago contributing to the plastics we use today, so neither are we.
In terms of defining what is or is not vegan, we look to the activists directly involved with animal rights for guidance.