Sherpa, also known as faux shearling, is a type of fabric made from polyester or a blend of polyester with other fabrics like cotton or acrylic. The name is because it resembles the wool-lined clothing worn by the Sherpa people of Nepal. This fabric mimics the bumpy texture of wool, which makes it incredibly warm. It can also insulate better than shearling, without the extra weight or bulk, not mention it wicks moisture and dries quickly. It’s due to these benefits that Sherpa is often used as lining fabric in winter accessories like jackets or coats. It’s also used for blankets, gloves, boots, hats, slippers, etc. While it may have all these great features, quality is still a must. A poorly constructed Sherpa garment can become matted or peel with ease.
Is Sherpa vegan? A simple answer is yes, most of the time. As mentioned earlier, Sherpa is made of polyester, cotton, or acrylic. These are vegan-friendly fabrics. However, Sherpa can also refer to fabrics that have a blend of synthetic fibres and cashmere wool. Sherpa is non-vegan when wool is used, although such cases are rare.
Veganism is one of the fastest-growing trends in the world that has received backing from popular media companies and celebrities. A lot of people think of it as a diet, but it’s actually a lifestyle that seeks to eliminate the use of animals and animal by-products. In addition to not consuming animals and their by-products, vegans also don’t wear animal products. In a world filled with fur coats, leather shoes and bags, woollen scarves, cashmere sweaters, and so on, animal-free fashion may seem like a dream. But with the growing demand for vegan fabrics like Sherpa, there’s hope for our animal friends. In this text, I’m going to cover everything you need to know about the production of Sherpa so you can decide whether or not it should be part of your vegan lifestyle. Without much delay, let’s get started:
Is Sherpa Vegan?
There are several reasons why Sherpa is considered vegan, but the main ones are:
It contains polyester:
Sherpa is usually 100% polyester, but it can also be a blend of polyester with other fibres. Polyester is a large class of synthetic fabrics, usually derived from petroleum. Chemically, it’s a category of polymers that primarily contain the ester functional group in their main chain.
This fabric is considered vegan because it’s chemically synthesised. Polyester can also be found in naturally occurring plant-based substances such as cutin. Cutin is one of the two waxy polymers that form the main part of plant cuticle.
As you can see, polyester is vegan-friendly –whether in the natural world or when it’s created for industrial purposes.
It contains acrylic
If it’s not 100% polyester, Sherpa can be made by incorporating polyester and acrylic fibres. Acrylic fibre fabrics are made from a synthetic polymer called polyacrylonitrile. The fibre is produced by burning certain coal or petroleum-based chemicals with a variety of monomers using acrylonitrile as the precursor. This means that the end-product is a fossil fuel-based fibre and never animal-derived.
Acrylic is one of the least breathable fabrics in the world, which is why it’s often incorporated into boots, gloves, blankets, sweaters, and other heat-retention applications.
Simply put, acrylic is vegan-friendly because it’s synthetic and petroleum-derived.
It can contain a cotton
This is another fairly common fibre that can be incorporated with polyester to make Sherpa. Cotton is basically a vegan’s best friend. It’s a soft fluffy fibre that grows around the seeds of certain cotton plants. No animals are intentionally harmed during harvest or when manufacturing the material. Unlike polyester and acrylic, which are synthetic materials, cotton is plant-based. This means that it saves both animals and the environment, making it one of the best material choices for vegans.
Sherpa doesn’t need wool fibres for insulation.
As I mentioned earlier, Sherpa can also be made of synthetic fibre with wool. As such, you should always check tags and labels to ensure you’re not buying something that goes against your vegan beliefs. Although wool is very insulating, Sherpa doesn’t require it for insulation. It mimics the bumpy texture of wool, has a thick loft to make it extra warm, and it’s less bulky. Thanks to all these great features, Sherpa surpasses the performance of wool in freezing temperatures.
Since it’s synthetic and performs so well, many manufacturers prefer it to shearling and wool due to cost-effectiveness. This is good news for vegans as they can easily access vegan-friendly clothing at affordable rates.
What Should Vegans Watch Out For In Sherpa
Every piece of clothing has an impact on the environment. We can no longer sit back and blame textile industries for the many negative effects their businesses cause to the environment. A genuinely cruelty-free wardrobe not only considers animal welfare but also avoids products that cause adverse effects on people and the environment as well.
