Even if you aren’t ready to admit that Christmas is on the doorstep, there’s no denying that the cold of winter has already crept in and the time has come to get cosy in layers of soft, soft jumper. However, purchasing the perfect sweater can be a mine-field. Not only do you have to factor in the colour, style and shape of your new skin, but also how it will wash, and arguably most importantly- which material will you choose.
One of the most popular choices for winter warmers is wool. However, in recent years, the ethical credentials of wool have been placed under the microscope, as footage emerged from PETA of US and Australian sheep being abused in a shearing shed. As well as mishandling the animals and the general fact that the sheep are being exploited for profit, another issue associated with the industry is selective breeding, where only the fluffiest sheep are kept. Moreover, in countries such as Australia and New Zealand, where most Merino wool is farmed, although animal welfare standards are relatively advanced, the practice of ‘mulesing’ is still legal. This is a process, where the rear of the sheep is essentially cut off, to prevent flies from laying eggs in the sheep’s fleece.
What makes it particularly difficult to identify eco wool, is that there are no laws or requirements for the labelling of wool, so the manufacturer has the choice whether to specify ethical or not, and they are therefore basically free to pull the wool over your eyes. As a material though, it’s natural production and biodegradable qualities make it a potentially sustainable fibre, when it is ethically sourced. But how do we ensure that our wool has come from an ethical source?
Purchasing the perfect sweater can be a mine-field.
When a company is ethical, they often use this as a selling point to make it easier for us to tell who to trust. In addition to this, a quick read of the animal welfare policy of the company often makes it clear, which side of the fence the brand is on. For example, in the H&M Animal Welfare Policy it states that no wool from mulesed sheep is used by the brand and they only use fibres from living animals, which have not been kept in cages. They also use recycled wool in their products, which is the most eco-friendly, as it prevents waste and slows down the process of landfill sites filling up.
Another sustainable company that specialises in recycled cashmere is ‘Turtle Doves’. They have been turning pre-loved cashmere jumpers into cute accessories since December 2009. Moreover, each of their products is hand-made in Britain, which minimises the environmental impacts from air-miles and transportation.
Charity, second-hand shops or even eBay are also good places to find woollen items, as these are not directly contributing to the wool industry and the exploitation of sheep. Buying second hand is also a great way to slow down the waste production of our fast-fashion culture and reduce your carbon footprint.