Is there carbon in the fleece?

December 6, 2009

Is there carbon in wool and if so does it constitute a carbon store which could offset farm emissions?

Federated farmers is keeping a close eye on the Australian-led Wool Carbon Alliance which may provide answers to those questions.

The Australians may be clutching at wool on the issue of wool carbon but we need to keep a watching brief on what the Australians are up to,” says Bruce Wills, Federated Farmers Meat & Fibre chairperson.

“The Australians claim that carbon makes up to half of wool’s composition and if true, it would represent a carbon store of 64,000 tonnes walking around New Zealand’s farms right now.

This sounds too good to be true. Even if it isn’t, Wills said the complexity and expense needed to verify the idea provides another reason to seek the exemption of emissions from the production of food and fibre at Copenhagen.

Regardless of whether or not the carbon in wool could be counted, Wills sees “green” opportunities in the fibre.

“Yet aside from generating non-compliant Kyoto carbon, it’s time we get out and shout about what is a 100 percent natural and renewable resource. . .

“If you’re truly clean and green, you should be insulating your home with wool products.  It takes significantly less energy to produce wool products than artificial fibres, meaning CO2 and other emissions are very low.  Best of all, it won’t cut you like glass fibres will.

“In Europe, they’ve shown an average household can cut its annual CO2 emissions by up to 300 kg and its energy bill by 5-10 percent if heating is dialled down by just 1° Celsius.  Wool can play its part.

“What we have here is eco-insulation and it’s time we trumpet it at home and overseas.  It’s time to talk up the environmental and sustainable properties inherent in New Zealand’s natural fibres.

“But wool is much more than that – you can wear it, walk in it, sleep in it and who knows what else you can do with it.  It’s time to unleash wool and a lot of that rests with us farmers,” Mr Wills urged.

Merino, by itself or with possum fur, has found a lucrative niche in clothing but no-one has yet found a similar way to increase the demand for the fibre from breeds with courser wool.

Wool insulation from companies like Terra Lana has a good reputation but in spite of its environmental credentials it’s not nearly as well known as its synthetic competitors.

The environmental credentials of wool are well established. Whether or not wool provides a carbon sink, the growing demand for “green” products provides an opportunity to sell the virtues of wool carpet and insulation and farmers need to lead by example.


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