How Sustainable Are Organic Wool Fabrics? A Life-Cycle Analysis
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Hey fellow impactful ninja ?
You may have noticed that Impactful Ninja is all about providing helpful information to make a positive impact on the world and society. And that we love to link back to where we found all the information for each of our posts.
Most of these links are informational-based for you to check out their primary sources with one click.
But some of these links are so-called "affiliate links" to products that we recommend.
First and foremost, because we believe that they add value to you. For example, when we wrote a post about the environmental impact of long showers, we came across an EPA recommendation to use WaterSense showerheads. So we linked to where you can find them. Or, for many of our posts, we also link to our favorite books on that topic so that you can get a much more holistic overview than one single blog post could provide.
And when there is an affiliate program for these products, we sign up for it. For example, as Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases.
First, and most importantly, we still only recommend products that we believe add value for you.
When you buy something through one of our affiliate links, we may earn a small commission - but at no additional costs to you.
And when you buy something through a link that is not an affiliate link, we won’t receive any commission but we’ll still be happy to have helped you.
When we find products that we believe add value to you and the seller has an affiliate program, we sign up for it.
When you buy something through one of our affiliate links, we may earn a small commission (at no extra costs to you).
And at this point in time, all money is reinvested in sharing the most helpful content with you. This includes all operating costs for running this site and the content creation itself.
You may have noticed by the way Impactful Ninja is operated that money is not the driving factor behind it. It is a passion project of mine and I love to share helpful information with you to make a positive impact on the world and society. However, it's a project in that I invest a lot of time and also quite some money.
Eventually, my dream is to one day turn this passion project into my full-time job and provide even more helpful information. But that's still a long time to go.
Wool is a wonderful natural material that can keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. But the wool industry is rife with practices that harm the animals, the lands, and ecosystems. Is organic farming and milling the answer to the problems in the wool industry? We had to ask: How sustainable are organic wool fabrics?
Organic wool is generally considered sustainable. It’s made with the renewable hair or fleece of animals raised in organic farming systems. Organic wool fabrics are manufactured without harmful synthetic chemicals. Also, these biodegradable materials can be washed sparsely, saving water and energy.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the life-cycle of organic wool fabrics used for clothes and accessories. Then, we evaluate its sustainability, potential, and shortfalls. And in the end, we’ll show you tips for buying sustainable products made with organic wool fabrics.
Here’s How We Assessed the Sustainability of Organic Wool Fabrics
Organic wool fabrics are made with animal hair or fleece: natural materials that readily biodegrade at the end of their life. During the usage phase, wool clothing and household items can be washed infrequently, saving water and energy. Organic farming systems cause lesser environmental impacts regarding greenhouse gas emissions, land degradation, and biodiversity loss.
“Sustainable: The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level | Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance”Oxford Dictionary
To understand the sustainability of organic wool fabrics, we must assess their life-cycle and each stage’s sustainability. This life-cycle assessment (LCA) is a method to evaluate the environmental impacts of products and materials. Over the years, companies have strategically used LCA to research and create more sustainable products. So, let’s have a look at the LCA of organic wool fabrics!
In this article, we’ll use the cradle-to-grave perspective of the LCA, examining the five stages of the life-cycle of clothing items and accessories made with organic wool fabrics. When applicable, we also look at cradle-to-gate assessments.
