6 Tips to get more out of your workout clothes, save money and the planet

Workout clothes are designed to support you in the best possible way while you are out running, cycling or pushing your limits at the gym. This is ensured through a special design, fit, manufacturing as well as fibre content of workout clothes. Examples are flat seemed or no tags, so they don’t irritate your skin or special panels to ensure extra breathability where it is needed most. 

Fibre content, meaning what the fabric of the garment is made of, also plays an important role in the garment’s performance during your workout. Workout fabrics are designed to protect you from the sun, keep away the bad odour, keep your skin dry and make you feel comfortable. Ultimately, they serve a purpose to keep you warm and protected in any season.  


Given the unique functions, our workout clothes provide us with, it should be no surprise, therefore, that they might need a little more maintenance than your usual everyday t-shirt. Here are some tips that apply to all workout garments irrelevant to the fibre content: 


  • Avoid using fabric softener as it tends to coat the fibres which reduce the ability to absorb the moisture
  • Avoid using the tumble dryer which makes gym clothes lose shape and also reduces the quality of the garment. This can also cause a garment to shrink.
  • Don’t leave your gym gear in your bag, take it out to air or if it’s time, put it in the wash right away.
  • Wash your gear inside out, the inside is usually dirtier, and this method also protects the more technical side of the garment. 
  • Avoid hanging your active gear and rather fold and stack the items.  Some fabrics are stretchy so hanging them can cause them to stretch out.
  • Wash your activewear in cold water to prevent fading and to preserve the shape.


While you most probably want to wash your synthetic garments after each wear (with good reason as they tend to stink quickly), when it comes to merino wool garments for sporting adventures, you are actually encouraged to wash them less. Merino wool lasts longer if you take advantage of its natural odour resistance, stain resistance and ability to bounce back to its original shape allowing you to wear your garments more and wash them less. Merino wool workout garments should therefore only be washed after the second or third use – it’s a mind shift that is easy to make in times of water and power shortages. 


Finally, when you are looking to buy a new workout garment, pay some attention to the quality of how it is made and what it is made of. Stop buying the same shoddy quality over and over, and rather invest in quality and learn to take care of it. 


How South African woolgrowers take good care of their sheep

South Africa is a beautifully diverse country with a long and rich history of sheep and wool farming. This long history has established woolgrowers who have a keen appreciation of how to care for their animals, the environment, and the well-being of their staff. As a result, the industry consistently generates a high-quality, environmentally sound product which we proudly use across all the products in our range. While it naturally makes sense that we use South African wool in our product range, there are a number of reasons why South African wool specifically makes such a spectacular fibre.

The first Merino sheep arrived in South Africa in 1789, and the sheep and wool industry on a commercial basis was quickly established thereafter. Until now, South Africa remains one of the top wool-producing nations in the world, especially for Merino wool. South African woolgrowers genuinely care for their animals and the environment and are committed to doing what’s best for their animals and the land which is a key responsibility in caring for healthy and happy sheep. This is best substantiated by the amount of certified RWS (Responsible Wool Standard) wool South Africa is supplying globally. With over 1,000 South African wool growers who have voluntarily signed up and are currently being audited to the standard, the wool growers are ensuring they are held to high standards in regard to animal welfare, the environment, and for their staff members.

The weather in South Africa is known to be quite hot and arid but can also have particularly extreme weather conditions of sub-zero temperatures as well. Despite this, sheep live largely a carefree life due to the inherent cooling and insulating properties of their wool which is naturally renewable and grows year after year. The fleece protects sheep from the weather, keeping them warm during winter and cool during the hot summer.

Sheep farms in South Africa are often managed by multi-generational farming families, making it a career based on true passion and understanding of the wellbeing of the land and animals as well as those who look after all of it. South African woolgrowers understand the relationship between environmental health and wool quality. High-quality wool is only grown by healthy sheep, who in turn graze on healthy pasture and land. Working tirelessly to care for their environment and their sheep, South African woolgrowers manage the land to meet the needs not only of their generation but of future generations too.

Through best practice, sustainable farming, South African woolgrowers can protect and regenerate the land and care for the health and happiness of not only their sheep but staff members as well. Ultimately, providing one of nature’s most sustainable fibre to be utilised in garments such as Core Merino ones.

Interested to learn more about Core Merino and sustainability. Have a look at our sustainability page.

