You learn something new everyday.
Yesterday I learned that wearing wool is like carrying your own little carbon sink around. I gave a presentation on the impacts of rabbits and wild dogs on wool production at a meeting of fine wool producers at Yass, about an hour from Canberra. I also got to hear about the latest in wool fashion and marketing.
I knew that the range of wool clothing products had changed over the past decade or so and that next-to-skin wool clothing is now exceptionally comfortable. The materials passed around the room had a terrific feel to them. But when Australian Wool Innovation's Chief Executive Brenda MaGahan spoke, she taught me a few new things. Wool is composed of grass, sunshine and water so it is 42% carbon. When you think that the sheep has worn it for a few years and then you might wear it for a decade, that's not a bad place to store a bit of carbon. Driving home to the solar-paneled house in the hybrid, I resolved to wear more wool and carry more carbon on me.
It was worrying to hear that in the negotiations for Copenhagen, apparently all clothing is treated equally and the amount of carbon is calculated on a standard "life" for a piece of clothing. It seems extremely unfair to treat a petrochemical-derived pullover that might last a year at best the same as a wool pullover that will last a decade. Let's hope that the accounting rules are flexible enough to count the true carbon cost.
I also learned the new wool next-to-skin products don't need to be ironed. Our family has a major problem with ironing anything - even if you spend only an hour or so a week ironing, that adds up over a working lifetime to the length of a holiday. Who would go on an ironing holiday? Well, actually my mother-in-law would have, but she was unusual like that.
Finally, I learned that some fashion houses are now using fine wool in underpants. "Cool" wool is breathable and absorbent. Of course, it's important for fertility to keep the family jewels a degree or two cooler than the rest of the body - so here was yet another benefit of wool! (see Parazzini et al 1995 in the International Journal of Andrology "Tight underpants and trousers and the risk of dyspermia" - heating them up increases the risk of abnormal sperm by about double). Well, it has worked for rams for years, so why not humans!
Posted by Tony Peacock, founder of 'Feral Thoughts'