|The life-cycle stages of organic wool fabrics||Each stage’s sustainability|
|Sourcing of organic wool fabrics||The raw material for organic wool fabrics comes from the renewable fleece or hair of various animal species raised in organic farming systems. Organic agriculture systems often adopt sustainable practices that promote biodiversity, increase soil health, and retain more carbon. However, organic wool tends to have a relatively high land footprint compared to conventional wool and plant fibers.|
|Manufacturing of organic wool fabrics||Manufacturing wool fabrics is energy and water-intensive, making wool processing less sustainable. The process starts first with collecting sheep’s fleece. Then, the fibers go through various mechanical processes to be cleaned, spun, knitted, or woven into fabrics.|
|Transporting of organic wool fabrics||Transporting can be a carbon-intensive stage in the life-cycle of clothing items made with organic wool fabrics due to the distances covered and emissions associated with transporting vehicles. Organic wool fabrics typically travel from pasture lands, where the sheep’s fleeces are collected, to processing and finishing factories, sorting centers, shops, and consumer’s houses before going to recycling centers or landfills.|
|Usage of organic wool fabrics||The usage of wool, the organic variety included, is generally sustainable. Wooly sweaters, socks, and scarves require less frequent washes at lower temperatures. Also, organic wool fabrics dry on the line instead of electricity-powered driers. Lastly, clothes made with wool generally have a long lifespan.|
|End-of-life of organic wool fabrics||The end-of-life stage for organic wool is generally sustainable because untreated organic wool is fully biodegradable and compostable.|
Overall, we can say organic wool fabrics are sustainable textile materials. However, the actual environmental impacts of a particular product, like a sweater or a pair of gloves, depend on more specific factors, including the sourcing of the raw material (animal fleece or hair), the manufacturing process, the transportation distance, and vehicles used during transport.
Let’s dive deeper into each life-cycle stage and find out how you can buy organic wool fabrics more sustainably.
How Sustainable Is the Sourcing of Raw Materials for Organic Wool Fabrics
The raw material for organic wool fabrics comes from the renewable fleece or hair of various animal species raised in organic farming systems. Organic agriculture systems often adopt sustainable practices that promote biodiversity, increase soil health, and sequester more carbon.
However, organic wool tends to have a relatively high land footprint compared to conventional wool and plant fibers.
What Raw Materials Are Used for Organic Wool Fabrics
Organic wool fabrics are made with the hair or fleece of various animals, raised in organic farming systems (and later processed without harmful synthetic chemicals).
Following are several types of animals providing hair or fleece for wool fabrics:
- Merino wool is made with merino sheep’s fleece
- Shetland wool is derived from Shetland sheep, which can be found on the Scottish island of Shetland
- Lamb wool (or virgin wool) is derived from the fleeces of baby sheep’s first shearing
- Cashmere wool uses the undercoat of the cashmere goats
- Mohair wool comes from the hair of the Angora goats
- Alpaca wool is made with the hair of alpacas
- Vicuna wool takes the fibers from vicuna – a Peruvian animal species related to alpacas
- Llama wool is derived from the hairy coat of llamas
- Camel wool uses the hair of camels
- Angora wool comes from the fine and soft fur of angora rabbits
- Qiviut Wool uses the wooly coat of musk ox species native to Alaska
In this article, we will focus on organic wool fabrics made from sheep, as sheep wool is one of the most common and widely available types of wool.
How Do the Raw Materials Sourced for Organic Wool Fabrics Impact the Environment
Organic sheep wool fabrics are made with the fleece of sheep farmed organically. Organic sheep fleece is a renewable resource, grown without using harmful synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, avoiding the worst of the adverse environmental impacts of cattle rearing while organically improving soil health and the overall ecosystems.
Sheep Wool Fibers Can Be Considered A Renewable Resource
A sheep can produce a significant amount of fibers per fleece and repeated harvest throughout its relatively long lifespan.
- The fleece of a sheep can be ready for collection every few months. For example, farmers can shear sheep of certain breeds as frequently as 2 to 3 months.
- On average, each sheep yields about 10 lbs of wool a year, enough for about 6 sweaters.
- A sheep lives from 10 to 12 years. In the case of a merino sheep with a 12-year lifespan: the sheep will be able to produce enough wool for over 100 garments containing around 1 lb each. (Note that merino sheep breeds tend to have a higher fiber yield).
Organic Sheep Farming Restrict The Use of Harmful Synthetic Chemicals
Rearing sheep organically means no potentially harmful synthetic agrochemicals. These include:
- No synthetic fertilizer is applied on the land
- No excessive routine treatment of the sheep with antibiotics and pesticides (such as sheep dip)
The restriction limits health risks for farmers and contamination caused to the ground and water systems. For example, sheep dip is linked to various chronic diseases, while excessive fertilizer runoff is associated with “dead zones” in lakes and oceans.