How to make a difference every day to help restore our earth

Every April 22nd, Earth Day is celebrated to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Thousands of events have been organised on Earth Day already since 1970. Of course, acting to protect the environment is something we need to do every day and not only once per year. Nevertheless, it is helpful to have an annual event to keep us motivated, get ourselves updated on the latest developments and see that millions of people around the world are fighting towards the same goal of keeping our planet a habitable healthy place. 


At Core Merino, we constantly try to make our supply chain and our products more sustainable, and we have started to document what we have achieved so far and where we want to go on our sustainability page. While it is important that businesses do more to protect the environment, also each one of us has an important role to play as all the small changes we make in our daily life add up to a positive change for the environment. 


In honour of Earth Day, you will get a bunch of ideas in this blog post that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help planet earth. 


Become aware of your impacts

Before we can properly make changes, we need to know where and how we have an impact on our planet. The first step to help protect planet earth is therefore to capture the existing state of affairs and to become aware of where and how we impact the environment in areas such as food, housing, mobility, goods, and leisure. 


In South Africa, we have become experts in reducing our water consumption due to the high water stress levels we experience. While you had to reduce your water consumption drastically, you have probably become painfully aware of where and when you would usually use water and identified ways of how to consume less. This is a huge reduction of environmental impact. 


Besides water consumption, there are many other areas where our behaviour has a direct environmental impact with the potential to reduce this impact by making small changes in how we live, work, and play. 


The easiest way is to look at everything you do, use, buy and throw away in your daily life. If you find this exercise too daunting, there are also a lot of online impact calculators available that help you assess your material footprint, your ecological footprint or your carbon footprint. The United Nations have put together a document summarising different calculators available. Access the document here.


Reduce impacts

Once we have a better understanding of the areas where we have an impact on the environment, it is time to reduce our impacts. Often we can make the most change through the things we do or use regularly such as what we eat, how we use our electronic gadgets, or how we move from one place to the other. The list where we can reduce our impacts is of course endless, so we have picked a few ideas that we get most excited about. 


Buy locally and in season

Strawberries in wintertime, avocados all year round? The global economy and industrial agriculture have made it possible for us to enjoy our most favourite food all year round. However, this convenience also has an impact on our planet. To help our planet, it would be better to honour the agricultural seasons again and eat the food that is grown close to you. Research if there is a local farmer’s market near you or observe the fruit and vegetable area in your supermarket carefully to identify what is currently in season. A little hint: local in-season produce usually looks and smells great and has a good price. Extra tip: Don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping bag. 


Expand your mobility range

South Africa is a large country and distances are long. Taking the car or plane is often the only option. However, going places by car is also a habit we quickly develop out of convenience. Start observing which car rides you could easily replace with a more eco-friendly form such as biking, roller skates, or walking. 


Help our bees

With the number of environmental issues in the world, we can easily feel powerless, and it may seem that we cannot possibly make a difference. In his book, ‘The Garden Jungle or Gardening to Save the Planet’ Professor Dave Goulson makes the argument that all of us can make a difference in our backyard, balcony or terrace. No matter how small your outdoor space, you can plant flowers, fruits, and vegetables that provide food for insects such as bees. Bees are imminent to our ability to grow food and have been terribly impacted. Helping save our bees will also help save ourselves.  


Wash less and buy better quality clothes

We have written about this topic already in many of our blog posts, but we cannot stress it enough. How we use and wash our clothes matters for the environment. With wool, the environmental advantage is that you do not need to wash your wool garments as often as you would wash a cotton garment for example. Wool does not smell easily and can be refreshed simply by just hanging it in fresh air. Another way to reduce our impact is to wear our garments for longer before we get rid of them and purchase new items. This means it is important to invest in garments that are of good quality and will therefore last. 


Online habits

The internet has made our life easier at a touch of a button, and we do not want to miss it. We are used to constantly sending messages and emails, buying products online, streaming music and films, and sharing photos and videos with our friends and family. However, for us to do these activities, large data centres are needed to host the content we consume and share.

Researchers measured that sending an email uses on average 4 g of CO2 while sending an email with a photo attached uses up to 50 g CO2. This does not seem that much, however, estimates predict that in 2021 a total of 319.4 billion emails will be sent and received every day. In other words, the CO2 footprint generated by email alone adds up big time. So, what can we do to reduce our impact in this area? Review the newsletters you are subscribed to and unsubscribe from the ones you actually never open nor read. Here is a good article from the BBC with more ideas on how to reduce your online carbon footprint.


