Wool is a natural, biodegradable material produced by sheep. Each year a sheep produces a thick fleece which must be removed in the spring to protect its health and welfare. As the fleece regrows each year, it can be considered a renewable product, and in most situations, wool is a by-product of lamb and milk production. The International Wool Textile Organisation (IWTO) has produced guidelines on wool sheep welfare which cover “good practice principles for ethical wool sheep production”, particularly for sheep produced specifically for wool, such as Merino sheep in Australia and New Zealand.

Wool has many appealing properties; it is durable, able to filter air-borne properties, odour resistant, and is naturally flame retardant. Thanks to this, not only is it a popular material in the clothing and fashion industry, but it has also become an increasingly popular insulating material for homes and is widely used in commercial buildings. The ability of wool to improve indoor air quality makes it a useful textile in the homes of allergy sufferers. Wool also meets many international flammability regulations without any need for further treatment which makes it a very convenient material for carpets in commercial buildings. If it does ignite, it will not melt, drip or spread noxious fumes, unlike many man-made fibres.

Wool can be considered a “weatherproofed” material thanks to its exposure to the elements during its time on the sheep. This gives it unique qualities when compared to other textiles, and means it can last much longer than many alternatives. Despite this durability, wool is also naturally biodegradable in both soil and marine environments. This releases valuable nutrients back into the environment, with the additional benefit that 100% wool products will not contribute to any plastic or micro-fibre pollution. Thanks to this, there has been an increase in the popularity of wool coffins!

Wool also has a reputation of being a “survival” fibre for the outdoors, keeping up to 70% of its thermal insulation, even when wet. In addition, wool will wick away moisture from your body to keep you dry and cool in hot conditions. These properties have led to claims that wool is the most effective fibre in survival conditions, and is still used by military aircrew under their dry suits today! The versatility of wool as a fibre means that it is also very popular in the fashion industry.

So, from clothing to carpets, beds to coffins, there is no end to the practical and sustainable benefits of choosing wool fibre products!

Find out more

If you’d like to find out more please visit the Sustainability Solutions section of our website or contact Sustainable Agricultural Consultant, Dr Olivia Godber.