Organic Sheep Farming Practices Improves Soil Health With Organic Matters, Leading to Higher Carbon Sequestration
The farmlands kept for sheep grazing store carbon in their soil and vegetation. Some researchers suggest that the amount of carbon sequestered could be deducted from the total emissions over the full life cycle of woolen garments. (The deduction is equivalent to 4% for each successive wool production year over 100 years.)
Another study shows an increase in carbon sequestration in the soil and a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from organic waste when organic waste was added to grasslands used for animal farming, a common practice in organic agriculture.
However, it is important to note that sheep farming, organic systems included, has high global warming potential, generally many times higher than other textile materials made with plant fibers. The reason is the sheep and their way of digesting food:
- Sheep, and other ruminant animals, belch enteric methane (CH4) as they digest their food.
- Methane is the second most significant contributor to the climate crisis, following carbon dioxide. It traps more heat than carbon dioxide, so it is considered a more potent greenhouse gas, especially in the immediate future.
- Methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a period of 20 years.
- On a 100-year timescale, methane has 28 times greater global warming potential than carbon dioxide.
For example, a knitted jumper made with 12 ounces of Australian wool has a sourcing carbon footprint 27 times higher than that of a knitted jumper made with Australian cotton fibers.
Land Occupation of Organic Sheep Farming Is Higher Than Conventional Systems and Other Fiber Crops
Raising sheep takes up a lot of land.
For example, considering the stocking rate in Australia, 109 acres (44.04 hectares) of land are needed to raise the sheep to get enough wool fibers for one bale. That is 367 times more land than would be required for a bale of cotton – a plant fiber.
Organic farming of sheep takes up even more land because:
- There should be enough space to grow vegetation that makes up most of the sheep’s diet.
- Organic sheep are to roam freely with plenty of outdoor space in their natural habitat.
- The amount of land per sheep is relatively higher than conventional sheep farming, partly as a way to prevent diseases from spreading too quickly across the flocks, instead of relying on modern veterinary chemicals and antibiotics to prevent ill health.
Where Are the Raw Materials for Organic Wool Fabrics Usually Sourced From
In the global sheep flock of 12 million (2013), around 1% are raised in organic farming systems. The organic rate is higher in Europe: 4,4% of all European sheep are organically farmed.
China, the UK, Argentina, Italy, and Greece are top organic wool fiber producers.
Organic Sheep Farms Raise Animal Naturally And Treat Animal Humanely
Unlike conventional sheep farms in certain places, no mulesing and other forms of animal mistreatment of the sheep are allowed in organic sheep farming systems.
Organic sheep are also not subjected to some chemicals commonly used in veterinary medicine to prevent lice, flies, and internal parasites. Organic farmers opt for improving the health of soil and animals naturally as resistance to diseases.
How Sustainable Is the Manufacturing of Organic Wool Fabrics
Manufacturing wool fabrics is energy and water-intensive, making wool processing less sustainable. The process starts first with collecting sheep’s fleece. Then, the fibers go through various mechanical processes to be cleaned, spun, knitted, or woven into fabrics.
How Sustainably Are Organic Wool Fabrics Generally Manufactured
Here are the standard steps in manufacturing wool fabrics, specifically for the organic variety:
- Collecting the fibers from the sheep farmed organically: This can be done by shearing the whole fleece of the animal. Depending on the breed and the farm practices, shearing could happen once or multiple times a year. In organic farms, adopted shearing methods tend to be gentle and animal-friendly.
- Scouring: The raw fibers ( “greasy” wool) are cleaned using biodegradable cleansing agents to remove dirt, impurities, and other organic matter. Lanolin oil, secreted from the sheep’s skin, makes wool greasy.
- Carding: Wool fibers are sorted into grades and combed into long, thin strings.
- Spinning: The carded fibers are fed into a spinning machine, which twists the wool fibers to form yarn.
- Weaving or knitting: The wool yarn is (plain- or twill-) woven or knitted into fabric.
- Finishing and post-treatment: The fabric is occasionally dyed and subject to treatments with organic-based agents. Some post-production finishing treatments include:
- Fulling: a process in which the organic wool fabrics are immersed in water to make the fibers interlock
- Crabbing: a process that permanently sets this interlocking of fibers
The manufacturing process of organic wool fabrics is relatively standard for textiles made with natural fibers. Organic wool manufacturing doesn’t involve toxic synthetic chemicals. However, mechanical processes require energy and water resources.
