Climate neutral wool

Climate neutral wool

Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Children and future generations depend on us to make the right choices so that their world is as good to live in as ours. But it is also a matter of justice and solidarity to help the people who are already suffering the consequences of climate disasters.
It takes many steps, big and small, that we as citizens and consumers can influence to stop global warming.

Transparency in politics

As a company, we try to contribute what we can, step by step. To make it clearer to voters where political parties stand on climate protection, Patrick has been volunteering as project manager of the Klimawahlhelfer since 2019. This is software that compares the demands of Fridays For Future and other groups with the electoral manifestos of political parties. The tool has already been used in Munich, Münster, Kassel and Baden-Württemberg so far and is available to initiatives all over Germany.

Transparency in production

Our next logical step was to identify how much our yarn contributes to climate change and offset this. As far as we know, no yarn producer has done this yet. This is despite - or perhaps because - pastoral animal husbandry contributes more to climate change worldwide than all the planes, ships and trains put together. Cows, sheep, goats and other ruminants emit methane, which heats up the climate more than carbon dioxide.
At the end of last year, we commissioned a report on this according to the GHG Protocol, the most widely used method for calculating greenhouse gas emissions in companies. We wanted to know how many kilograms of carbon equivalent are emitted from the sheep to the customer for each product. Carbon equivalent is a metric that converts methane emissions, for example, into CO2 emissions by climate impact.
For our Cheeky Merino Joy, this resulted in 3.46 kg of CO2 equivalent per 100g of skein. To put this into perspective, here are some comparative figures converted into wool skeins:
250g butter ≙ 1.8 skeins
100km car journey ≙ 5 skeins
Flight Munich-Berlin and back ≙ 71 skeins
Average CO2 consumption per capita (Germany) and day ≙ 9 skeins

What can we change?

The carbon calculation helps us to focus on the essentials. For example, the difference between wool from Argentina and Europe accounts for only 1% of CO2 consumption. In order to keep moths away, our yarns are delivered to retailers in bags. We would like to change this, but have not yet found a solution. But the labels and bags also only account for 0.5% of CO2.
In contrast, 67% of greenhouse gases are produced in the sheep's rumen. There are attempts to breed sheep that produce less methane, but whether and when this will lead to noticeable reductions is unclear.
Cotton produces fewer greenhouse gases during cultivation, but clothes are washed more often. Two studies estimate 3.7 and 11 kg respectively of CO2 for the life cycle of a cotton T-shirt.

29% of greenhouse gases are produced during washing, combing, spinning and dyeing. This is probably where the greater potential lies in the next few years in terms of switching to renewable energy and more efficient machinery. This is the area we will keep in focus.

Offsetting through certificates

As probably the first manufacturer, we have been offsetting our yarns’ greenhouse gases since the beginning of the year. We do this by means of Gold Standard certificates. These were co-developed by the WWF and are considered the best certificates because they also include social criteria.
In our case, the money goes to a project in Soacha (Colombia), where the Santander brickyard now fires bricks with biomass such as coconut shells, sawdust or wood waste instead of hard coal. The carbon reduction achieved by switching from fossil to renewable raw materials thus offsets our production’s greenhouse gas emissions. The 115 employees are also exposed to significantly less air pollution as a result. More information is available here.

Outlook

In line with the principle of "avoid - reduce - offset", we are looking at how we can contribute to the avoidance and reduction of greenhouse gases and always use offsetting as the last step. We would prefer a carbon price that everyone has to pay and that increases the pressure on producers to invest in climate-friendly innovations. However, this must also be regulated in a politically just and socially acceptable way.