Updated January 7, 2019: As documented in a PETA exposé, geese and ducks are often plucked alive so that their down can be stuffed inside outerwear, bedding, and other products. Once they’re considered no longer profitable to the down feather industry, these birds are thrown into crates for a grueling journey to the slaughterhouse, where they’re hung upside down and killed for their flesh.
Thankfully, many companies are using high-tech vegan materials that are better for both birds and the environment.
Here are some great vegan down alternatives that’ll keep you cozy without hurting animals:
Stay warm and save lives by choosing the ultimate animal-free version of fleece. Polartec created modern synthetic fleece in 1981 and has since set the bar higher by creating the world’s first fully recyclable and biodegradable fleece. The company’s Eco-Engineering initiative brings together fabric-industry leaders Unifi and Intrinsic Advanced Materials to design a new generation of biodegradable polyester and nylon. Polartec is truly where innovative science and high-performing fabric meet.
PrimaLoft offers high-performance insulations and fabrics that are 100 percent vegan. Originally developed for the U.S. Army, it uses a proprietary microfiber structure to help retain warmth so that the body can conserve energy. Fibers just a fraction of the diameter of a human hair form a tight collection of air pockets that trap body heat and keep the cold out. It’s used in the outdoors market as well as for home furnishings and bedding in over 500 brands. The company also recently introduced PrimaLoft Bio insulation made from 100 percent recycled, biodegradable fibers.
Plumtech, an exclusive Save The Duck padding, is a synthetic down made from recycled polyester using innovation that’s completely animal-free. It provides outdoor enthusiasts with outerwear that allows easy movement and is durable, light, packable, and machine-washable. It has a high level of breathability, which disperses the excess heat generated during everyday workouts, and can trap an extremely large amount of air, preserving the body’s natural temperature.
Marmot, one of the world’s most highly respected technical apparel and equipment companies, created a unique polyester insulation called Thermal R, engineered to meet various cold-weather needs. This insulation combines multichannel and hollow fibers to provide maximum warmth while it reduces the adverse effects of perspiration, condensation, and humidity. Thermal R is resilient, has an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio, and is highly durable. According to reports, Marmot’s featherless line now accounts for 60 percent of the brand’s sales.
The PANGAIA collective’s Flower-Down Puffer Jacket is available for pre-order now. The vibrant red outer shell is made from recycled material and plastic bottles, while the inside is stuffed full of a fluffy, one-of-a-kind vegan down alternative made from wild flowers. With every purchase of a PANGAIA product, a donation is made to help combat global plastic pollution.
Down and wool trap air to keep you warm, acting as thermal insulators. That’s why Nudown made the business-savvy decision to skip cruelly derived animal materials and go straight to using air. It offers a line of jackets and vests with built-in inflatable chambers. You simply squeeze an in-pocket pump that forces air into the chambers surrounding your torso, and you can adjust the level of insulation whenever you need to.
3M Thinsulate is a unique insulation that works by trapping air molecules between you and the outside, providing a breathable and moisture-resistant experience, and it’s machine-washable. These synthetic microfibers are far finer than down feathers, so they can trap more air in less space, which naturally makes for better insulation than down. Thinsulate has a plethora of products designed for virtually all weather conditions.
Climashield is composed of thousands of continuous strands of synthetic fibers in a distinctive interlocking solution. It maintains thermal efficiency in wet and humid conditions, is more cost-effective than down, and retains warmth over time—even after multiple uses. Its strands require minimal to no quilting, which allows products containing it to be less expensive. Its custom-fit insulation can be found in sleeping bags, bedding, outerwear, gloves, and footwear sold around the world.
A great alternative to down was created by 37.5 (formerly known as Cocona), which uses active carbon derived from coconut shells that are blended with recycled polyester. This unique blend increases the surface area of the insulation—allowing it to dry fast, resist odors, absorb heat, and provide a high warmth-to-weight ratio.
Referred to as “frozen smoke” because it’s so lightweight, Aspen Aerogels insulation was developed in a lab 80 years ago and then reintroduced in 2007, when NASA figured out how to use it to keep instruments warm on a Mars rover. It’s used in running shoes, sleeping pads, snow pants, and spacesuits and is extremely effective as an insulator because the holes in it are only 1/10,000th the diameter of a human hair, blocking almost all airflow.