(Organic) Wool Manufacturing Is Energy-Intensive
Energy is needed to heat water for cleaning and to produce the electricity needed to run machinery (spinning, weaving, or knitting).
If fossil fuels are the main source of electricity, it will increase the manufacturing carbon footprint.
A change to renewable energy will reduce the carbon footprint of this step. Organic waste from wastewater treatment during the scouring processes could be one source of generating renewable energy.
(Organic) Wool Manufacturing Has High Water Footprint
Scouring is the key process contributing to freshwater (or bluewater) usage in organic wool production.
Scouring removes grease and other organic matter (including feces) from the fleece. The washing and cleaning process uses a large quantity of water, which needs heating up to 150oF to melt to wool wax or grease.
Organic waste may become suspended in the wastewater after scouring. If not treated properly, it would contaminate the freshwater supply.
Organic wool fabrics use natural dyes and avoid water contamination often associated with chrome-based dyes. However, natural dyes tend to be expensive, which puts up the price of organic wool fabrics.
Where Are Organic Wool Fabrics Usually Manufactured
Following are the world’s top 10 producers of wool fabrics, organic variety included:
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom and Northern Ireland
- South Africa
GHG Emissions During Manufacturing Organic Wool Fabrics Vary Depending on Location
Because organic wool fabrics production is energy-intensive, using renewable energy (solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and biomass) would significantly reduce carbon emissions at this stage.
According to Our World in Data, the shares of renewable energy in primary energy in wool-producing nations vary significantly. The difference between the wool-producing country with the highest percentage of renewable energy (New Zealand) and the wool-producing country with the lowest share of renewable energy (Iran) is a staggering 31 times.
Specifically, renewable energy shares in the top 10 wool producers are as followings:
- China: 14.95% renewable energy
- Australia: 12.93% renewable energy
- New Zealand: 40.22% renewable energy
- Turkey: 16.52% renewable energy
- United Kingdom and Northern Ireland: 17.95% renewable energy
- Morocco: 7.64% renewable energy
- Iran: 1.29% renewable energy
- Russia: 6.62% renewable energy
- South Africa: 3.41% renewable energy
- India: 9.31% renewable energy
How Sustainable Is the Transportation of Organic Wool Fabrics
Transporting can be a carbon-intensive stage in the life-cycle of clothing items made with organic wool fabrics due to the distances covered and emissions associated with transporting vehicles. Organic wool fabrics typically travel from pasture lands, where the sheep’s fleeces are collected, to processing and finishing factories, sorting centers, shops, and consumer’s houses before going to recycling centers or landfills.
In the life-cycle of wool clothing items, transportation typically occurs as below:
- From grasslands, where the sheep’s fleeces are collected, to yarn factories
- From yarn factories to textile manufacturers
- From textile manufacturers to sorting centers/physical shops
- From sorting centers/physical shops to the consumer’s house
- From the consumer’s house to the centers for recycling/ disposing of
Traveling Distances of Organic Wool Fabrics Vary Depending on the Supply Chain
It is not uncommon for organic wool fabrics to have their supply chain spreading globally, meaning that animal farming, yarn processing, and finishing might happen in various towns, countries, or even continents.
Here are some scenarios for transporting organic wool fabrics:
- Wool manufacturers can source the fleece in China, clean the fibers locally before shipping them to Vietnam to be spun, Cambodia for garment-making, and finally across the Pacific for US consumers.
- The fleece is collected from wool sheep in Argentina and processed in the US before selling to consumers worldwide.
- Wool manufacturers source fibers in Greece and turn them into woolen products in Italy, which are sold mainly in Europe.
You can reduce the transporting carbon footprint by choosing organic wool fabrics that travel shorter distances.
The Carbon Footprint of Transporting Organic Wool Fabrics Depends Largely on the Vehicle of Transportation
During its life-cycle, a piece of organic wool clothing can be transported using various types of vehicles, including:
- Large container ships
- Freight trains
- Long-distance trucks
- Short-distance delivering vans
And these various types of transportation vehicles have different carbon footprint impacts:
- Large container ships are generally the most carbon-efficient option for international transportation of goods, while planes are the heaviest carbon emitter.
