It’s Earth Day, when we stop to honor the planet on which we all live. Hopefully we are looking for ways to honor Earth every day of the year. One of the ways we can do that is by making sustainable, renewable choices about what we buy.
What makes a fiber “natural”?
The definition is simple; Natural fibers are produced by plants and animals without human intervention. Flax is a flowering plant that produces oil and also produces fibers that can be used for spinning and weaving linen. Cotton and hemp are two more natural plant fibers used in cloth production.
Sheep are thought to be the oldest living fiber-producing animals, but they are not alone. Goats (cashmere) and rabbits (angora) also naturally produce fibers used for spinning and weaving.
The case for wool
Wool is produced year- round and worldwide by an estimated one billion sheep. All over the planet, these sturdy animals grow their wool crop from a simple diet of water, grass, and sunshine. A sheep produces a new fleece each year. It is shorn, and returned to pasture. This makes wool a completely renewable natural fiber.
What is wool made of?
Grass, water and sunshine, of course! But technically, wool is made of keratin, a protein produced by the hair follicles of all mammals. According to Wikipedia, “[Keratin] is the key structural material making up scales, hair, nails, feathers, horns, claws, hooves, calluses, and the outer layer of skin among vertebrates.”
The finest micron width of merino wool fiber is made of the same material as a horse’s hoof. Yes, that’s remarkable.
Natural fibers are renewable; they grow and regrow on their own. Unlike synthetic fibers, which are usually made from petroleum, they renew themselves. As natural fibers, they also have life cycles, unlike synthetic materials. Wool’s lifecycle is a long one. Just ask the Pendleton customers who have inherited wool garments and blankets from their parents and grandparents.
When the end finally does arrive for a wool garment or blanket, there is still plenty of use to be had, because wool is the most reusable and recyclable fiber on Earth. It can be recycled or upcycled as textiles for clothing, or broken down into padding for upholstery and carpets. Recycled wool is also used to insulate for sound and natural fire resistance.
The very end
When the recycling stage of wool’s life is over, wool biodegrades fully. In fact, our Pendleton Eco-Wise wool is so manufactured with such care, it qualifies as a biological nutrient at the end of its life cycle. So when you’re thinking about what to wear, think about the impact your choice will have on the planet…not just on Earth Day, but every day.
All images via Pixabay.com