Monday, June 30, 2008

ORGANIC WOOL – what makes an organic sheep a happy sheep?

Why does this sheep look so content in his field of green?
He is one of the lucky sheep whose precious wool is raised organically.

And what qualifies as ORGANIC wool?
According to the Organic Trade Association, there are federal standards in order for wool to be classified as "organic".
The animals must be grazed in pastures using chemical-free pesticides. Their feed must be only produced organically as well. There can be no use of hormones, synthetic hormones, nor can the animals be tampered through genetic engineering.

The other good news about organic wool is that it is processed without any harm to the sheep themselves. Cruelty-free management of the animals is a must.

Organic wool is popping up in items for home including blankets, baby toys, mattresses, pillows, rugs, carpeting, and functional yet fun objects d’art.

"Organic wool is also garnering a lot of attention from companies that produce bedding material. Because of the low-flammability characteristics of wool, it's a very desirable material to use inside futons, mattresses and even chairs in place of materials treated with fire retardent chemicals," says Sandra Marquardt, who coordinates the OTA's Fiber Council, "Because of that, I think the furniture and bedding market is going to be a huge growth potential area."

As the demand for organic wool products grows, so too will the applications for its use.

Certain products can be made with the basis of organically raised wool, yet there can be steps in the manufacturing process that may not be so eco-friendly. There may be toxic finishes to wool to prevent shrinkage, and colorful dyes may be chemically-based. Again, the degrees of total eco-friendliness will vary from product to product. Wools can be dyed safely using vegetable and water-based dyes. And undyed wool is a statement of natural beauty itself.

As we the consumers keep on making the choice towards organic wool, those innovative home product companies out there will have to listen to our demand and rise to the challenge of more beautiful eco designs from sheep-friendly wool.

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