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Wool is an all-natural, renewable fibre, grown on sheep

Wool is a planet-friendly fibre for many reasons: 

  • Sheep are part of the natural carbon cycle, consuming the organic carbon stored in plants and converting it to wool. Fifty per cent of the weight of wool is pure organic carbon. 
  • Wool products have long lifespans, meaning they are used or worn longer than other textile fibre products
  • Wool textile products tend to be washed less frequently at lower temperatures which has a lower impact on the environment 
  • Wool is one of the most recycled fibres. With a market share of 1,3% of all textile fibres, wool claims 5% within the recycled fibres market share identifying wool as a suitable fibre for recycling.
  • Finally, at the very end of its lifespan, wool biodegrades readily. 

It all adds up to a highly sustainable fibre.

Sustainability in the Wool Industry

Wool, like everything people produce and use, affects the environment in some way. Groups and individuals interested in sustainability and ethical behaviour naturally want to understand how wool affects the world around us and to make informed choices accordingly. The wool industry is dedicated to making wool's environmental qualities more understandable. At the same time the wool industry is benchmarking its own environmental performance for constant improvement and compliance to high environmental regulations. IWTO and its members regularly invest into scientific research and information on the topic of wool and the wool industry's sustainability credentials. 

Understanding Wool and the Carbon Cycle

Wool is a short-term store of natural, renewable carbon. Pure organic carbon makes up 50% of the weight of wool, higher than cotton (40%) or wood pulp-derived regenerated cullulosic such as viscose (24%).

Where does this carbon come from? From the plants that wool sheep eat. Wool is produced in extensive pasture systems, where the sheep eat grasses and herbs. These plants convert the carbon from the atmosphere (photosynthesis) into organic compounds that the sheep then use to grow wool. This is a natural, renewable, ongoing process through which carbon is sequestered from the atmosphere.

While the carbon is stored in wool and thus isolated, there is less carbon in the atmosphere. This mitigates climate change. By how much? Converted into CO2 equivalents (CO2-e), 1 kg of clean wool = 1.8 kg of CO2-e  .  In 2014, the global wool clip represented approx. 1.05 millions tons of clean wool which equals 1.9 million tons of CO2-e

All of this carbon is removed from the atmosphere while the wool is being used. And wool garments and other textiles are used for many years. Wool is also one of the most recyclable of fibres: see our page on wool and recycling to learn more.

Read More

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Recycling & Wool

The Wool Supply Chain - Infographic

Green Wool Facts: More about sheep, wool, and the carbon cycle plus case studies