How to keep at it?

From the examples, we listed above, protecting the planet seems like a lot of extra effort and work. Indeed, reducing your impacts often means a little less comfort and a little more planning ahead. However, if you revert the thought, wasn’t it that our constant drive for more comfort has led us to this environmental crisis in the first place? Items like plastic bags, stand-by TV sets, and huge SUVs were all invented to make our life more comfortable. 


Our constant strive for more comfort is an important psychological element to factor into our endeavours to reduce our impacts because if whatever we try to do is too difficult and not rewarding enough we will most probably not stick to it (see every past attempt of starting a diet or doing more sports). So, how can we trick ourselves into living more sustainably? Here are a few ideas that may work for you. 


Make it fun

Our first recommendation comes directly from Mary Poppins who found ways of making even tidying up one’s room seem fun. Identify ways to combine something that you enjoy with an activity that helps the planet. For example, have you ever heard of plogging? Plogging is a combination of jogging and picking up litter. You can get together with a few friends and turn your run outside into a great clean-up event. More ideas around plogging, can be found here. 


Make it a habit

Recently, there has been a lot of new research on habit building (here are some recommended books on the subject: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg or Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear). A habit is a routine or behaviour that we do regularly and subconsciously. A key part of habits are triggers that start or induce the habit. For example, the alarm clock in the morning is most probably a trigger for you to get up, brush your teeth and start the coffee machine. If we want to form a new habit, such as buying local food, it will become easier if we combine the activity with an already existing habit or find a trigger that then makes us stop at the local food market. Can you find a habit such as picking up your children from school, driving back from work, or meeting with a friend for coffee that you can connect to stopping at the local food market? 

Be clear on your why

Another important element of keeping us motivated to stick to our new more environmentally friendly behaviour is reminding ourselves regularly why we are doing this in the first place. Write down your reason why you want to help our planet and look at it regularly. Try to make your why personal, specific, and very relevant for yourself. So instead of, ‘I want to reduce my plastic consumption.’, write something like ‘I want to enjoy the beach and ocean with my family without plastic pollution.’. 


Publicly commit

Another trick we can play on our mind, to keep us going is to publicly commit to a goal. A public commitment has many variations. You can tell all your friends and family that you want to reduce your impacts in a certain area and ask them to keep you accountable. If you are competitive, you could even make a bet that you need to pay a certain amount to a charity if you don’t achieve your goals. 


Reward yourself

Finally, it is also important to give ourselves a pat on our back from time to time. If you have been taking the bicycle more often than the car or took your reusable shopping bag to the grocery store for the past 3 weeks, it is time to reward yourself. Define a few perks that you indulge yourself in when you have been keeping to your new sustainable habits as that will give you a little boost to stick to it. 


We hope this Earth Day 2021 collection of ideas on how to help our planet is of value to you and that you can find ways to incorporate some new environmental friendly habits into your life. At Core Merino, we will also continue on our journey on reducing our environmental impacts throughout our supply chain. Stay tuned for more on this. 

It’s a certification jungle out there

When you shop for clothes in the store or online, you will notice that more and more garments have little tags with one or more certification logos on them. These tags tell you that this particular garment has been certified to be particularly environmentally friendly, workers have been paid well, or that no animals have suffered for the production of the product. These certifications allow you to easily make an informed purchasing decision taking the social and environmental impact into consideration. At least that is the theory. We all find ourselves sometimes confused about the sheer amount of different labels, certifications, and standards available in the market which makes shopping yet harder, not easier.

At Core Merino, we are also certified for a range of standards which is why we thought to provide some guidance into the certification jungle out there. 

What are standards, certifications, and labels actually?

Let’s start at the beginning and the beginning actually being a standard. The International Standards Organisation (ISO) defines standards the following way: 

Standards are documented agreements containing technical specifications or other precise criteria to be used consistently as rules, guidelines or definitions, to ensure that materials, products, processes, and services are fit for their purpose. 

The reason for having standards in the first place is to ensure product safety, improve product quality, provide information and transparency to consumers as well as facilitate trade and compatibility of products (an easy example are our phone chargers which work across many devices). 