Large container ships emit, per unit of weight and distance, half as much carbon dioxide as a train and one-fifth and one-fiftieth as much as a truck and a plane (respectively).
- Deliveries made by planes – for example, to fulfill fast shipping options for clothing – are the mode of transportation with the highest carbon footprint.
For example, as a consumer, you can choose not to pick the fast delivery option when ordering organic wool clothing items and accessories to reduce the carbon footprint of your order.
How Sustainable Is the Usage of Organic Wool Fabrics
The usage of wool, the organic variety included, is generally sustainable. Wooly sweaters, socks, and scarves require less frequent washes at lower temperatures. Also, organic wool fabrics dry on the line instead of electricity-powered driers. Lastly, clothes made with wool generally have a long lifespan.
Usage phase is a main source of energy consumption in the life cycle of clothing, due to washing, drying and ironing. Compared to many other textile materials, using (organic) wool fabrics would be more sustainable because of the less frequent need for washing, low washing temperature requirements and suitability for air drying practices.
- Wool fabrics are odor-resistance. Thus, (organic) wool clothing requires fewer washes than many other textile materials. Typically, woolen socks can be worn 2.5 times per wash and woolen sweaters can be worn 10 times per wash. In comparison, cotton socks and cotton sweaters are generally washed after 1,5 and 5 wears, respectively.
- Washing instructions for (organic) wool clothes often ask for 30°C instead of 40°C or higher. Low-temperature washes use less energy.
- (Organic) wool fabrics should be left to dry on the line because the mechanical friction of a tumble dryer is not good for the fibers. This property helps further reduce energy requirements, either for running drying appliances or heating the drying space.
As a consumer, you can reduce the environmental impact of your usage by maximizing the number of wears between washes, avoid unnecessary hot washes or machining drying. You can avoid full washing with airing and spot cleaning (organic) wool garments.
Also, the longer you use a piece of clothing, the lesser the environmental impact of each wear.
- Wool garments thrown out after only 15 wears were responsible for nearly six times the amount of pollution than garments with just over 100-lifetime wears.
- On top of that, if the garment lifetime were to increase to 400-lifetime wears, it would reduce total emissions by 49 – 68%.
How Sustainable Is the End-of-Life of Organic Wool Fabrics
The end-of-life stage for organic wool is generally sustainable because untreated organic wool is fully biodegradable and compostable.
As a natural textile material, organic wool can be left to degrade naturally in a landfill or be composted. Decomposing time depends on many environmental factors and if the fabrics are treated and blended.
For example, according to a study by researchers in New Zealand, when burial in soil, merino wool fabrics degrade quickly:
- After two months, wool fabrics would lose around 36% of their mass
- After nine months, wool fabrics would almost completely degrade (99% of their mass).
In comparison, a polyester knitted fabric did not degrade at all after the nine-month burial period.
Wool is made up of keratin – the same protein in human hair. Bacteria and fungi break down this protein and return essential plant nutrients, including nitrogen, magnesium, and sulfur, back into the soil. Thus, wool and especially organic wool, which contains little traces of synthetic materials, make great garden compost materials.
Wool, the organic variety included, has also been found to readily biodegrade in a marine environment, whereas synthetic fibers do not.
For example, a study comparing the biodegradability rate of untreated and machine-washable wool with nylon, polyester, and polypropylene in a marine environment pointed out the outstanding rate at which wool degrades.
Following are the specific rate of biodegradability for all four materials:
- Wool: 67.3%
- Polyester: 6.3%
- Polypropylene: 1.8%
- Nylon: 0.8%
It is important to note that wool, the organic variety included, is sometimes blended with other materials for durability and performance. Mixing materials would normally hinder biodegradability and the opportunities for recycling.
How Circular Are Products Made of Organic Wool Fabrics
In the textile industry, a circular economy is designed to keep products and materials in use for as long as possible, especially through reusing and recycling. It also covers regenerating natural systems that support the industry and reducing polluted waste released into such systems.
