Recent research conducted by the wool industry shows that wool’s environmental footprint is low when it comes to the consumption of energy and water during the consumer use phase. This makes wool products more sustainable compared to other fibre products. However, current fibre environmental benchmarking tools don’t allow for wool to demonstrate its strengths in this area.
When calculating the environmental footprint of a product, it is important to also look at the use phase of a product and not only the manufacturing process of the supply chain. As little research had been conducted on the consumer use phase of wool products, the IWTO LCA Technical Advisory Group has focused on this knowledge gap.
Relevant factors to take into account are:
- Water use: how many times is the product worn before it is laundered?
- Energy: at what temperature is the garment washed and dried?
- Wear: for how long is the product used before it becomes worn out?
Research surveyed consumers about their wear and laundering behavior for a wool t-shirt and socks. The results were compared to an equivalent cotton product that is used for one year and laundered 52 times per year.
The research concluded that on average wool textile garments
- Are worn more often
- Last longer
- Are washed less often
Upgrading Environmental Benchmarking Tools
There are several environmental benchmarking tools that evaluate the sustainability of textile fibres and their products. However, these benchmarking tools currently do not differentiate between fibres in regards to the consumer use phase. This means that the positive environmental benefits of wool are not being taken into account by those tools.
IWTO's Sustainable Practices Working Group and LCA Technical Advisory Group are working with the companies that design and manage various benchmarking tools to improve this situation.
As the goal of both IWTO and the makers of these tools is that consumers have the best possible information so that they can make the best possible decisions, we hope to be able to share this positive wool news as soon as possible.