Furthermore, we distinguish between two types of standards – 1) product standards and 2) process standards. 

Product standards are specifications and criteria defining the characteristic of products. Process standards on the other hand are a set of criteria defining the way products are made. 

In the case of clothes, most standards you will find are social or environmental standards, and they fall into the category of process standards as they provide certain criteria on how the garments are made such as health and safety working conditions. The sizing of garments on the other hand would fall into the category of a product standard as garment sizes are standardised (even though they tend to vary a bit) across different countries. 

The next important part to understand about the standard is the certification in accordance with a particular standard. ISO again defines certification as ‘a procedure by which a third-party gives written assurance that a product, process, or service is in conformity with certain standards’. In other words, don’t take the brand’s word for it that they produced a garment in accordance with a standard, instead trust the independent third-party certification body. 

Finally, the successful certification can then be communicated to the final consumer through a label or symbol indicating compliance with the particular standard. This brings us back to the label you may have found on a garment you were interested in purchasing. 

You may now feel just the same level of confusion as before, so let’s bring in some concrete examples to make this topic easier to grasp. 


Animal Welfare standards

As wool is grown on the back of sheep, the good treatment of sheep is important. In all major wool growing countries, the welfare of animals is protected by law. However, there is a constant movement within society towards raising the bar of what we understand to be good care for animals. This movement towards higher animal welfare is reflected within Animal Welfare Standards. These animal welfare standards are developed by NGOs, industry bodies, or individual companies. The best-known examples for sheep and wool are the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS), ZQ, or Authentico. In order for wool growers to be certified for one of these standards, they need to provide data about the existing processes and procedures implemented on their farm that ensure good welfare of their sheep. In addition, third-party certification bodies perform audits on the wool grower’s farm regularly to verify that the wool grower indeed takes good care of his sheep. 

Social Standards

The creation of garments is quite a labor-intensive undertaking. In every step of the (wool) textile supply chain, people are involved starting with the wool grower on the farm up to the seamstress sewing the final garment. While it is important that sheep are treated well, it is also critical that the people working in the garment sector are treated well, can work in healthy and safe working conditions, and receive a fair wage. There are many social standards that verify if these important factors are ensured. Examples are the Clean Clothes Campaign or the Fair Wear Foundation. 

Environmental Standards

It is of course also important to verify that products are produced without harming the environment. Unfortunately, the textile industry is known to be one of the most polluting industries which is why there are many environmental standards that aim to raise the bar for how garments can be produced harmonizing with nature. Environmental protection in itself is complex and contains many aspects such as chemicals, water, and energy use, biodiversity, carbon footprint, microplastics, etc. Each standard covers one or several environmental aspects. Well-known examples are GOTS, Blue Sign, or ZDHC. 

Complexity and Choices

In summary, there are many standards, and you will quickly notice that each brand may offer a different combination of certifications for their company and sometimes even within their product range. This adds even more so to the complexity of the Standards Jungle. On the upside, this wide range of standards offers you as the customer choices. You can decide what is important to you and reflect that in your purchasing decision. If good animal welfare is important to you, you can seek out brands that are certified for welfare standards. If paying garment workers above the living wage is a priority for you, then search for brands that have this value in common with you. Once you get into the different standards, you will also find brands that will offer a range of certifications that cover several standards. 


Certifications at Core Merino

Finally, at Core Merino we are of course also certified for a range of standards that are particularly important to us and our business. As all our garments are made of wool, we hold animal welfare very highly within our business values. All of our wool growers adhere to the Sustainable Cape Wool Standard. 

Once the wool leaves our warehouse we can always track exactly where it is, as we work closely with all our supply chain partners. The processing of our garments only takes place at Blue Sign certified facilities. The blue sign standard focuses on the natural resources and chemicals used in textile production. 

If you want to find out more about how we do things are Core Merino, please visit our website here

This month is ‘Plastic Free July’ which is a global movement for all of us around the world to reduce the use of plastic to protect our oceans, our countryside as well as the health of our communities. The sad truth is that globally, the world produces over 390 million tonnes of plastic per year. This is the equivalent weight of all humans on earth. Over time plastic leaks into our environment and water systems where it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, so-called microplastic. These small pieces of plastic often release toxic chemicals and get eaten by smaller animals which can harm them. Experts estimate that there are over 3 trillion plastic fragments floating in the ocean. With these kinds of numbers, we are certainly not telling you anything new and all of us are aware that something needs to change. Initiatives like Plastic Free July can help us move this important topic to the forefront of our busy lives and motivate us to start making small changes. 