“The circular economy is a systems solution framework that tackles global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution.”Ellen MacArthur Foundation
As a whole, the textile industry is almost linear: 97% of the input is new resource.
Recycling wool fabrics involves putting wool waste, both pre-and post-consumer, back into the supply chain, either as standalone garments or materials serving other purposes like insulation. Cloudwool, for example, is a nonwoven textile made with supposed wool fiber “waste.”
Wool is the most reused and recyclable fiber in all textile materials, according to WoolMark.
Recycling wool reduces the drain on natural resources, leading to stabilized flock numbers, diminishing methane emissions, and lessening the grazing pressure on pasture lands so they can regenerate.
How Can You Buy Organic Wool Fabrics More Sustainably
The key to sustainably buying organic wool products is to check on relevant environmental and original certifications.
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): A globally-recognized certification system that ensures a certain threshold of organic content has been met. It covers manufacturing, packaging, labeling, transportation, and distribution (but not what happens in the grasslands where sheeps are raised).
- Certified Organic Wool: Wool produced following federal standards for organic livestock production as described in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Standards.
- The Responsible Wool Standard (RWS): An all-encompassing wool certification that ensures all facilities and aspects of Merino production are held to the highest standards. It covers everything from farms, top makers, spinners, fabric mills, garment makers, and even the retailers themselves.
- Woolmark Certification: Woolmark certification is for wool products that were made using sustainable and cruelty-free methods.
- ZQ Merino: This certification system focuses on the quality, sustainability, and ethics of Wool from farm to fashion. They have five core principles they abide by in each step of the wool process: Animal Welfare, Environmental Sustainability, Quality Fiber, Traceable to Source, and Social Responsibility
- Certified Animal Welfare Approved: A Greener World (AGW) has the most rigorous standards for farm animal welfare and environmental sustainability across the globe. AGW’s Certified Animal Welfare Approved standards have been developed in collaboration with scientists, veterinarians, researchers, and farmers around the world to maximize practicable, high-welfare farm management with the environment in mind.
- IWTO Specifications for Wool Sheep Welfare: Specifications developed by the wool-growing country members of IWTO.
Some certifications are signaling brands’ efforts toward lowered environmental impacts and a circular economy are:
- B Corp Certification: The label B Corp is a certification reserved for for-profit companies. Certified holders are assessed on their social and environmental impacts.
- Cradle2Cradle certification: Cradle2Cradle provides a standardized approach to material circularity. It assesses whether products have been suitably designed and made with the circular economy in mind covering five critical categories: material health, material reuse, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness.
Where to Buy Sustainable Organic Wool Fabrics
We have established throughout the life-cycle assessment that organic wool fabrics are generally sustainable. Yet, here is a small list of sustainable brands selling organic wool fabrics (in alphabetic order):
Why Is It Important to Buy Products Made of More Sustainable Fabrics
It is important to buy products made of more sustainable fabrics because a sustainable textile industry has a lower carbon footprint, helps save natural resources, and is better for forests, animals, and humans.
Buying Sustainable Fabrics Reduces Your Carbon Footprint
The production of clothing and footwear is estimated to contribute 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than all international flights and shipping combined. If the fashion industry were a country, it would be the fourth largest emitter of carbon dioxide.
One way to reduce the carbon footprint of the clothes you buy is to opt for sustainable fabrics. Sustainable fabrics, which are often made with natural or recycled fibers, have relatively low carbon footprints compared to petroleum-based fabrics. For example, organic cotton made in the US has a carbon footprint of 2.35 kg CO2 (per ton of spun fiber) – a quarter of polyester’s carbon footprint.
Buying Sustainable Fabrics Reduces Demand For Natural Resources and Waste Management
The textile industry uses water and land to grow cotton and other fibers. It is estimated that 79 billion cubic meters of water were used for the sector worldwide in 2015. For example, producing a single cotton t-shirt requires as much water as one person drinks for 2.5 years (2,700 liters of fresh water).
Worse yet, the textile economy is vastly more linear than circular: the largest amount of resources used in clothes ended up in landfill (instead of being recycled to remake clothes). According to a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation,
- Less than 3% of materials used in the textile economy in 2015 came from recycled sources.