It’s important to note that switching to vegan clothing doesn’t necessarily mean switching to greener clothing. Just because Sherpa is animal cruelty-free doesn’t necessarily make it eco-friendly.
- Synthetic materials affect people and the environment
Polyester and acrylic, which are some of the fibres used to make Sherpa, are synthetic. Even though synthetic fibres are more durable and cheaper, they take a huge toll on our planet. They are both fossil fuel-based fibres whose production releases greenhouse gases that are dangerous to the ozone layer.
These materials are also non-biodegradable. They spend over 30 years in the landfill before they start to decompose, which creates long-term pollution. Synthetic fibres require complex processing with millions of oil barrels used every year during production. The production of these synthetic materials also uses harmful chemicals and requires a lot of water. Waste products, which include contaminated water and harmful chemicals, often get flushed into our waterways. Needless to say, this causes significant environmental damage.
The process of changing petroleum to acrylic or polyester is long and toxic. Most workers work in terrible conditions and risk toxicity. Prolonged exposure can cause certain cancers, chronic respiratory infections, reproductive systems disorders such as reduced sperm count, and so on.
- Environmental concerns of cotton
Surprisingly, even cotton, despite being a natural fabric, can affect the environment. The biggest concern about cotton is it requires a lot of land and water to grow. Did you know that it takes about 2,700 litres of water to produce enough cotton to create one t-shirt? Then there’s the issue of genetically modified cotton.
So, Is There Any Hope for Vegans?
The world is moving at a fast pace. On one hand, we have technological advancements that have made life easier. On the other hand, we are exploiting our natural resources greedily, thereby leading our planet to its doom. Adopting a vegan lifestyle has got to be the single biggest way to reduce environmental impact. As more and more people become vegans, manufacturers are forced to create products that are in line with vegans’ beliefs. This means products that are not only kinder to animals but also kinder to the environment. With that being said, let’s see how Sherpa is being made more sustainably:
Organic cotton has a much lower impact on our environment as it uses natural processes rather than artificial input. Organic cotton farming does not allow the use of GMOs, which are environmentally demanding, as well as the use of toxic chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides. This helps to prevent health problems or deaths associated with non-organic cotton production. Organic cotton also requires less water to grow, improves soil quality, locks CO2 in the soil (this helps to mitigate climate change), not to mention, it’s hypoallergenic. This type of cotton is easier to clean, dries faster, is softer to touch, and most importantly, doesn’t destroy ecosystems.
Sherpa made with organic cotton might have a higher price tag, but it’s worth it.
Conventional synthetic fabrics are very harmful to the environment, as discussed earlier. Fortunately, manufacturers are increasingly finding recycled options that are more Eco-friendly. Fabric wastes from factories, as well as old garments from consumers, are often recycled into new textiles. This minimises waste and extends the life of the material so it doesn’t end up in landfills. This also reduces the need for raw materials, which, in turn, reduces energy consumption and the pollution that would otherwise be caused when manufacturing conventional polyester.
Conclusion: Should Vegans Wear Sherpa
Millions of animals are killed every year, not only for their meat but also for their skin and fur. Some of these animals are gassed or electrocuted, with some even being skinned alive. The animals reared for commercial purposes are often kept in small cages with no or limited access to clean fresh water, sunlight, and several other basic rights. Animals that are often killed for their skin include snakes, sharks, cows, kangaroos, frogs, crocodiles, elephants, and zebras just to name a few. Sheep, on the other hand, is the most common victim in the fur industry.
The good news is there are plenty of vegan fabrics and materials that you can choose to help save these poor animals. One of such fabrics is Sherpa. As I’ve highlighted throughout the text, Sherpa is made from polyester or a blend of polyester with other fabrics like acrylics and cotton. Polyester and acrylic are fossil fuel-based fibres while cotton is a plant-based fibre. As you can see, no animal is intentionally harmed to create Sherpa. However, those who adopt a vegan lifestyle for environmental reasons may have a few issues concerning the production of these materials. Their production causes all kinds of pollution, which is harmful to our ecosystems.
That being said, Sherpa is generally vegan-friendly, except for a few ethical concerns. As complicated as it may seem to find vegan and truly sustainable, ethical Sherpa, it’s absolutely worth it. You also want to make sure that you support a company/industry that produces Sherpa in a way that’s fair to the worker. Hopefully, this information will help you decide whether or not you should include Sherpa into your vegan lifestyle.