Wool Research Makes Carbon Headway
January 20, 2012

A collective of woolgrowers, scientists and carbon specialists known as the Wool Carbon Alliance (WCA) has reviewed the latest research on wool's role in the natural carbon cycle, from wool growing properties to homes around the globe. 
 
Life cycle analyses on-farm, together with 11 separate life cycle studies of wool products, have shown that natural wool fiber is carbon friendly. 
 
Independent agricultural scientist with FSA Consulting Stephen Wiedemann said, "Advanced methods of on-farm carbon accounting have shown how woolgrowers can play an important role in the carbon cycle. Preliminary results suggest where soil carbon sequestration can be achieved, wool production can be carbon neutral." 
 
Advances in methodology in this area have led to considerably lower carbon footprint estimates for wool (by 60 percent to 80 percent). 
 
Wool Carbon Alliance Chairman Martin Oppenheimer said many of the existing perceptions about wool carbon needed to be challenged by current and relevant science. 
 
"We are finding that the wool fiber production systems, based on renewable grass and natural vegetation, complement current demands to reduce carbon emissions. Wool is part of the natural cycle of water and carbon that can impact climate in a positive way." 
 
The WCA also heard the latest research from Australian Wool Innovation's (AWI) product development team, which is working on ways of reducing wool's carbon footprint by reducing energy use during manufacturing, laundering and garment disposal. As part of the chemicals, energy and water project, AWI is looking at ways to reduce the amount of energy used during the manufacture of woolen garments and by the consumer when washing and drying. 
 
In manufacturing, most energy is used during the dyeing operation, and AWI has adopted a two-pronged approach. Firstly looking at mechanical modifications to the dyeing machine and secondly the dyeing process itself. 
 
With regard to domestic laundering of wool garments, AWI is exploring technology that allows wool garments to be successfully washed at lower temperatures than the normal 40°C wash. In addition, work is being conducted to reduce the drying time during tumble drying. Initial work suggests the drying time can be reduced by about 30 percent. An online resource for woolgrowers to access relevant reports is available at www.wool.com/carbon. 
 
Reprinted from Australian Wool Innovation Ltd.