Alpaca is Better for the Planet
- The environmental footprint of cashmere goats is far heavier than that of alpacas. Alpacas have soft padded feet that are gentle on the terrain, require little water, and graze without destroying root systems. They are also more efficient than goats in their nutritional and water needs, as well as in the quantity of fiber that they produce. For example, it’s been estimated that an alpaca can readily grow enough fiber for 4 to 5 sweaters in a year’s time, while it would take 4 goats a year’s time to grow enough fiber for a single cashmere sweater!
- The cashmere goat herds live in very fragile ecosystems, typically in high altitude Asian grasslands that are being decimated by the vast increases in the sizes of the herds. Not only are the cashmere goats themselves much more vulnerable as a consequence, but so too are other species that also make the same grasslands their home.
The Quality of Alpaca is Similar if not Superior to That of Cashmere
- Although cashmere has become more affordable in recent decades with the vast expansion of cashmere goat herds in China and elsewhere, the quality has tended to drop along with the price. As breeders began to crossbreed their goat herds to increase quantity, the result has been more but often inferior cashmere fiber, resulting in sweaters that are not as soft and that are more susceptible to pilling.
- While alpaca fiber has an overall diameter that’s coarser than that of cashmere fiber, alpaca fiber is hand-sorted after shearing into different grades of staple length and diameter. Sweaters made from the finest grades of alpaca fiber equal their cashmere counterparts in softness. Alpaca sweaters are longer lasting as well because alpaca’s generally longer staple length leads to far less pilling and much better durability.
- Alpaca comes in a much wider variety of beautiful natural colors, ranging from snowy white to warm fawns to cool greys, deep browns and inky black. Moreover, in addition to its wonderful light weight insulating and water-wicking properties, alpaca fiber lacks lanolin, a substance that often leads to that itchy quality in other woolen sweaters.
To read more on the fashion industry’s take on alpaca versus cashmere, check out this fashion article written by Jenni Avins.
If you’d like to give the environment a break as well as choose a sweater that’s both stylish and durable, an alpaca sweater is the ultimate luxury!