How we tackle climate change
Fur Europe is developing a methodology to measure the climate impact of natural fur across the value chain. The goal is to understand our climate change footprint, document the green features of natural fur, and do better in the future.
Climate change is perhaps the most serious issue affecting the world today. It is our responsibility to protect our common ecosystem for future generations.
In the European fur sector we are working with professionals to reduce our impact on climate change. A panel of independent climate change experts are developing a reliable and robust methodology that us capable of analysing the environmental pros and cons of natural fur across the whole value chain.
The methodology relies on internationally recognised standards to carry out the most comprehensive Life Cycle Assessment possible.
Once the scientific methodology is finalised, the European fur sector will have the tool required to improve our environmental performance. This knowledge may be used to formulate environmental guidelines for businesses within the fur sector. Additionally, it may lead to stricter regulations, or promote the support of new technologies. An example of the latter would be the development of a new, locally-acquired protein source for animal feed.
Natural fur has inherent sustainability qualities, but as with any other consumer product there is room to do even better.
Feeding mink on household waste
In five years farmed mink will be fed with protein derived from household waste. This will advance the sustainability of the European fur sector tremendously.
A Danish research project converting household waste into larvae has shown very promising results as an alternative protein source for mink feed.
A team of scientists from the Danish Technological Institute has examined the economic and technological potential of converting organic household waste into Black Soldier Fly Larvae. It turns out that 10 kilo of household waste can be converted into 3 kilo of larvae in 10-12 days, and importantly the mink have received the new feed well.
Currently, farmed mink in Europe typically obtain protein from fish, chicken and fish offal, soybeans and blood. However, the increasingly competitive market for animal protein has driven up prices and involves significant transportation.
The larvae-based feed is similarly rich in protein and fat but unlike the current feed it holds environmental advantages. It requires less transportation whilst also up-cycling household waste.
Research is on going, but the ground-breaking sustainability project remains very promising indeed. A large scale roll-out is planned for 2023, when an expected world record of 20.000 tons of larvae can be produced per year.
The dressing and dyeing of fur
In the dressing and dyeing process of fur, the pelts are treated so they become soft and achieve the long-lasting quality that is characteristic of fur garments.
Dressing and dyeing (or tanning and colouring) is the process in which pelts are made soft, subtle and easy to work with.
The dressing of fur pelts preserves the leather, hair and follicles which provides fur garments with their long-lasting qualities. As the intention is to preserve the fur hair and follicles this process is relatively benign. In contrast to leather tanning for example, in which the hair is intentionally removed from the hide.
Table salt, water, alum salts, soda ash, sawdust, cornstarch, lanolin and other natural ingredients are the main chemicals used to 'dress' fur pelts.
The process starts by softening the pelts in salt water, after which any remaining fat on the underside of the pelt is removed. Pelts are then soaked in solutions of enzymes and acetic acid which can be found in vinegar water.
The next step involves mechanically stretching the pelts, after which they rest in a tanning bath of water, baking soda, salt and potassium alum (which is also used in cosmetics). The fur pelts are then dried, stretched and treated with natural oils such as lanolin (also known as wool grease) to soften them again.
Finally, the fur pelts are cleaned by rotating them in large drums filled with sawdust.
Some, but not all, pelts are also dyed. The dyeing process follows the same principles as dressing. Pelts are soaked in solutions which make the hairs receptive to the dyes. These are the same solutions used for other textiles like denim and cotton.
Europe has incredibly strict regulations for the use chemicals in consumer goods. The regulation called REACH works for both imported goods and products manufactured in Europe.