Buy a Sweater, Adopt a Sheep

Author: Cary Sherburne,

As the textiles and apparel industry continues to take heat for its highly negative impact on the environment, some companies are taking creative approaches to not only creating sustainable garments, but pushing the industry to take more aggressive steps toward carbon-neutral operation. Sheep, Inc., is one of those companies.

Get your own personal sheep! (Source: Shutterstock)

Consumers are increasingly aware that fast fashion—fashion that capitalizes on transitory trends, is often low-cost, and was basically considered disposable clothing—is bad for the environment. The question always becomes, though, how much are consumers willing to sacrifice in terms of money and convenience to live a more sustainable lifestyle? And how much are corporations willing to sacrifice?

Sheep, Inc., would likely tell you that its journey to becoming the first carbon-negative fashion brand wasn’t any sacrifice at all. In fact, the company not only is completely transparent about every aspect of its product, from sheep to shelf, but also dedicates 5% of revenue—not profit like so many others—to biodiversity efforts that offset about 325 kg of carbon per sweater it manufactures. Investments are made based on recommendations from an independent advisory board consisting of climate change experts.

And how are the sweaters manufactured? First, the wool is sheared from certified sheep in New Zealand—certified as to animal and environmental welfare standards. The next step is removing oil and dirt from the fleece—and having been a spinner and weaver in the past, I’m here to tell you there’s lots of both in a fleece! Plus, they smell! Anyway, these are sent to China to undergo that process. Clean wool is then sent to Italy to be spun into yarn and then to Spain to be knitted into a sweater on a 3D knitting machine that is the most waste-free and labor-efficient method of knitting a sweater. Perhaps you remember reading our article about Tailored Industry, 3D knitting and hopefully a resurgence of knitting mills in Brooklyn?

Source: via Google Images

So that sheep’s wool basically traveled around the world. How is that sustainable, you might ask? I certainly did. The company insists that transportation represents less than 1% of the overall carbon footprint.

And to make sure you know all about that, each sweater comes with an NFC (near field communications) tag that documents every step along the way—and it also comes with a sheep!

Well, not exactly, but each sweater is linked back to a real, live sheep as a reminder that that’s where the process starts. And owners can actually track that sheep to see what’s going on in its daily life, including when it has been sheared and even if any little lambs are involved in its life. Owners can also scan the NFC tag or the QR code that is on the tag to get a full breakdown of the sweater’s journey—from sheep to shelf, including the name of the person who hand-finished the sweater. Sweaters come in only one style, which the company doesn’t plan to expand, but is available in several earthy colors.

Vintage wool wagon

While Sheep, Inc., is focused on bringing carbon-negative sweaters to market, the company is also working in a number of ways to help address the climate crisis, including its 5% investment in biodiversity, efforts to help restore land that has been damaged by over-farming, and to fund projects in areas where carbon certification can’t be accomplished. The idea is to have certified carbon offsets 10 times that of each sweater’s footprint while at the same time working to educate consumers about the need to constantly work to reduce their carbon footprint.

So…check out Sheep, Inc., online and get your sweater—and your sheep—today! I’m sure our readers are doing a lot individually to reduce their personal environmental impact. Here’s a way to do a little more, get a stylish sweater, and have fun tracking your own personal sheep! Plus, you can “join the flock” by subscribing to the company’s newsletter to stay current on the latest ways to live a carbon-negative—or at least -neutral life.

This provides a brief overview of some of the interesting smart textiles innovations we are starting to see in fashion, entertainment, and lifestyle. Washability and scalability are challenges this market faces, and some experts also worry that smart textiles could isolate us even further from human contact than smartphones have…so developers are encouraged to keep that in mind, designing and marketing smart textiles that enhance rather than replace human interaction.

Wool from recently shaved sheep, from Nibepo-Aike in. Argentina

Haran notes that smart textiles are still a novelty, but as consumers become more aware and interested in the possibilities, the textiles industry will be challenged to improve durability, safety and comfort/fit for wearables. There should also be consideration given to how we dispose of these smart textiles at their end of life, ensuring at least some level of sustainability. Data security can also be a concern.

We will continue to follow the developments in this very interesting segment of the textiles and fashion market. Stay tuned!


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