Wool-free carpets

When extending veganism beyond your diet, you might think about alternatives to leather shoes and bags. An often overlooked home décor product is carpeting.

Rugs are often made of wool (here’s why wool isn’t an ethical product). Sometimes, you’ll even see leather or leather-trimmed rugs. And sheepskin and cowhide rugs are not byproducts! Fortunately, it’s easy to find alternatives. Let’s look at some options for area rugs and broadloom:


Wall-to-wall wool carpet is more cost-prohibitive that synthetic broadloom so isn’t as common. When shopping for carpet rolls, you’ll notice that most carpeting is synthetic.

Looking for natural alternatives? Wall-to-wall sisal is available at places like sisalcarpet.com, Sustainable Lifestyles, and Fibreworks. It’s available is a range of prices, but seems to be more expensive than synthetic wall-to-wall.

Area rugs

Wool is a common ingredient in area rugs. A simple swap would be to buy a synthetic version. If you see ingredients like nylon, latex, polyester and polypropylene, you’ll know the rug is synthetic.

If petrochemicals are a concern, there’s a host of animal-free natural fibers to choose from too. Cotton, hemp, jute, seagrass, sisal, bamboo, and linen rugs are great options. Some will look more rustic and, well, natural, but you can find a style and color to suit your décor.

Flor carpets

I’m a fan of Flor, a system of carpet squares that you can use to create rugs in any size or shape you’d like. Most are nylon (some are wool, so check the specs). They’re made with recycled backing and meet or exceed VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions standards. If pets, kids, or sloppy guests make a mess, you can replace a tile, not the entire rug. They come in a myriad of styles and colors—from solid, to stripes, and even animal prints. If you crave sophistication, their Better than Wool collection will impress.

Overstock.com has a huge selection of area rugs that you can sort by size, color and material (including synthetic versions of Persian/Oriental styles). Home Decorators has sections for natural and synthetic rugs too. You can even check out Target and Ikea’s sites for ideas.


Wall-to-wall wool is more cost-prohibitive, and isn’t as common, but it’s considered the gold standard. Most wall-to-wall carpeting is synthetic.

Looking for natural alternatives? Wall-to-wall sisal is available at places like sisalcarpet.com, Sustainable Lifestyles, and Fibreworks. It’s available is a range of prices, but seems to be more expensive than synthetic wall-to-wall.


Wool-free winter wear

Whenever I write about what not to do/eat/wear, I like to provide alternatives so we have ideas for things we can consume. I recently wrote about what’s wrong with wool. Well, I’ve found some great, cruelty-free products that are made of wool alternatives and I have to share!

My favorite winter wear company is Vaute Couture. Vegan-owned, Vaute (pronounced vote) is the brain-child of model-turned-entrepreneur Leanne Mai-ly Milgart. Her men’s and women’s designs are made in New York’s garment district using recycled and recyclable fabrics that are windproof, snow- and rain-resistant, warmer than wool, and heat retaining.

Vaute is stylish too. They’re the first all-vegan line to show at New York’s prestigious Fashion Week–and they rocked it! The media picked up the story and vegan fashion went mainstream!

vaute image (c) Vaute Couture

I recently learned about another cool company, Hoodlamb. Based in Amsterdam, Hoodlamb makes men’s and women’s coats and other apparel from hemp–arguably the most environmentally friendly fabric out there. It’s strong and durable and requires no pesticides or fertilizer to grow. Hemp warms you up when you need it and keeps you cool when you’re hot.

Hoodlamb carries stylish, warm winter clothes with a conscience. Love the faux shearling linings!

hoodlamb image (c) Hoodlamb

For budget-conscious fashionistas, I recommend Lulu’s and Modcloth. They both carry a wide assortment of winter coats, many of which are wool-, down-, and leather-free. Not all their products are vegan, so read the descriptions before you buy.

Modcloth and Lulu’s focus on showcasing independent designers from around the world. That might not sit well with localvores, but if you’re like me and are primarily interested in animal-free clothes, you’ll find something adorable at these online retailers.

In fact, if you look around, you’ll find non-wool coats in other stores too. For example, American Apparel, known for their sweatshop-free made in LA clothes, carry some vegan winter items, like a wool-free cape and a unisex parka made with faux shearling.

American Apparel images (c) American Apparel

Do you have any other tips for finding cruelty-free winter wear?

Why not wool?

I’ve never liked the feel of wool next to my skin. It’s too itchy! But I couldn’t understand why vegans didn’t wear it. Sheep need to be shorn, right? And unlike fur, they’re not killed for their wool. Or are they?

A few years ago, after researching about wool, I changed my stance. Wool isn’t welcome in my home.

bleating sheep

Wild sheep grow only enough wool to keep warm (and they can shed it). Domesticated sheep have been bred for their wooly coats and do require shearing. Often, sheep who aren’t shorn before the weather is too hot will die of heat exhaustion. And if they’re shorn too early, they’ll die from exposure. About a million sheep a year die this way.

Sheep, like merinos, are bred to have lots of wrinkly skin (more area to grow wool on). As a result of their wrinkles, they suffer from skin infections. Flies lay eggs in their folds and maggots literally eat the sheep alive. Ranchers have found a way to combat this: mulesing, a process where large strips of flesh are cut off the sheep’s backsides. About 100 million sheep have this process done to them every year–without anesthetic!

Also performed without painkillers: castration, dehorning and tail docking.

Sheep are shorn by laborers who are paid by volume, not the hour. And in their hurry to work quickly, sheep are often rough-handled and injured. And when sheep stop producing as much wool as ranchers need to keep profits up, the sheep are killed for their flesh. In Australia, sheep are often shipped alive to the Middle East so they can be sold and butchered there. Many don’t even survive the cramped, long journey by sea.

In theory, one can raise a few sheep and sheer them humanely. In reality, the scale of operations–farms with hundreds of thousands of sheep–means there isn’t time or resources to care for the sheep. Dead sheep are a cost of doing business. It’s great that sheep aren’t usually confined to factory farm, like pigs, chickens and cows, but they roam land in habitats that they aren’t native to and often destroy habitat for native species. In Australia, some indigenous species are becoming endangered as a result of sheep grazing.

Don’t get fleeced! Whether for carpets or clothing, skip the wool (which is pricy, shrinks, attracts moths, retains odors and isn’t hypoallergenic) and try humane alternatives:

  • Cottonsheep
  • Bamboo
  • Hemp
  • Tencel (biodegradable)
  • PolarTec (made from recycled plastic)
  • Poly fleece
  • Synthetic shearling
  • Rayon
  • Linen