Is the Kapok tree the future of winter wear?

If you went outside in the recent polar vortex you probably had on an insulated jacket, or wish you did. Usually, an insulated jacket is made of two layers of fabric with a heat-trapping fill in-between. The fill is normally a synthetic fill or a mix of feathers and down. But what if there was a more sustainable product?

The Kapok tree or Ceiba pentandra is a tropical tree native to Mexico, Central America, South America, and western Africa. The seed pod from the tree produces a cotton-like substance commonly called kapok fiber.

The eco-friendly Kapok fibers have several benefits. They’re a sustainable resource. The fibers are harvested from seed pods that fall from the trees. That means that no trees are felled in order to gather the material. It doesn’t require any farming. Kapok is hypoallergenic, unlike down. The trees are extremely pest-resistant, making kapok more eco-friendly as no pesticides or insecticides need to be used.

A fully grown kapok tree yields about 30 to 40 pounds of kapok fiber a year. That’s about 1,000 to 2,000 seed pods. It takes about 52 grams of kapok fiber to make a winter jacket. The average kapok tree could produce enough fill for 287 jackets a year. For comparison, it takes the resources from dozens of geese or ducks to produce the fill for a similarly sized jacket.