- In other words, more than 97% of resources used in making clothes are newly extracted.
When clothing items are disposed of within a short period of time – under a year in the case of half of the fast fashion clothes – the natural systems that provide raw materials for fabrics don’t have enough time to recover and regenerate, which could lead to ecological breakdown.
Sustainable fabrics are made with less water and emissions while lasting longer:
- Because they are durable, you don’t need to buy new clothes too often.
- Thus, you help reduce the pressure to extract more resources for making new items.
Similarly, making and consuming sustainable fabrics made with recycled materials reduces the demand for virgin materials while helping tackle waste management.
Buying Sustainable Fabrics Encourages Sustainable Management of Forests
Sustainable plant-based fabrics are made with raw materials from forests and plantations that are sustainably managed, such as complying with FSC standards.
When you buy sustainable plant-based fabrics, you discourage unsustainable forestry practices like illegal logging. You can help reduce deforestation, biodiversity loss, and the effect of climate change.
Buying Sustainable Fabrics Encourages Fairer Treatment of Animals
The fashion industry is rife with animal mistreatment when it comes to making animal-based fabrics like wool or wool. Every year, billions of animals suffer and die for clothing and accessories.
Buying sustainable vegan alternatives can help to reduce the pressure on raising more and more animals to meet the demand for animal-based fabrics while sacrificing their well-being and lives.
Suppose you have to buy fabrics made with, for example, wool or wool; make sure you only choose brands committed to cruelty-free products. In that case, you help advocate better treatments for animals raised within the textile industry.
Using Sustainable Fabrics Encourages Fairer Treatment of Textile Workers
Recent statistics from UNICEF estimated as many as 170 million child labors worldwide, many of whom were engaged in some form of work in the textile industry. They don’t get paid minimum wages and often work long hours.
When you buy sustainable fabrics from brands transparent about the working conditions at their factories, you discourage the use of child labor and help promote better working conditions for textile workers.
Organic wool fabrics are generally sustainable materials made from renewable resources. They are breathable and odor-resistant, leading to a low-impact usage phase. At the end of their life, they are readily biodegradable and suitable for composting.
To make it even more sustainable:
- Buy second-hand, recycled, or upcycled organic wool clothing items and accessories.
- While using organic wool products, maximize the number of wear between washes, and keep the items as long as possible.
- At the end of organic wool products, upcycle the material to extend its usage, and arrange for it to be recycled or properly disposed of.
- Science Direct: Life-cycle assessment (LCA)
- MIT SMR: Strategic Sustainability Uses of Life-Cycle Analysis
- European Environment Agency: Cradle-to-Grave
- Science Direct: Cradle-to-Gate Assessment
- Impactful Ninja: How Sustainable Are Merino Organic Wool Fabrics? A Life-Cycle Analysis
- SHETLAND SHEEP SOCIETY: Home
- Impactful Ninja: How Sustainable Are Cashmere Fabrics? A Life-Cycle Analysis
- Sewport: What is Mohair Wool Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where
- Britannica: alpaca | mammal
- Britannica: vicuña| mammal
- NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: Llama
- WORLD’S FINEST WOOL: Camel Hair
- Britannica: angora rabbit | mammal
- Britannica: musk ox| mammal
- Your Sustainable Guide: What is Merino Wool? Is it Really Sustainable?
- Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nation| FAOSTAT: Crops and livestock products
- Sheep101: Home
- Merino Wool Gear: The Ultimate Merino Wool Sustainability Guide
- AUSTRALIAN ASSOCIATION OF STUD MERINO BREEDERS: Evolution of the Australian Merino
- Groundsure: Sheep dip – has the wool been pulled over our eyes?
- Research Gate: Work with pesticides and organophosphate sheep dips
- NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: RESOURCE LIBRARY | ENCYCLOPEDIC ENTRY: Dead Zone
- Science Direct: Journal of Cleaner Production: Resource use and greenhouse gas emissions from three wool production regions in Australia
- National Library of Medicine. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effects of organic matter amendments on net primary productivity and greenhouse gas emissions in annual grasslands
- Nature: Revisiting enteric methane emissions from domestic ruminants and their δ13CCH4 source signature
- Science Direct: Global warming potential
- European Commission: Methane emissions
- CIRCUMFAUNA: Australia is the leading wool exporter, and a leading cotton exporter. So which fibre is more climate friendly?
