August 6th, 2012
The frugal college kid in me will always have a soft spot for acrylic yarn – it’s cheap, it comes in loads of colors, there are soft blends available, and it’s almost indestructible. The eco-savvy world-saver in me cringes at the pollution emitted and toxins created through acrylic yarn production. And herein lies the problem: is it worth it to quit acrylic cold turkey to save the environment?
As a petroleum-based fiber, acrylic’s carbon footprint is massive compared to those yarns created by more natural means (e.g. wool from animals or plant-based yarns). In this way, Red Heart Super Saver could be more of a scourge than we thought (it’s not just tacky, it’s also kinda sorta lethal). I understand that many don’t have the economic means to be so wary of the ramifications of their knitting, but the simple fact that this is a hobby would imply that it is not absolutely necessary to daily life (whatever knitters may say). That being said, it’s worth considering the effects of acrylic yarn.
If you look at some of the various commentary on the acrylic debate, many bloggers will urge you to completely purge yourself of your Carron, Red Heart, and whatever other craft store brands you can find. They suggest instead deconstructing sweaters from thrift shops to recycle the yarn. Or, better yet, they encourage you to invest in the various “vegan” yarns that are out there. Some of these animal-free yarns are so clever in their recycling – like soy yarn or the various bamboo blends that are out there (look here for more “vegan” yarns). They’re beautiful and unique in texture and appearance. Unfortunately, they aren’t quite within the budget of the frequent acrylic user. And, to be honest, as quaint as upcycling sweater yarn sounds, I don’t really like the idea of using ratty, old yarn to make things for my loved ones.
So, that brings us back to the first question: what do we do about acrylic? Personally, ruling out acrylic completely makes knitting way too expensive for my tastes. I simply can’t afford to whip out wool for every project. I consider myself conscientious enough, though, to make some effort towards removing acrylic from my stash. Therefore, the only thing I can suggest is to reduce the amount of acrylic you buy. That’s what I’m doing. It’s working pretty well – I take a bit more time to save up for nice wool, my projects make better gifts for all the time and the better quality yarn, and the environment is a tiny bit better off (or not worse off for the sake of my yarn). It’s a pretty good deal.