6 Ethical Jackets to Help Keep You Warm (and Not Look Like an Asshole) This Winter

If you live in a colder climate, then you’re no stranger to going to great lengths to stay warm when you have to brave the outdoors.

I might be born and raised in New England, which is best known for its moody climate and harsh winters, but I am most certainly not a cold weather person. In fact, I have two versions of myself: winter-time-cozy-hibernating Stephanie, who prefers to cuddle on the couch, sipping tea and watching movies all winter; and vibrant-outdoor-summer-and-fall Stephanie, who is always taking advantage of the nice weather with some activity immersed in nature.

Despite my propensity to remain indoors when the temperatures drop, I have, over the years, amassed a collection of coats and jackets to suit myriad weather conditions and make those extra frosty days a little more bearable. Some girls love shoes or bags - I happen to love coats!

These days, functional winter coats have become more stylish and can be found at price points to suit most budgets. But, with all the options in the market, you can be sure that there are plenty that come from questionable manufacturing practices, and are made from materials that aren’t exactly friendly to the planet or to animals.

Which is why I’m wondering if you know how your jacket was made or what is was made from?

Is it made from tortured animals or from unsustainable materials?

Was it made in a factory that lacks transparent labor practices?

Unfortunately, many jackets are made using animal products; down filled coats are among the most common in outwear, but full fur jackets and fur trimmed jackets are becoming fashionable again.

I don’t think I need to explain why fur is cruel, but I’m alarmed to learn that a lot of people don’t know that the fur trims on the omnipresent Canada Goose jackets are made from coyote pelts. I find it particularly alarming when I see people walking down the street, decked out in their Canada Goose jacket, with their DOG! The disconnect is confounding and I often want to ask whether they realize they’re essentially wearing a dead dog while they care for their own.

But let’s move on.

Down as a material might seem innocuous enough, but it is typically plucked from live geese even though this practice is outlawed in many countries, including the United States. As you might imagine, live-plucking is extremely painful and can cause open wounds. Geese often sustain other injuries, like broken wings, because of rough handling. With eco-friendly, technical alternatives, that actually perform better than goose down, it’s easier than ever to find a toasty winter coat that didn’t cause harm to any animal.

And even if you try to avoid animal products like down and fur, and choose to buy faux-fur instead of the real thing, it has been documented that some faux-fur, typically used as trim on hoods, is actually real. I think faux-fur, particularly used as a decorative trim, is problematic anyway, especially when you consider most of it is made from plastic. But, to consider that you might be unknowingly purchasing real fur is a problem as well. My take - it’s best just to avoid it all together.

But, when considering the bigger picture, I don’t think it’s wise to rule out the use of animal products entirely ; specifically, recycled animal materials.

Those of us who choose to avoid animal products for ethical reasons must consider the ecological impacts certain materials have on the environment in the long term - impacts that harm the very planet and animals we want so badly to protect. Plastic based textiles are a major problem from their creation all the way to end of their life cycle, which typically ends in a landfill somewhere.

We must consider the importance of buying secondhand or buying clothing manufactured with recycled materials - even if those materials include animal products. Whether it’s winter puffy jackets insulated with recycled down, or classic trench coats made from recycled wool, it’s time we consider the myriad factors at play when it comes to our clothes.

Do I still believe it’s cruel to pluck feathers from live geese - yes , of course. I would prefer that the down industry would no longer exist. However, I would rather material that might be discarded into a landfill be reclaimed and recycled into something useful that can be used again and again instead of bringing virgin materials into existence that will have unquestionable negative impacts on the environment in the long term.

Before you buying new, try to buy secondhand. Check your local vintage or consignment shops - they’re a great place if you’re looking for something one-of-a-kind that no one else will have.

But if you must buy new, here are six carefully considered coats that will keep you warm this winter; all of them adhere to varying degrees of environmental and social responsibility. You can wear these jackets knowing you are making a responsible choice, all while avoiding looking like an asshole in a coyote-trimmed $1000 + coat. (looking at you again, Canada Goose).

Top Row

Ladie’s Nordic Puffer | Hood Lamb

Hood Lamb’s Nordic Puffer is sustainable fashion at its finest. It features a shell made from a hemp and organic cotton blend, lining made from organic cotton, insulated with Thermore Eco Down, and finished with a removable hemp and recycled PET faux-fur trim.

Industrial hemp is finally gaining mainstream popularity as a sustainable material - not only because of its versatility (hemp can be made into paper, textiles, and even building materials), but because hemp crops can grow well in nutrient poor soils, without much chemical inputs, and are excellent carbon sinks. While the green benefits of hemp are often over stated in the media, it’s clear that hemp is a very eco-friendly textile, especially when compared to other commonly used fabrics.

Doe Parka | Wuxly

I was initially reluctant to add this jacket to my guide since the shell is mostly made from polyester. But, it’s hard to overlook the fact that this brand meets other important pillars of ethics in fashion, including social responsibility and commitment to animals. A vegan brand, Wuxly does not use any animal products in any of their designs. Designed and manufactured in Canada, Wuxly is committed to fair labor practices - because they manufacture locally, they have close relationships with their partners and are intimately involved in all aspects of their supply chain. And although I wish they weren’t using polyester in their designs, the brand is committed to mitigating their environmental impact in other ways. For example, the factory that makes their VeganTech shells utilizes a heat recovery system, which uses the heat from the garment dyeing process to heat their facility. Additionally, they treat and clean the water that leaves the facility - water pollution is often a major problem in factories. I spoke with a rep from the brand who told me that their design team is always looking for ways to be more sustainable, and are considering the use of greener textiles for future collections.

Insulated Prairie Dawn Parka | Patagonia

Made from an organic cotton canvas shell and lined with recycled polyester fleece, the Dawn Parka puts a feminine spin on the current work wear trend. An industry leader in social and environmental responsibility and transparency, Patagonia publishes the “Footprint Chronicles” for each of their styles, which gives a description of each supplier that touched that particular item throughout the supply chain. The Dawn Parka has components from Thailand, China, and Belgium. Read more about their supply chain here.

Bottom Row

Barton Coat | Reformation

Sometimes you just wish you could look chic while traipsing around in your robe - with the Barton coat, you can! A woven wool blend made from surplus fabric, the Barton coat comes in several colors. I personally prefer this pink!

Raven Rock Hoody | Patagonia

Made from a 100% recycled outer shell and insulated with reclaimed down, the Raven Rock Hoody is a casual jacket perfect for cruising around the city on a wintry day. The down used to insulate this jacket was reclaimed from cushions, bedding, and other used items that can’t be resold.

Andie Peacoat | Dolores Haze

Designed and manufactured in NYC, Dolores Haze sources a variety of eco-friendly fabrics, including vintage fabrics that result in beautiful, limited edition collections. The Andie Peacot is made from vintage uniform textiles sourced in NYC.