Being a person following a vegan lifestyle is quite difficult. Most people would have you believe that the only thing you need to worry about is your diet – as if that is easy in itself.
However, what people fail to understand is that a vegan lifestyle is all about forgoing the use of any product that either harms animals or was a part of an animal at one point.
This means that you can’t wear clothes that use animal materials, that you can’t use makeup or beauty products that were made of animal material, and so on.
With this in mind, we have to consider whether a lot of products are appropriate for our use when we are vegan (see also ‘Are Uggs Vegan?‘). One of the most used products is that of nylon, but is this appropriate for a vegan lifestyle?
In this article, we seek to find this out.
What Is Nylon?
Nylon is a durable material that is commonly used in clothing, sports equipment, and many other products.
The material is entirely synthetic, meaning that it is made from non-natural materials or in other words, it is entirely man-made compared to other materials such as cotton.
Due to nylon being made from an interlocking chain of molecules called polymers, the material is lightweight, but also insanely durable and its durability means that it is used in many modern products.
From stockings to thin sports clothes to durable ropes to even large, industrial fishing nets, nylon is a modern-day super material.The other amazing thing about nylon is its adaptability.
There are many different kinds of nylon that you can make and each of these suits a different purpose, some are softer and are not as abrasive to the skin, whereas others can be really tough and weather certain conditions well.
Finally, nylon is not as flammable as other materials. While cottons or rayon may catch fire easily and burn quickly, nylon is unlikely to catch fire.
However, this doesn’t mean that it will keep the wearer safe, as nylon is likely to melt in high temperatures and may cause burns that way.
Is Nylon Vegan?
The answer really depends on why you are vegan in the first place (see also ‘Is PU Leather Vegan?‘). If you are vegan and staunchly oppose the use of any animal products at all, then it is a maybe. If you are vegan for the purpose of helping the planet and protecting the environment, then it is also a maybe.
Let me explain.
Nylon is technically a thermoplastic that has silk like qualities and most thermoplastics are made from non-renewable sources of petrochemicals, with the majority being made from petroleum.
Due to this, the people who are vegan due to the suffering of animals are often divided on nylon, as it does not harm any animals in its production, but the fact it is made from petroleum – a product that is formed over millions of years from deceased animals – technically means it is an animal product.
Some think that it is a good alternative due to no animals suffering and others think it is a slippery slope to use an animal product, even if we did not directly cause the death of the animal, due to it then opening the door for other animal products to be used that might have caused suffering.
Unfortunately, only you can make a decision about how you feel about this.
As for the environmental reasons, this one is just as complicated. Nylon is made from petroleum, which is harmful to the planet, but nylon also has a lower carbon footprint than products like wool, due to it being more durable and lasting longer.
Not only this, but nylon is also better than some plant based sources for materials, as these materials can come at the expense of the natural world and the constant cutting down of forests is always a misfortune.
On the other hand, nylon is hard and expensive to recycle, meaning that it is often dumped without being used again and when it is burned it releases noxious and dangerous gasses into the atmosphere.
There are many sides to this one, as it can be good for the environment on some levels, but it can also be really bad for the environment on other levels. Once again, you are going to have to make up your own minds on this one.
Personally, I would consider nylon not vegan, just for the damage it can do to the world and I have mixed feelings about it in general.
Are There Any Vegan Nylons?
Unfortunately, the answer is not really. While there could be some out there, I haven’t seen them, and we doubt many others have either.
Nylon is a hard material to produce outside of its current structure and plant materials operate very differently to animal materials, meaning that there probably isn’t going to be one soon.
With that said, though, we would encourage you to seek out recycled nylon if you do need it or if you want some clothes. This may seem a little against the whole moral of not buying nylon because it is not vegan, but there is a good reason.
Freshly bought nylon may encourage the industry to keep producing it, but recycled nylon is already out in the world and will only be further recycled or discarded.
It is more harmful discarded or burnt, so buying it yourself from a charity shop or from a respectable eco-friendly brand will keep it from turning out this way for a while.
However, in most other cases, we would advise you not to buy nylon and instead buy organic cotton or linen, as these are far more sustainable and ethical.
Nylon is not a recommended substitute for most vegans, although the debate around it still rages. If you are strong in your conviction and believe it is okay for you to wear nylon, then that is fair enough, and we encourage you to do so.
However, for the rest of us, we might avoid it for now until a substitute is brought out.
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