Wool and Sustainability

I often get asked on my opinion on wearing wool as I’m vegan and yes, people do find me wearing it quite a lot. Saying this, I try to be as sustainable as I can, which often means buying second hand or when I can afford it, to buy a vegan and sustainable alternative. So, I’m going to break it down into three points of my research into wool; firstly, the effects the wool industry has on the environment, secondly, is the wool industry harmful to animals? And finally how I feel when it comes to purchasing wool.

I think we can all agree that when you think of wool you think of a durable, warm and sometimes luxurious material depending on it’s percentage and what animal it’s come from, whether that’s sheep, goat or yak for example. One huge problem that we face in the fashion industry is that most materials we buy are cheap, short living and create huge amounts of waste, however, wool, a common natural material that comes around during colder seasons, happens to be one of the most sustainable materials we use as it is biodegradable. As a natural fibre, wool contains keratin which is also found in our own hair, this protein when exposed to warmer and wetter conditions does decompose. The rate of this material breaking down really depends on the conditions of the environment however most case studies have shown that wool, in an ideal environment can take around 6 months to biodegrade where synthetic fibres found in fast fashion materials take around 30-40 years to decompose.

As a quality material made to last, wool is the most popular for recycling and reusing as it usually lasts around 2 – 10 years where synthetic and cotton only lasts up to around 2 years. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, fast fashion items bought from Primark or stores where garments are cheaply made are difficult to reuse in second-hand shops due to them being worn out, therefore they will be donated to countries where textiles and materials are collected to be reused if they can – otherwise they will end up in landfill. However, wool is a popular item for reusing due to the fact it keeps its shape and also it is known as a more luxurious and useful fabric to be recycled and resold. Therefore, it is far more eco-friendly and suitable especially here in England where we experience far colder climates than warmer.

Typically as a vegan, wool is not an item you would choose to wear as it’s been taken from an animal for personal gain. In the traditional farming cycle, when a sheep’s wool production begins to decline, they’re then used for meat as they’re no longer profitable. The process for shearing is different in every part of the world, it’s a highly skilled and extremely physically demanding role as a sheep shearer, therefore if not carried out properly it can cause a lot of harm to the animals that they’re shearing such as nicks and cuts. In most cases, sheep are selectively bred to have wrinkled skin as this ensures that with more skin, there will be more wool however this can cause more harm as it is more likely that they could have injuries during the shearing process.

I’ve watched a lot of videos on sheep shearing in the UK where farmers are trained in this process to lay the sheep on its back and in hold them down in between there legs, as well as this the legislation put in place are much stricter than those abroad which is far better if you’re buying wool from local farmers but with wool garments that you own – do you really know where it has come from?

Have they come from trained shearers or have they come from mass-produced farms where the conditions are poor.

Call me a vegan or not but I still wear wool. All my wool purchases are second hand, therefore, I am not contributing solely to the fast fashion industry but reusing what others have bought. This jumper is 100% lambswool bought from a charity shop near me, the quality and warmth is astounding whilst it was bought for only £6 and contributes to that local charity. I wouldn’t like to buy new wool unless I have a very thorough understanding on where it’s been manufactured. The same with leather. Everyone is on there own little journey on understanding about how we can obtain so much stuff and at the same time, understand where it actually comes from. I hope with this deeper understanding of wool, you can make a more conscious decision of whether or not you want to buy it.

What I’m Wearing

Rainbow Jumper : Thrifted

Brown Belt : Thrifted

Jeans : Vintage

Vegan Dr Martens : Depop

Pink Corduroy Jacket : Paloma Wool

Oh, and Happy New Year!

Next year I’ll be super busy for the first 6 months so I’m going to try and blog as much as I can and share more on sustainability but until then, you can keep updated on my Instagram.

Much love xxx

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