Natural animal fibre.
A Natural Fibre from the fleece of sheep. The quality of wool will be very dependant on the source with the best quality fibre coming from Merino sheep. Woollen fabrics are versatile and possess a soft handle giving the wearer a sense of comfort. Naturally crease resistant wool is a good insulator, making it an idea fibre where thermal properties are considered to be important. Treatments are often applied to wool to improve the resilience during cleaning.
Where it grows / Where it is made
Top countries (2018): South Africa - Uruguay - Argentina - Australia
Wide range of garments. Wide range of applications exist for wool and wool blends. The thermal properties associated with wool make it idea for sweaters and warm clothing. Used in blends it is often used in suiting. Examples of use - sweaters, dresses, coats, suits, jackets, trousers, skirts, blouses, shirts, hosiery, scarves.
Impact on the environment
The impact on the planet and the animals is significant.
There is controversy over the practice of mulesing the sheep (cutting away skin to reduce flystrike, usually done without anesthetic). Until a humane mulesing process becomes common we recommend against sheep from mulesed wool.
Industrial scale livestock grazing can also increase land clearing and degradation, though more holistic land management methods for grazing livestock animals are gaining popularity and support.
More sustainable alternatives
Using a recycled alternative to the virgin fiber is often a good option. So recycled wool would be a good alternative.
In order for wool to be certified organic in the U.S., it must be produced in accordance with federal standards for organic livestock production, which are:
- Feed and forage used for the sheep from the last third of gestation must be certified organic.
- Synthetic hormones and genetic engineering of the sheep is prohibited.
- Use of synthetic pesticides on pastureland is prohibited and the sheep cannot be treated with parasiticides, which can be toxic to both the sheep and the people exposed to them.
- Good cultural and management practices of livestock must be used.
End of life possibilities
Suitable for many end of life opportunities, though very slow to compost. Wool is the most reused and recyclable fibre on the planet of the major apparel fibres. Re-cycled for example to Third World countries. Knitwear that can not be used for the above (contains holes, soiled) would go in to making shoddy or felts used in bedding and automotive applications. Woollen knitwear would be used for such items as making hanging basket inners, insulation for sewers etc.
Look for clothes made from recycled wool, resale and vintage items, or wool certified by the Responsible Wool Standard, ZQ Merino Standard, or the Soil Association Organic Standards.