- CIRCUMFAUNA: Australia is the leading wool exporter, and a leading cotton exporter. So which fibre is more land friendly?
- How Sustainable Are Cotton Fabrics? All You Need to Know
- I’mdividual: The Ultimate Guide to Organic Wool
- Collective Fashion Justice: Issues in the wool supply chain
- International Wool Textile Organization: ORGANIC WOOL
- Sewport: What is Wool Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where
- Yarns and Fibers: Textile Resources | What are the environmental impacts of organic wool?
- Science Direct: Lanolin
- Springer Link: Environmental impacts associated with the production, use, and end-of-life of a woollen garment
- Scientific.Net: Publisher in Materials Science & Engineering: The Water Footprint of Wool Scouring
- WoolWise: Wool Scouring Principles and Methods
- WorldAtlas: The World’s Top 10 Wool Producing Countries
- Impactful Ninja: What Is the Carbon Footprint of Renewable Energy? A Life-Cycle Assessment
- Impactful Ninja: What Is the Carbon Footprint of Solar Energy? A Life-Cycle Assessment
- Impactful Ninja: What Is the Carbon Footprint of Wind Energy? A Life-Cycle Assessment
- Impactful Ninja: What Is the Carbon Footprint of Hydropower Energy? A Life-Cycle Assessment
- Impactful Ninja: What Is the Carbon Footprint of Geothermal Energy? A Life-Cycle Assessment
- Impactful Ninja: What Is the Carbon Footprint of Biomass Energy? A Life-Cycle Assessment
- The World in Data: Renewable Energy
- Time for Change: CO2 emissions for shipping of goods
- Springer Link: Statistical analysis of use-phase energy consumption of textile products
- Springer Link: Reducing environmental impacts from garments through best practice garment use and care, using the example of a Merino wool sweater
- Woolmark: RESEARCH |Wool reduces body odour
- International Wool Textile Organization: How Wool Reduces Climate Impact
- DE GRUYTER: Wool Wash: Technical Performance and Consumer Habits
- Innovation in Textiles: Research shows wool fabrics biodegrade rapidly
- Road: Is wool really the ultimate sustainable choice for cycling kit?
- IWTO: Bioproduct and Fibre Technology Research Case Study: Microfibre Pollution and the Marine Biodegradation of Wool
- Ellen MacArthur Foundation: THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY IN DETAIL
- Ellen MacArthur Foundation: A New Textiles Economy
- MERINO WOOL GEAR: Smartwool Review and Company Profile
- Cloudwool: Pure, local wool is back. And it is better than ever.
- WOOLMARK: WOOL INTERIORS | Closing the loop
- Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): Home
- Organic Trade Association: Organic Wool Fact Sheet
- Textile Exchange: The Responsible Wool Standard aims to improve the welfare of sheep and the land they graze on.
- Woolmark Certification: Home
- TEXTILE STANDARDS & LEGISLATION: ZQ Merino
- A GREENER WORLD: AWA Standards | Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW
- International Wool Textile Organization: IWTO Specifications for Wool Sheep Welfare
- B Corp Certification: Home
- C2CCertified: Home
- Armed Angels
- People Tree
- Serendipity Organics
- Good on You: Greenwashing Examples: 8 Notorious Fast Fashion Claims and Campaigns
- The Guardian: Pulp fabric: everything you need to know about lyocell
- European Parliament: The impact of textile production and waste on the environment (infographic)
- Science Direct: The challenge of “Depeche Mode” in the fashion industry – Does the industry have the capacity to become sustainable through circular economic principles, a scoping review
- Science Direct: Carbon Footprint of Textile and Clothing Products
- European Parliament: Environmental impact of the textile and clothing industry
- European Parliament: What if fashion were good for the planet?
- Ellen MacArthur Foundation: A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning fashion’s future
- McKinsey: Style that’s sustainable: A new fast-fashion formula
- Our World in Data: Deforestation and Forest Loss
- Peta: Animals Used For Clothing