Wool pros and cons

Wool pros and cons

{ This is who we need to thank for our wool sweaters, hats and scarfs (Picture via Google) }

Today, I want to talk a bit about wool pros and cons. Wool must be one of my favourite fibres; it acts as a natural insulator, it can keep the body warm or cool as necessary, and it repels dirt, stains and water. And my favourite characteristic; wool is also fully biodegradable. So clever, if you ask me!

Last week I talked about “organic cotton pros and cons” and like cotton, wool is a natural fibre with a long history. Wool used to be cotton’s greatest rival, as both fibres were suited to a variety of apparel types but today, the wool industry only makes up about 1,5% of fibre production worldwide.

However, as the sustainable fashion movement is getting bigger, wool is being re-evaluated for its potential as an eco-friendly fibre. Wuhuuu (that’s me cheering!) Wool is naturally occurring and renewable, and as it’s taken from an animal that can thrive on land unsuited for farming, it leaves arable soil elsewhere for vegetable, fruit, and grain crops.

Wool pros and cons

{ Some of my favourite wool pieces is this scarf and my merino wool sweater -admittedly I got them before I knew anything about wool pros and cons, but they’ve lasted for years and you can’t even tell }

The cons

So now you’re probably thinking; surely it must have its downsides, because otherwise every sustainable brand would just use wool. And you’re right. It does. Much like in cotton production, pesticides are used for wool production, although in significantly smaller quantities. One of the most horrifying aspects of wool production is that the sheep themselves can be dipped in pesticide baths, or they may be injected with pesticides or deter parasites. Not only is this cruel to the animals, but the pesticides can be hazardous to the farmer’s health, and they are polluting water supplies.

Another thing is that raw wool requires scouring, a task that removes dirt and the natural grease that the sheep deposit in their wool. While the grease by-product is often refined and used as lanolin for cosmetics and soaps (yay for reusing by-products!), it frequently contains residual pesticides (What?! And that’s why you should buy organic cosmetics and soaps, I mean, who wants to rub pesticides on their skin?! It’s not only when buying food you should check the list of ingredients).

The life cycle of wool

Finally, when discussing wool pros and cons, the total life cycle of the fibre must be considered – wool can typically not be laundered, and therefore wool garments need to be taken to the dry-cleaner, which is a process with its own environmental repercussions. However, as wool garments, despite the scouring keeps some of its self-cleaning qualities, you don’t need to wash wool clothes as often as other garments.

Wool pros and cons

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Organic wool

Organic wool is appearing, albeit slowly and in small amounts. Organic wool is definitely a more sustainable fibre option, however, it’s much like organic cotton, that’s grown without pesticides, but then the production might include the use of chemicals. When talking about organic wool the use of the term implies that the fibre was obtained from sheep that were not subjected to pesticide baths or inhumane treatment, which is enough to convince me to keep my eyes out for organic wool instead of the conventional produced kind. How about you?

Source: “Sustainable Fashion: Past, Present and Future” by Jennifer Farley Gordon and Colleen Hill

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Hella Lynggaard

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