I do love cashmere. But last year I learned that due to an incredibly high demand for cashmere and prices at rock bottom levels an environmental catastrophe is taking place. Specifically, something called desertification is happening. Desertification is when fertile land turns into desert because of drought, deforestation and poor agriculture practices. In the case of Mongolia, desertification is due to over grazing of the cashmere goat. The goats are very rough on the land and grasses. They bit the grass off to close to the roots and their hooves dig into the thin topsoil. All this leads to erosion and the spreading of the Gobi Desert.
So what can we, the green consumer, do? One idea is to find alternative fibers to use. An up and coming fiber that is a great substitute for cashmere is alpaca. I also really like merino wool. Another idea is to look for sustainably produced cashmere. The downside to buying sustainable cashmere is that it is MUCH more expensive. The upside to sustainable cashmere is that it could help reduce the impact on the environment, it is usually of higher quality, it will last longer without pilling (maybe a lifetime). Cheap cashmere is that, cheap. Cheap cashmere pills very quickly and doesn’t last very long, which means you have to replace it. Cheap cashmere creates greater demand and will ultimately cost you more both financially and environmentally. I’ve listed a few companies that are selling sustainable cashmere and alpaca.
Here is a good article on Mongolian desertification Tree Hugger