At Core Merino, we want to support the initiative of Plastic Free July by sharing with you some ideas of how all of us can contribute to a world with less plastic. Here is an overview of tips and ideas on how to reduce the use of plastic in our everyday life. Have a look and decide which of these ideas you can easily incorporate. 


Plastic-free bathroom

Within the realms of our bathroom, we end up using many single-use plastics in forms of bottles, jars, and tubes. Luckily there are many companies exploring alternative options to help remove plastic from our bathrooms. 

Shampoo and soap bars 

One easy way to reduce plastic is with ‘naked’ beauty supplies such as shampoo or soap bars. These are typically only wrapped in paper. There is a growing offer of shampoo bars of which some even contain conditioner as well. Going back to using a good old soap instead of a liquid body wash almost has a vintage vibe to it and we at Core Merino are already big fans. 

Blade Razors

While going plastic-free we also want to continue going hair-free as and where to our personal liking. Modern society’s razors however do create a lot of plastic pollution. On this topic, previous generations also had a less polluting option: A plastic-free reusable razor with plastic-free razor blades.

With this type of razor, you never throw away the handle and only exchange the razor blade which is a thin metal blade, which means less waste to go into the dump. 

It might take a little getting used to, but you might actually be surprised about the perfect result.   

Plastic Free Glitter

Let’s be honest here, most children and also many adults just love glitter. There is something about glitter that makes us smile and feel happy. Glitter can be found on so many products such as birthday cards, makeup, nail polish, clothes, and party decorations. Glitter just makes everything a little bit more fun. Unfortunately, glitter is also made of plastic and literally is already in the shape of microplastic. 

Choosing glitter-free products is of course the best solution. However, if you do need that short moment of shine, watch out for products with plastic-free glitter. Some companies have specialised in finding sparkling alternatives that biodegrade and do not harm our planet. So you can have your glitter after all. 


Plastic-free kitchen

There is a reason for the saying ‘Plastic fantastic’ because plastic products are quite convenient and make our life easier. This is also true for our kitchens. So many little plastic gadgets make cooking and storing food hassle-free. Therefore, when we are in search of plastic-free alternatives, we need to make sure our lives stay easy. 

Reusable Veggie bags

In recent years, many supermarkets started reducing the use of single-use plastic bags. In some countries, single-use plastic bags are even forbidden or specially taxed. However, one plastic bag typically remains: the very thin foiled plastic bag to put in your fruit and vegetables. To tackle this plastic in our life, supermarket chains and individual companies have developed reusable veggie bags that you bring along on your trip to the supermarket. You fill each bag with the fresh produce of your choice as usual and the cashier weighs the bags at the cash desk as if nothing is strange about that. Check out your local supermarket to see if they already have reusable veggie bags or research a brand online which can ship you their bags. 

Vegetable box

Another way to get your weekly dose of fruit and veggies is to subscribe to a vegetable box. In many cities, local farmers offer weekly deliveries of fresh produce currently in season. Besides being plastic-free, this weekly surprise at your doorstep also gets your creativity going as you try out new recipes with your assortment of yummy vitamins. 

Loose-leaf tea

When we think about plastic waste that can be avoided, the so popular coffee pods quickly come to mind. And yes, think about using reusable coffee pods instead or switch to filter coffee. However, when you are a tea and not a coffee person, this does not concern you, or does it? Over the years many tea companies have changed their teabags from paper to plastic, especially in the premium tea segment. To reduce plastic in the tea department, you can explore loose leaf teas. You will be amazed at how many wonderful loose leaf tea options are available and soon discover your favorite new tea leaf mix. 


Plastic-free closet

Checking for plastic in our wardrobe is not the first thing that comes to mind when we try to reduce the plastic in our life. Taking a closer look, however, reveals that there is some room for improvement.

Buy natural fibre clothes instead of synthetics

Nobody ever looked at a barrel of oil and thought ‘this would make a great pair of trousers’. While this sentence holds true, in reality, our closets today are filled with synthetic clothes made of crude oil or chemicals deriving from oil. 

