Soft and sustainable : why we love ethical wool
WOOL IS A NATURAL MATERIAL OFTEN PRESENT IN SUSTAINABLE CLOTHING. STILBAAR ANALYZES WHY IT CIS ECO-FRIENDLY, THE LIMITS OF THIS MATERIAL AND HOW TO MAKE SURE YOU ARE BUYING SOME ETHICAL WOOL.
Why is wool sustainable ?
Wool is, first and foremost, a natural material of animal origin. “Natural” meaning : biodegradable, circular, not contributing to petrochemical activities, and globally compatible with the environment in its creation and degradation process.
Its thermal-insulant properties help our bodies regulate their temperature, and actually make it a material fit to both Summer and Winter collections. Committed designer Gabriela Hearst actually won awards for demonstrating how wool could be a sustainable option for summer clothing. Wool is resistant and lasting, and allows sustainable brands to create clothing that will gracefully endure the test of time.
That being said, is every wool garment sustainable ? Sadly, no, as a few aspects of wool can be unethical. The first one to consider is the wellbeing of the sheeps gifting us with their wool : are they well fed ? Do they have access to outdoor grazing ? The most horrific aspect of unethical wool is called “mulesing”, which consists in the removal of skin around a sheep’s buttocks, which in turn forms scar tissue where wool does not grow. This is done to avoid certain types of parasites, but this mutilates animals without any anesthesia and is therefore very violent for the sheeps (learn more here). This only concerns Merino wool, but be careful to check if the sweater you have your eyes on is “mulesing free”.
Regarding environmental concerns about wool, mindful production is at the heart of the issue : intensive production means intensive farming, which means intensive grazing. This can lead to the exhaustion of soils and unbalance of the ecosystems the sheeps are living in. The key is small quantities, and honest prices so that farmers can make a living without intensively exploiting their lands. Cheap wool probably means that animals and the environment got neglected in the process.
Also, we advise carefulness when a label indicates “wool” : if the wool is only 20% of the used material, and is mixed with unsustainable options such as non-recycled polyester, it’s not a sustainable option and the brand is probably using greenwashing to get more consumers.
How can you know if the wool garment you want is sustainable ?
Thankfully, a few elements can help you distinguish sustainable wool from unethical wool. Certifications exist : Responsible Wool Standard (for a mindful grazing and animal wellbeing), GOTS (for organic materials and animal wellbeing), GRS (for high quality recycled materials), Fair Trade (for fair remuneration and ecological standards)... You can also check the label of the clothing you’re interested in, and see what are the other components of the product you want.
Checking out a brand’s website is a good way to see if you are about to support an ethical business : is the brand transparent about the origin of its materials ? Do they have any certifications ? Can you see where the garments are made ? Do they seem to care about the animals they use ? Of course, some are better at greenwashing than others, so you can check if a brand seems approved by other reliable ethical businesses, such as Good On You, a platform grading brands on their practices.
Our selection of sustainable wool clothing :
Still unsure of your ability to pick ethical wool ? Stilbaar made a selection respectful of nature, humans and animals !
A cosy cardigan
A warm coat
A timeless turtleneck
A comfy scarf