Down and feather sportswear, bedding and outdoor gear turn our winter activities into adventures, our summer treks into expeditions and our houses into comfortable homes.
It is no wonder manufacturers and designers have embraced down and feather and made it into products that are timeless yet trendy and as fashionable as they are functional. Down and feather enhances so many parts of our lives because of these unique qualities:
As the light fluffy coating clustered beneath the feathers of geese or ducks, down is the world’s most efficient natural insulator. Down products provide superior warmth over synthetic materials which is why it is the fill material of choice for winter sports apparel, outdoor gear, and bedding.
- When down and feather bedding first became mainstream in the 1960s, its superior warmth combined with its lightness changed the way beds were made. Heavy layers of blankets were replaced by a single light weight down and feather comforter or duvet.
- Runners, hikers, mountaineers, skiers, snowboarders, and skaters appreciate the extra movement, comfort and speed that lightweight down jackets, vests, and parkas offer.
- Because it is a natural product, down and feather is a healthy, breathable material which reduces uncomfortable overheating during sports activities and the nighttime “sweats” that can interrupt a good night’s sleep.
- Down and feather bedding products are non-allergenic to those with dust allergies. Its breathability reduces the moist environment that breeds dust mites.
- Down and feathers are part of our lives as they are a byproduct of the food industry. Instead of being discarded into and contributing to ever-growing landfills, down and feather is collected, cleaned, sanitized, and used as fill material in products that keep us warm.
- IDFB commissioned a Life Cycle Assessment that revealed that down and feather fill was 85-97% more environmentally friendly than synthetic fill material.
Life Cycle Assessment compares Carbon Footprint
Sustainable... Renewable... Environmentally Superior... Lower Carbon Footprint... Recyclable... Positive Effects on Climate Change... Biodegradable... Part of the Circular Economy... Green Material...
While these are all accurate descriptions of the environmental benefits of down and feather, the International Down and Feather Bureau has commissioned research studies to quantify and bring data-based conclusions and results to these claims. To test the environmental footprint of down and feather, IDFB commissioned Long Trail Sustainability, an independent third-party organization that specializes in Life Cycle Assessments (LCA), to conduct an LCA of down fill compared to polyester. The LCA tested the environmental impact of down vs. polyester in five areas: human health, ecosystems, resources, cumulative energy demand and climate change.
On a per ton basis, down has an 85% – 97% lower impact than polyester in all categories analyzed, and 18 times lesser impact on climate change than polyester fill.
Research Supports Down’s Earth-Friendliness
While an IDFB-commissioned white paper assessed the ethical treatment of waterfowl practiced by IDFB members, it also quantified the fact that down and feather is the following:
- Recyclable: As a byproduct of the food industry, the waterfowl from which the down and feathers come from have been farmed or raised for food, not their feathers. Re-using the plumage for natural insulation reduces agricultural waste.
- Environmentally Friendly: As a byproduct of the food industry, no resources go to waste or into landfills.
- Renewable: Unlike synthetic fill materials composed of non-renewable resources, down and feather is a fully renewable resource.
As an organization, IDFB supports the ethical treatment of animals and does not condone the illegal harvesting of down or feathers from live birds. Furthermore, IDFB supports its many members that promote traceability programs and ethical treatment of animal pledges and programs. All IDFB members, including trade associations across Europe, Asia and America plus individual companies worldwide, follow standards for the ethical treatments of birds.
The Sustainable and Ethical Practices of the Down and Feather Industry: A Global Assessment of Industry Statistics and Practices
In your home
Bedding items such as duvets, comforters, pillows, featherbeds, bed toppers are all enhanced with down and feather fill material. A fill power of 500 or higher is the range to look for in a duvet if you live in a colder climate. When choosing a comforter look for sewn-through boxes or baffle box construction to prevent shifting of the filling.
In your closet
A stylish down filled coat is the right choice for traveling to and from work, while a jacket or parka are perfect for keeping you warm while skiing, camping, hiking, and even while shoveling the walk or building a snowman. Mittens and hats are also available with down fill.
In your “great outdoors”
Sports and outdoor gear made with down is the best product whether you are an experienced global adventurer or a weekend family camper. The warmth of a down sleeping bag will allow better sleep at night; the compressibility and light weight will make your total gear kit more compact and lighter to carry by day.
One of the most identifiable qualities of down and feather products is its fluffiness. This fluffiness, or loft, defines the product’s fill power. Fill power is the measure of the loft: the higher the fill power number, the greater the insulating capability. Fill power measures the amount of space a specific weight of down occupies. The more space and the higher the number, the greater the insulating value.