Whenever we wear or wash our synthetic clothes, small dust-like particles fall off our garments and harm our environment. Clothes made of natural fibres also lose small particles but these can biodegrade. Many of our Core Merino garments are made of 100% wool, so you can ensure your Core garments are not doing any harm. In addition, we are working on plastic-free alternatives for our fibre blend garments and hope to deliver something to you soon. 

Review your Accessories habits

Accessories make and break an outfit. They are an easy, cheap, and fun way to add something special and new to your look. However, if you have a closer look at your accessories, how many are you actually wearing, and how many are made of plastic? Many accessories such as belts, flip flops, bracelets, necklaces, or headbands are made of plastic or similar synthetic materials. They are cheap but therefore also not very durable and look worn out pretty quickly. Try reducing the number of accessories you buy on a regular basis and identify accessories worth investing in that will last you a long time and always make you feel wonderful.  

Rethink your wardrobe accessories

In a world already drowning in plastic, plastic hangers aren’t typically the first thing you would think of as being a problem but experts estimate that billions of plastic clothing hangers are thrown away globally every year, with most used and discarded well before a garment is hung in stores let alone in your own cupboard. Our favourite alternative to plastic hangers are wooden ones that last longer and are easier to repair if broken. With an estimated 85 percent of all plastic hangers ending up in landfills where they can take centuries to break down, it is certainly time to consider ditching plastic hangers and opting for more sustainable solutions to keep your garments wrinkle-free.

Plastic-free travel

At Core Merino, we love to travel and while many of our future travel plans are up in the air at the moment it still is a great time to plan ahead and ensure plastic-free adventures. We already shared some of our travel tips in our recent blog posts here. Of course, the downside of travel is that it causes a lot of CO2 emissions and that we often make use of a lot of single-use plastics as they are so convenient when on the road. Nevertheless, there are ways to go plastic-free when exploring the world. 

Re-usable cups and bottles

When we go on a trip, we know that we will get thirsty and we will crave our regular dose of coffee. If you are willing to take things slow, you can drink up in coffee shops and restaurants. However, as we often want to get quickly back on the road, we find it convenient to bring our drinks along the road in single-use cups and bottles. Try making the switch to reusable cups and bottles. It does take a little bit of planning ahead but it also gives you a kind of feeling of home while being away when you always have your favorite coffee cup with you. 

Washable face masks

As we are still battling with a global pandemic, face masks continue to be a must-have especially when we need to travel for work. While your health is of utmost importance it is also worth the time to look at the type of face mask you are using. Many of us use single-use face masks out of convenience, however, these often contain plastic and end up polluting our environment. See if you find a re-usable washable face mask instead. You can check out our neck warmers, which are an alternative, sew your own, or purchase from a local who started getting creative with cool face mask designs. 

Re-usable utensils

During the pandemic, the use of single-use forks, spoons, and knives also increased as we could not eat in restaurants but had the option of takeaways instead. Also, when we travel, we tend to have more takeaways as it can be fast and convenient. Like the reusable plastic cup, it is also possible to bring along a set of utensils to eat from. You might be surprised about how much better your take away tastes when you eat it with a proper non-plastic fork and knife. Definitely worth a try.  


We hope this blog post motivates you to rethink your habits and the plastic in your everyday life. We can only make a change in this world if we all contribute in our own small ways. 


If you want to read up more about plastic free july, visit https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/

You can also educate yourself by visiting https://shift.how/ which is a large resource of ideas on how to go plastic-free. 


The Battle Against Climate Change Needs To Continue Despite Coronavirus

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day event, this annual occasion is celebrated in over 100 countries and has gained traction in South Africa over the past few years. Earth Day 2020, taking place on the 22nd of April, is one of the largest non-religious gatherings worldwide and highlights the importance of taking care of the environment. However, with the significant gain of the movement in SA, activists and participants are now left with questions as to how they will celebrate the environment while staying at home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Read more

Why a merino wool garment is a perfect gift

Core Merino Christmas gift ideas 2019

Are you still missing a few Christmas gifts to give to your loved ones during our favorite holiday of the year? May we suggest to consider gifting a Core Merino garment this year? Read more

What to pack on Safari

With the Christmas holidays nearing, many of us will start planning for a little trip. Going on Safari to one of the many beautiful parks and reserves we have in South Africa is a popular choice. Read more

How to travel sustainably

Read more

Wool is part of the natural carbon cycle

In South Africa, we have been experiencing severe drought during the last couple of years. At the same time around the world, many countries are experiencing similar heat waves and droughts combined with extreme storms and floods. During the 136 years of weather recording, seventeen of the 18 warmest years have occurred since 2001. These severe weather patterns are commonly summarised as climate change. As geological findings demonstrate, climate change has occurred throughout the history of this planet. However, this time 90% of all climate researchers are certain that the current change in climate is happening due to human activity.

