Last week we celebrated wool week. We celebrate wool as a natural sustainable fibre used by man kind since the stone age. As technologies and alternative materials developed in the fashion industry wool has become reduced in clothing production to account for as little as 1% of the market share of fibres in 2016. Results from the same study showed that the main replacement of wool is synthetic based fibres, including polyester, viscose and acrylic, that now make up 65% of the market share.
But why does that matter?
The environmental impact of fashion production occurs at all stages of the lifecycle including fibre production, clothing production, usage, and disposal. The effects of each of these stages is not however, universal with all fibres used in clothing.
Image from: Ellen MacArthur Foundation – A New Textile Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future, 2017
Why is wool considered better for the environment than synthetic materials?
We celebrate wool as a minimal impact fibre. Wool is a protein-based fibre sourced from animals which enables its properties to be carbon neutral. Wool is also considered to be in the biological cycle, this means a closed loop is maintained through its natural production, usage, and its ability to biodegrade and contribute nutrients back into nature. As a source of clothing wool is also low impact through its durability and lower requirements for frequent washing. Finally, wool is a non-damaging microfibre through its long strand fibres, making mechanical recycling accessible, and biodegradable qualities. At the point of disposal, in the appropriate setting wool only takes 3-4 months to fully biodegrade.
On the other hand, the most commonly used material fibre, synthetics, has far more damaging environmental effects. Synthetic fibres are plastic-based fibres and are usually produced from non-renewable resources including oil. At the point of disposal, synthetic materials can take anywhere between 20 and 200 years to biodegrade, this is harmful through the gases released over this time period into the atmosphere including formaldehyde and many others which are harmful to both human and environmental health.
What can you do:
Check the labels of clothing when you are shopping online or in store for wool! Buying wool is not only beneficial to the planet it will also be in the long term a better financial investment through its durability, resilience, and lesser requirement for frequent washing!