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What you need to know when choosing a winter jacket

It’s that time of the year again – Spooky season, pumpkins, and cinnamon spice! It also means it’s getting cold and some of you are thinking of buying a new winter jacket this year. After 8 years, it’s time for me to buy a new winter jacket this year. This time around, I did a lot of research into ethical shopping. Honestly I was so shocked at how little I knew about main stream fashion and how unethical it can be. 

Honestly I was so shocked at how little I knew about main stream fashion and how unethical it can be. 

I recently saw a post on a “Hamburg Mothers” group on facebook where a mum asked for winter jacket recommendations. I was in the market for one too so I read through all the responses exhaustively. Buying a down jacket came up as the clear winner; almost everyone suggested it. So I decided to do more research into it and I really learnt a lot.

Here is everything you need to know about Down Feather:

Down feather is one of the most sought after insulations when it comes to jackets or blankets and pillows. No surprise there, it’s super light and really warm – who has looked at a duck sitting on its eggs knows that it must be super warm and comfy for the eggs. Well that is exactly where down feather comes from: the underbelly and closest feather to the skin of a duck, goose or eider bird.

The real issue with down feather is the unethical practices that go with procuring this material. Most of the commercial down produced each year is a byproduct of goose and duck meat industries in Asia and Europe. The birds might be live-plucked to get more than one harvest of down from a single bird, or force-fed for foie gras before heading to the slaughterhouse. It makes me sick to my stomach to think that by casually buying a down jacket on sale I am inadvertently supporting allowing for these practices to continue.

If you still want to buy a down jacket, there are more responsible ways to do it.

If you still want to buy a down jacket, there are more responsible ways to do it. The industry has come up with new standards on down feather production that do take into account the quality of life of the animals.

1. RESPONSIBLE DOWN STANDARD (RDS)

The standard ensures holistic respect for animal welfare of the birds from hatching to slaughter. The Five Freedoms of animal welfare are respected: freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury, and disease; freedom to express normal and natural behavior (e.g. accommodating for a chicken’s instinct to roost); and freedom from fear and distress.

2. Global Traceable Down Standard

The standard ensures that down in garments and other household and commercial products comes from a responsible source that respects animal welfare and can be transparently traced.

3. DOWNPASS

The downpass is a German certification. It ensures the well-being of animals. Specifically, this means that no product from live animals or animals kept for foie gras production is accepted as filling material. Any material from harvesting during the moulting season as well as live plucking is banned.

4. RECYCLED DOWN

Some brands are making the effort to recycle down feather from old bedding into jackets. Its not as impactful as the certificates above as there is still no guarantee on how the down was procured in the first place, but it is a better alternative to the bedding ending up in a landfill.

Some brands that use ethical down are: Patagonia, Re:down, North Face, Arket, Columbia. Bergzeit has a filter for RDS items.

ALTERNATIVES TO DOWN FEATHER:

There are plenty of synthetic alternatives to Down feather. While polyester comes with its own downsides regarding being less environmentally friendly, they tend to last longer than down, can handle getting wet, can be as warm as down, and in lots of cases are also cheaper than down.

1. PRIMALOFT

Often known as Synthetic Down, it is the best alternative to down. It is a brand of patented synthetic microfiber thermal insulation material that was developed for the United States Army in the 1980s. Compared to down, it was proven to provide an equally efficient thermal barrier, be of equivalent density, possess similar compressional properties, have improved wetting and drying characteristics, and have superior loft retention when wet.

2. 3M THINSULATE

Thinsulate is a brand of synthetic fiber thermal insulation used in clothing. The material is made by the 3M Corporation and was first sold in 1979. It was originally marketed as an inexpensive alternative to down; at the time, 3M claimed it was twice as warm as an equivalent amount of any natural material. Originally designed for clothing, it later became popular as an acoustic damping material.

3. POLARTEC

The first manufacture of Polartec Polar fleece happened in the US: Polar fleece is used in jackets, hats, sweaters, sweatpants, cloth diapers (nappies), gym clothes, hoodies, pajamas, blankets, and high-performance outdoor clothing. It is created through a lengthy factory process using recycled plastic bottles.

Some brands that use this technology are: Vaude, Haglöffs, Marmot, Schöffel, Jack Wolfskin, Save the Duck.

ADDITIONAL FINAL TIPS:

  1. Warm head, hands and feet – I find 100% Cashmere does the best job in keeping warmth. I use the same scarf, cap and gloves for the entire season, and it did a great job keeping me warm in sub zero Berlin winters.
  2. The content above has mainly had to do with filling of a jacket. Typically there is an outer layer, filling and inner layer of a jacket. The outer layer is most often than not synthetic in order to be water resistant. Even here, some companies are choosing to go with recycled plastic (watch out for Global Recycled Standard) which makes it an even more ethical purchase.

  3. Essentially, the thicker the jacket, the warmer its going to be. It traps more air in, and that’s what keeps you warm.

Feel free to add more ethical brands in the comment section below so we can all be more informed.

Good luck with your search and kudos on choosing responsibly!

My pick in the end was: Patagonia (recycled down and recycled polyester)

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