Since the early 1900s, DuPont Sorona has been revolutionizing the world of fibers and polymers. This bio-based fiber insulator is lightweight, breathable, warm, quick-drying, and resilient. Thirty-seven percent of its polymer is made using annually renewable plant-based ingredients. Its revolutionary Bio-PDO compound turns a formerly chemical process into an eco-efficient biological one, using less energy and fewer greenhouse-gas emissions.
Grado Zero Espace
Grado Zero Espace is an Italian-based company that creates many vegan textiles, including Grado VeganTech Insulation—a natural insulation composed of flowers, biopolymers, and Aerogel. It is oil- and animal-free and is known for maintaining its breathability. It’s also inexpensive and efficient. This technology offers protection against freezing temperatures, heat, and fire, while at the same time providing a high level of comfort.
Monark Eco Fibre Inc.
Using fibers from milkweed, a native plant encompassing more than 100 species that grows in abundance in North America, Monark Eco Fibre Inc. produces materials that provide insulating power equivalent to down’s. The material is waterproof, buoyant, and extremely lightweight, and it repels water. Milkweed fiber is a natural and eco-friendly material that can be used in a wide variety of products, including jackets, sleeping bags, gloves, bedding, and boots.
This technology can be found at Quartz Co.
Thermolite is a synthetic form of insulation. This technology provides lightweight warmth and functional insulation with lasting durability. Thermolite is used in a variety of products, including outdoor apparel and sports gear, and it’s engineered to keep you warm while helping to optimize your performance.
Polarguard is a continuous-filament, polyester synthetic fiber that is most commonly used in sleeping bags and outerwear. It is hypoallergenic and mildew-resistant and retains most of its loft and insulating properties when wet. Polarguard 3D is a softer fiber that is similar to down—without the cruelty to animals.
Thermore, a producer of vegan thermal insulation for apparel and sleeping, has been on the leading edge of thermal insulation technology and continues to be a pioneer in the development of advanced fibers that help your body maintain its natural warmth. The company produces several thermal insulators, including Thermore Freedom, which consists of countless micro-gaps that move and adapt to your body with every movement—from walking around town to more enthusiastic pursuits in the great outdoors.
Ingeo is a unique bio-based material made completely from plants. Its functionality grants a broad assortment of creative innovations like plastics for food and beverage containers and consumer electronics, and it’s a great down alternative for apparel and sleepwear. Ingeo insulation is breathable, quick-drying, UV light–resistant, and hypoallergenic, and it boasts outstanding moisture management.
The industry is now embracing pure bamboo for insulation in quilts, comforters, and pillows. This eco-friendly down alternative is naturally antibacterial, odor-resistant, chemical-free, dust mite–resistant, thermo-regulating, hypoallergenic, and extremely breathable.
MicroCloud offers a wide variety of vegan bedding, including mattresses, quilts, and pillows. This “down-like” alternative is created with synthetic polyester high-tech fibers that provide comfort and superior support of your head, neck, and shoulders. It’s hypoallergenic, machine-washable, and tumble-dryable. MicroCloud achieves an affordable price point without harming birds, and the filling provides greater health benefits than down does.
Flocus is a revolutionary textile brand producing insulation made with fibers harvested from kapok pods found on tropical ceiba trees. This insulation is 100 percent sustainable, utilizing a natural alternative without abandoning functionality. Flocus is insulating, lightweight, water-resistant, and fully biodegradable.
What’s So Wrong With Down?
Down feathers are used in clothing and comforters, but for geese and ducks, the down industry’s methods are anything but comfortable. In the cruel industry, the birds are often plucked alive for their down—the soft layer of feathers closest to the skin.
And if you think birds used for down don’t die for their feathers, think again. Once their feathers are ripped out, many are paralyzed with fear and are left with gaping wounds—some die as a result of the procedure. But you can help birds suffering in the down industry by refusing to buy items containing down and instead choosing from the plethora of vegan materials above. Send a powerful message to the cruel industry by pledging to be down-free.
Inspired to spread the word about down? Order some leaflets today.