This leads quickly to the question of which human activity is the highest contributor to climate change? Many news media repeatedly report that livestock is the greatest contributor to climate change. In fact, there is one particular number being (falsely and repeatedly) mentioned, claiming that 18% of GHG emissions come from livestock and that these livestock emissions are higher than all transport combined.

In this blog post, we want to look at this statement more closely and provide you with the context, the bigger picture, and the correct figures.

Biogenic Carbon – Wool is part of a natural carbon cycle

All livestock such as sheep and cattle are part of a natural carbon cycle. You may remember from your biology class, that CO2 is a natural gas present in our atmosphere and is needed for photosynthesis. In fact, each year 155 billion tons of atmospheric carbon is converted to biomass carbon (also called biogenic carbon) which are in simpler terms plants, grass, and trees.

Sheep eat biogenic carbon, in the form of grass and shrubs and other plants. Their digestive system then turns the grass partially into the amino acids of the wool fibre and partially carbon and methane gases which return into the atmosphere. In fact, 50% of the weight of clean wool is made up of pure biogenic carbon. Wool is in some way a special form of carbon storage until it biodegrades and returns the carbon back to the soil. The CO2 and methane gases which the sheep releases through its digestive system are returned to the atmosphere and can be turned back into biogenic carbon through photosynthesis.

Synthetics are made of fossilised carbon

All synthetic textile fibres such as polyester, acrylic or nylon are made of crude oil. Crude oil, along with gas and coal is fossilised carbon. Fossilised carbon is excess biogenic carbon which nature has stored away into long-term storage over the millennia. We humans have started to add this long term carbon storage back into the atmosphere during the last 150 years since the first oil wells were found in 1870. 60% of this additional carbon can be absorbed through photosynthesis and oceanic storage. However, the remaining 40% stays in the atmosphere and heats up our planet.

With synthetic fibres the issue is that the fibres do not biodegrade but instead only break down into small microfibres polluting our soil and water (read more about biodegradation here).
However, the largest amount of carbon emissions is generated by energy production and consumption as well as transportation (cars, planes, etc.). This brings us back to the comparison mentioned above of who emits more greenhouse gases, livestock or transport? This topic also brings us back to Life Cycle Assessment, which we have been talking about in our blog series.

False numbers with a long shelf life

In 2006, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), a United Nations organisation, published the famous number claiming livestock contributes to 18% of GHG emissions. FAO added in their report that this was more than the transportation sector.
Since then, FAO has revised these numbers because further research showed that they were incorrect. How did this happen?

FAO had conducted a full LCA of livestock. This means they had included the whole life cycle of the livestock supply chain from farm to the grave. This included GHG emissions from the production of fertilisers, pesticides, plant emissions, feed production, manure, digestive emissions, slaughter, transport, industrial food processing etc. Based on the LCA methodologies available in 2006, the number of 18% was actually quite well calculated. However, the error FAO made back then was in not doing a full-fledged LCA for the transportation industry and instead just using the tailpipe emissions from different vehicles. In other words, the calculations for the transport industry did not include extruding of oil, transportation of oil, emissions from refineries, manufacturing of cars, planes and other transportation vehicles, use and recycling of vehicles. The numbers were not comparable.

In the meantime, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has published numbers that only look at the direct emissions of livestock (manure and digestive gases) and transport (tailpipe emissions). These numbers identify livestock to contributing 5% of all GHG emissions while transport contributes 14%.
So far, researchers have not been able to calculate the full emissions based on the life cycle of transport as there is not enough data available. However, the life cycle emissions for livestock have been updated based on improved LCA methodologies and are calculated to be 14,5%, if all inputs and outputs are being considered.

The next time you hear or read the news claiming livestock are the largest contributor to climate change, you will know that the reporter behind the news item didn’t do his research well as he is citing outdated numbers.

When it comes to choosing a new garment, you will be able to make better choices for yourself and the planet.