The sustainability of wool
The environmental impact of using wool has been the concern of many and especially for brands like Foxology. The use of pesticides, greenhouse gas emissions, the volume of water needed in washing, the use of chemicals, (however eco-friendly) in dyeing and the treatment of wool, can and does have a huge impact. But as a sustainable fibre it is, as Woolmark points out, natural, renewable and biodegradable.
Wool has historically rated badly in sustainable and environmental issues, compared to synthetic fibres such as polyester, due to its high usage of water and treatment processing, which synthetics need less of. However, there seems no accounting for the whole production chain from raw material through processing, manufacture, usage to recycling, and disposal.
Non-renewable synthetics are rated higher than natural fibres for sustainability and these ratings are used by brands to assess which materials they will choose. They seem to miss the fact that in the end wool is biodegradable, polyester isn’t; The growing evidence of microplastic pollution from synthetic fibres when we wash them; Wool has an average lifetime 50% longer than cotton garments and is washed less often; We recycle and donate wool items more often and there are more end recycling options for wool.
Livia Firth said in a recent article (The Guardian - 6th May 2018) that after a trip visiting farmers in Tanzania, she was convinced that wool wins when compared to synthetic fibres: “If you throw away a wool sweater, it composes in the ground very quickly and it doesn’t waste microfibres when you wash it.”
There is much optimistic about however, as fashion consumers learn about and demand more ethical and sustainable supply chains. We can see a future of fashion becoming less disposable and more ethical, less harmful to the environment and more fair and respectful of those who make our clothes. Livia Firth also commented on respect for the women in the garment manufacturing industry…“Once you start to understand that there are women ... in Dakar who produce [the clothes], if I buy something and I don’t care for it, I’m actually not respecting that woman.”
Youtube: Fashion-scapes: Short movies on sustainable fashion.