Ask the expert: Which sweater to choose?
Make it last's sustainability expert tells us how to choose a warm sweater for cold winter nights.
Every week, Make it last’s sustainability expert Anna Brismar of Green Strategy answers questions about fashion and sustainability. Read more about what sustainable fashion really is, or at least how we define it with the help of Anna, here.
What materials should we choose if we are to buy a knitted sweater that keeps us warm in the winter?
– Knitted sweaters made of wool are a good alternative in winter time, as the wool keeps us warm while breathing. Also, wool draws moisture away from the skin and has antibacterial properties, which makes wool a suitable material for training clothes as well. Merino wool is a special type of wool that is extra fine and soft to the skin.
However, when buying new woolen sweaters we should look for “organic wool” or “recycled wool” labels. Alternatively, we should try to find sweaters made of wool from local sheep farms that hold high ethical and environmental standards. Organic and recycled wool are still quite rare, but are becoming more frequent partly thanks to media documentaries that portray the downsides of conventional farming practices.
Most of the global wool supplies originate from Australia and New Zealand, where sheep is sensitive to insect infestation. In these regions, mulesing, sheep dipping or sheep spraying (by insecticides) are widely used in order to prevent fly strikes and to ensure high wool quality. Mulesing is especially common practice for merino sheep in Australia. It implies that large pieces of skin from the sheep’s buttocks are cut off at only 4 to 12 weeks of age, without using anesthetics, which is highly painful. Mulesing-free farms do exist in Australia, although still rare, as are organic sheep farms.
Organic wool is produced at organic sheep farms, characterized by no or very restricted insecticide and pesticide use, no mulesing, no use of antibiotics, no feed chemicals and careful grazing practices. Organic sheep farms can be found in the U.S., Australia, Canada, and even in Europe. Wool from small local sheep farms is also a good choice, especially in Sweden where sheep farming generally follows high environmental and ethical standards (including no mulesing).
Recycled wool implies that wool from discarded textiles is sorted in suitable color fractions, shredded and then respun into new thread, which is used to make new woolen products. Through careful selection of blends, there is no need for new dyeing, which saves both water and energy. Patagonia is a company that uses recycled wool for its different products. Recycling of wool saves not only grazing land, but also reduces water and soil pollution from farming practices and fiber processing.
If possible, wool that has been dyed using chemical-free, allergy-safe and natural dyeing techniques is also a good choice for sweaters.
Top picture: screenshot from Patagonia.com.
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