Why Furniture & Upholstery Derived From Animals Is Not Eco-Friendly

The benefits of choosing eco-friendly furniture and upholstery are two-fold. You can be kind to the environment, and kind to yourself. Refusing to use animal-derived materials saves land, water and food, which in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions and hazardous chemical-use

Choosing animal derived materials for furniture may seem natural, but this may not be the case, since these materials are known to emit toxic emissions which pollute the air, the water and the soil. Often the raising of livestock for wool, down or leather can be cruel.


Considered very luxurious by many, leather is made from animal skins, and is ecologically harmful. Raising livestock for whatever purpose, meat or leather productive, requires considerable amounts of feed, land, water and fuels. The excrement produced on farms also infects the waterways.

Even the process used to tan leather is noxious and polluting, with some of the oils and dyes used being cyanide-based. The tanning of leather produces a range of different pollutants including chromium, sulphides and acids.


You can be forgiven for thinking that wool is an environmentally-friendly upholstery material, especially since the sheep from which the wool comes are not killed, merely shorn. Many people (including the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have a problem with how wool-producing livestock are treated. They argue that even if they’re not subjected to pesticide-ridden habitats they could end up being mutilated by their owners.

Animal rights protesters have made a particular example of the Australian Merino sheep, who have been bred to have wrinkly skin which results in increased wool yields. Sometimes flies lay eggs in the folds of the sheep’s skin which can result in fatal maggot infestations, so farmers restrain the sheep without pain killers, cutting out chunks of flesh to discourage flies laying eggs.

Another environmental disadvantage of wool is the amount of gas that sheep and other wool-giving animals emit into the atmosphere through burping and farting. Sheep flatulence represents ninety-percent of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, so you shouldn’t doubt that this is a major contributing factor towards climate change.

Down and feathers

Down is a popular filler material for cushioned furniture, and is made from an insulating layer of feathers which can be found underneath the outer feathers of ducks and geese.

Down and feathers are collected from commercial meat processing plants, which means that it is impossible to know if they were raised organically.

Some campaigners have warned that often geese and ducks are plucked while alive. Down and feathers have also been blamed for allergic reactions, although this is more likely to be due to the dust and dirty which can accumulate in bedding over a long time.

Cover finishes

Cover fabrics, such as cotton is often bleached or dyed, and releases carcinogenic dioxins into the environment. Permanent-press and stain- and water-repellent finishes can emit gas formaldehyde into the environment. Cotton covers can also have detrimental environmental effects, as cotton uses a lot of water and is treated with more pesticides than any other crop in the world. Cotton is resistant to dyes and bleaches, so half of these chemicals end up as waste in rivers and in the soil.

Adam Cairn writes on behalf of Gecco Interiors, who supply a range of eco furniture and green products.

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11 Responses to “Why Furniture & Upholstery Derived From Animals Is Not Eco-Friendly”

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  2. Mariela Says:

    There are pros and cons to all types of upholstery for furniture. For example, certified organic textiles such as cotton are grown with no pesticides and herbicides, but still require a great deal of water to sustain the long growing cycle and requires a more limited climate to thrive. Nonetheless, cotton accounts for more than 90% of the “natural fiber” market. Better eco-friendly choices for fabric upholstery are hemp, linen, bamboo, and abaca. None of the eco-friendly choices are completely black and white; there are land use conversion issues with materials like bamboo and even wool, where forests are cleared for plantations or pastures. Education is the key to making more sustainable living practices. Thanks for your information!

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