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The Eco-Friendly Alpaca

by Brian Schieber


Eco-Friendly Clothing

One way of becoming a more eco-aware shopper is to buy eco-aware clothing. To this end, consider the many benefits of alpaca. Alpaca fiber is an awesome eco-friendly material that everyday people use and love, perhaps without completely realizing the scope of its personal and environmental healthy difference. Alpaca sweaters, alpaca scarves, and alpaca wool socks keep people warm in winter throughout the world. Luxurious alpaca blankets adorn many a bed and living room couch. Alpaca coats and wraps give one the look of fashionable comfort. They are beautiful quality products from one of the most earth-friendly animals out there.

Why the Alpaca?

What makes the alpaca so Earth friendly? The alpaca is a natural when it comes to conservation, pollution reduction and sustainability. First and foremost, the alpaca produces a pollution free fiber which they will gladly share with you as they are shorn (without harm) annually.

Alpacas, which have been determined to be the world’s oldest domestic livestock, are happy to give up their thick annual growth of dense, warm and luxuriously soft fiber as spring turns into summer. Picture how uncomfortable you would be wearing the equivalent of 3-4 heavy winter coats in mid summer! The newly naked alpaca will be bounding with springtime joy and energy after their thick fleece has been claimed for a new alpaca sweater, scarf or socks.

Alpacas are South American in origin and are very distant relatives to camels. You’ll notice this when you see their unusual running style, their "cush" sitting position, and more. It’s also evident in the lower amount of water they consume. The 160 lb average alpaca eats less per pound than most other livestock and their efficient 3-stomach digestive system metabolizes grass and hay more efficiently than nearly all other livestock.

Alpacas actually "cut" the grass with their unusual front incisor teeth rather than yanking it, roots and all, out of the ground like some other livestock.

Their lightweight, soft two toed foot (no hoof) is soft on the ground which reduces soil damage. Also, the other alpaca byproduct, "PacaPOO" is pH balanced and an excellent, natural, slow-release low-odor fertilizer.

The conservation continues even more so after the fiber is shorn from the alpaca. Unlike sheep wool which contains the allergen oil lanolin, alpacas are lanolin free. Lanolin is a type of thick oil which causes skin irritation in many people. It requires a harsh multi-stage detergent wash (read pollution) to remove it during processing. Not only do alpacas lack lanolin naturally, the fine and smooth nature of their resilient hollow-core fiber keeps prickly barbs from poking your skin.

Alpaca fiber comes in a whole array of colors naturally, and many alpaca products are available in natural colors. Alpaca also dyes very well and takes color nicely from plant and other natural dyes so you don’t have to worry about artificial dyes irritating delicate skin or causing more pollution.

Finally, one other key factor to consider is economic as well as environmental sustainability. Tens of thousands of alpacas are raised by thousands of small family farms and ranches throughout the country. Your alpaca apparel purchases support those family farms and the products industry they serve as they raise some of the cutest, most colorful livestock you will ever see.

With all this going for them you could say, "Alpacas are Saving the Earth, One Sweater at a Time!"

 

 

Brian Schieber is the owner of PurelyAlpaca.com, an online and catalog boutique of "Naturally Unique Clothing and Gifts" which are all about alpaca. He is a tireless alpaca products advocate who lectures on occasion. He lives with his wife, house cat, barn cat, livestock guard dog and numerous alpacas in the Pacific Northwest.


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