In today’s ever-changing retail climate, both companies and consumers are finding it increasingly more important to improve their sustainability efforts; the marketplace in our society is hyper aware of the resources, traceability and materials consumed in the manufacturing process.
We all know that environmental sustainability is important these days; from going green and paperless to the reusable straw movement, we’re constantly bombarded by commercials, billboards, green stamps on products; everywhere we look the world is ultra focused on earth friendly initiatives. This standard of quality and intentionality in our product sourcing is the new baseline.
For the down and feather industry there are certified fill material standards like IDFL and RDS that help measure environmental consciousness, including supply chain traceability and animal welfare standards for down bedding. Let’s dive in and start with the basics – what each fill material is, then expand on the environmental consciousness of each. We’ll wrap up this post with some recommendations for you moving forward.
What are Down and Feather?
Birds produce down and feather in order to insulate their body from frigid temperatures. For generations, this natural insulator has been used as a common fill material for bedding and outdoor wear due to its’ superior natural warmth without added weight, body contour and breathability, that allow the animal to remain dry and warm without losing their ability for flight. Natural fill is incredibly resilient, learn more on our Q&A page.
As illustrated in the photo below, feathers (left) are two dimensional and defined by having a spine; they provide body and recovery. Down, (right) has a unique three-dimensional cluster with the ability to trap air and add warmth without weight – breathable, insulating, and moisture-wicking/
What is Polyester?
Polyester is a petroleum based synthetic fiber fill material, commonly used as an alternative for down and feather in the bedding industry and outerwear industry. It is most often substituted for down and feather because of its’ affordability and lack of allergens.
Although our down and feather is hypoallergenic, people who are highly sensitive to allergens are likely to choose polyester fill material for an extra precaution. We’re proud to source ethical and natural down fill as we also offer Primasera™ and Luxurelle polyester fill; a luxury down alternative fill that closely mimics the feel of natural down.
Sustainability of Down and Feather vs. Polyester: Which is Better?
When team DOWN inc. dove into several studies, it was evident that polyester fill material is less environmentally sustainable than natural down and feather.
A recent study commissioned by the International Down and Feather Bureau (IDFB) compared the environmental footprint of down and feather versus polyester fill material. Interestingly, the study found “that down [and feather] fill material has between 85% – 97% lower environmental impact” than polyester fill material when compared across different environmental categories. The study known as a Life Cycle Assessment, looked at the raw materials, manufacturing process and waste outputs to determine the effects down and feather and polyester have on five different categories of environmental impact:
- Human health
- Cumulative energy demand
- Climate change.
The results dramatically favored the natural fill material for having less of an environmental impact, which supports the logic that natural fill material is a byproduct of the food industry only. This testing category on environmental impact, down and feather still had 85% less of an impact. By contrast, the study displayed down and feather having 97% less of an impact on resource consumption than its polyester alternative, while impacts on human health, cumulative energy demand and climate change all fell within those extremes.
Down and feather is a natural product and is biodegradable at the end of its useful lifetime. The opposite is true for polyester. With this knowledge, it is safe to say that natural down and feather is the superior fill material for environmental sustainability.
The information obtained from the Life Cycle Assessment sheds light on how our industry effects environmental sustainability. At DOWN inc., we take pride in our efforts for sustainability as we continually look for ideas for improvement and encourage others to take a look at their footprint, we’re all in this movement together.
Things to Keep in Mind About Sustainability
As consumers, we can make decisions that support environmental sustainability when making purchases and using products. While natural fill material may seem like more of an investment up front, it has superior durability and resilience in product care, allowing the product to long outlast polyester alternatives.
Look for natural fill materials that have been ethically sourced through sustainable processes and proper animal welfare standards. Down and feather companies who follow these guidelines and laws will display accreditations from the International Down and Feather Bureau or one of its members – national associations like the American Down and Feather Council or certified textile and fill material testing facilities like the International Down and Feather Laboratory.
Down and feather are not the only sustainable items we’re proud of, our Organic Down to Earth collection and our mattress pads are made of Tencel, which is sustainably made of wood pulp.
Animal Welfare and down traceability is a foundational element of our business. For this reason, we obtained an independent third-party supply chain certification from the International Down and Feather Laboratory (IDFL), which confirms that our suppliers respect, and are in compliance with, the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare. There is NO live plucking, NO force feeding and that our Down & Feather is only sourced only as a byproduct from the food industry, making it a sustainable option for fill material. You can read about our commitment to this on our website.
Lastly, properly caring for naturally filled products will extend their lifespan and allow you to fully realize the value of the product. Follow these care guidelines and utilize these tricks to maximize the performance and use of your down and feather products. We are proud of our commitment to environmentally sensitive and sustainable down bedding.
It is amazing how little of an impact the natural down and feather fill has over its polyester alternative. Moving forward, the results from this study will drive positive action from industries and consumers that deal with these fill materials. The information published in this study will not only assist consumers in making environmentally sensitive purchasing decisions, but it will also allow producers in the down and feather industry to make informed decisions about further reducing their environmental impact and increasing sustainability in their manufacturing and sourcing processes.