There's a pressing need to value eco-friendly wool
OPINION: Eco-friendly, sustainable and good for the environment are all well-worn admirable sentiments. Aspirations we should all be aiming towards.
But sometimes the interpretation can be interesting and somewhat biased. A garment is termed eco-friendly when made out of recycled plastic bottles.
The garment might be a product of clever manufacturing and it's a good idea to keep these bottles out of rubbish dumps, but it conveniently overlooks the fact that plastic is a synthetic product made from crude oil . And we are all well aware that extracting fossil fuels is certainly not a sustainable practise.
In addition there is the huge issue of microfibres shed when synthetic materials are washed. The estimate of 1.7 grams of microfibre lost off every garment in every wash doubles for older fabrics.
This pollution enters waterways, lakes, oceans and shorelines and also into fish and shellfish along the food chain.
Considering the amount of synthetic clothes washed every day, this is serious and not fixable by simply fencing waterways.
There is a choice of action. Either try to isolate the problem using anti-shed treatments, filters, nets or even waterless washing machines, or eliminate the problem by no longer using unsustainable, environmentally unfriendly fabrics and instead find alternatives.
We already have a wonderful natural product readily available. It can be used to create clothing, blankets, carpets, mats and furniture upholstery. Because of its amazing properties it is also used for making piano dampers, the fuzz on the outside of tennis balls, the stuffing inside baseballs and, ironically, even absorbent pads to mop up those eco-damaging oil spills.
Resistance to fire is a major advantage and it doesn't drip or melt, which gives a huge safety factor superior to synthetics. Any fibres shed are totally biodegradable so no pollution is washed into waterways
The unsung hero is, of course, a great product we grow efficiently in New Zealand, exporting about 84,000 tonnes last year. Whoopee for wonderful, warm wool.
The best action any enthusiastic environmentalist could do for sustainability is to proudly promote wool. As the "green movement " is sensibly returning to basic values like making compost, eating home-grown vegetables, upcycling clothing, using less chemical cleaners and being more aware of our footprint, it is high time we championed wool again, as our grandparents did.
A generation ago wool was valued for its attributes and farmers were paid $1000 a bale. We now earn half that.
It's sad to see such a good product so undervalued, an industry so overlooked and farmers forced to manage low incomes and increasing expenses.
If wool was worth what it should be, sheep farm incomes would be more viable, meaning less conversions to dairying. Worried about waterways? Wear wool.
This is not just a good news story; it is great news. A totally eco-friendly product, sustainably produced with sound environmental practice. What a wonder wool is.
- Joyce Wyllie is a sheep farmer at Kaihoka in Golden Bay.