Debunking the high-price myth of merino wool garments

A typical sentence we tend to hear at Core Merino is that wool garments (not just our products) are expensive. Indeed, when you directly compare the price tags of a synthetic, viscose, or cotton t-shirt with a wool t-shirt, a wool version will most likely be on the higher end of the price spectrum. 

With this blog post, we want to explore why merino wool garments appear to have a higher price than garments made of other fibres and discuss if at the end of the day, wool garments are actually a good bargain. 

Why wool garments sell at higher prices

Let’s first look at what merino wool garments tend to sell at higher prices. 

Wool is a fibre grown by nature

As well known, wool is grown on the back of a sheep, a living animal. The quality and quantity of the wool grown by each individual sheep are highly dependent on natural conditions such as sunshine, rain, temperatures as well as the animal health condition, breed, and age of the sheep. For example, when a farm is hit by severe drought as was the case for many wool growers in South Africa over the past few years, additional feed had to be given to the sheep, and/or sheep had to be sold off. These kinds of circumstances mean additional costs for the wool grower, as he is doing the best possible to keep his sheep healthy and well-fed. But this also often means less volume in wool and a different quality of wool. 

In other words, in nature, the circumstances vary every year, and therefore wool production and the costs associated with growing wool varies for each farmer and each year as well. A constant variation in the quality and quantity of available wool in the market influences the price of wool sold at auction.

Synthetic fibres, on the other hand, are made from raw oil and chemicals derived from oil. Of course, oil prices also fluctuate over time, but the quantity and quality can be fully controlled as synthetic fibres are produced by machines in factories. Therefore, production is quite predictable and stable. 

Wool has a long supply chain

Another circumstance that is unique to wool, is its long supply chain. In order for raw wool shorn from the back of a sheep to be manufactured into a garment, it takes many steps. We have described the Core Merino supply chain here, if you want to learn more. 

The time and effort that goes into creating a wool garment, therefore, is a bit higher and therefore costs a bit more compared to creating synthetic clothes.

Wool is a niche fibre

Looking at the market share of all existing fibres, wool only has a market share of 1.2%. This means it is a small fibre compared to synthetics, cellulose, and cotton. In other words, wool is a niche fibre as there just is not that much available compared to other fibres. Lower availability of a product in the market is typically also reflected in higher prices – it’s a matter of supply and demand. 

Why wool garments are a good value for money

However, only comparing price tags is a short-sighted argument. So, let’s dive into the value and benefits of a wool garment, which then lets the price tag look like a bargain. 

More benefits from wool

We have already written several blog posts about the many benefits of wool such as breathability, moisture management, softness, durability, UV protection, biodegradability and more. You can read up on the different benefits of wool here and here. In summary, man-kind has tried many times to recreate a fibre such as wool from synthetic materials, but has never quite accomplished the whole set of benefits garments made of wool have to offer. This actually means that you get so many more benefits from a wool garment for a relatively higher price compared with garments made from other fibres. 

Wool garments last longer and are used longer 

One of wool’s benefits already mentioned above is durability. This means that garments made of wool last longer, and therefore you get more wears out of it. The longer you can use a product, the lower become its cost per use. A cheap t-shirt that you only wear twice as it then loses its shape has a higher cost than a slightly more expensive wool garment that you wear many times over. 

Lower social and environmental costs

Over the past decades, fashion consumption has been focusing a lot on quick and efficient mass production to drive costs down while increasing the number of garments we purchase, also known as fast fashion. This has also led to all of us being price sensitive and wanting constantly new and cheap clothes. What was, however, forgotten in this calculation, is the cost to society and our environment that comes with this high consumption of cheaply produced clothes. The more garments we buy, the more we use up scarce resources such as water and energy and pollute our environment through the high use of toxic chemicals and filling up landfills with garments no longer in use. In addition, the high number of synthetic clothes shed microplastics that end up in our waterways and have a negative impact on wildlife as well as our health. All of these negative side effects of cheap clothes cost us money as a society, which we pay for with taxes or charity, trying to reverse the negative impacts from our consumption.

In addition, sheep typically are reared in rural areas where there are large pastures for the sheep to roam freely. Sheep farming and wool growing, therefore, offers job opportunities in rural communities, allowing generations of families to stay connected to the land and continue making a living without having to move to large cities. 

In the near future, a price tag of a garment will also need to reflect the impact the garment has on the environment and society. Wool garments may then actually be an even better bargain for your benefit as well as planet earth and humankind.  

So, next time you look at the prices of our Core Merino products or any other wool products, change your perspective before making the judgment if the garment is too expensive by considering all the benefits and value it brings. 

 

Tips and tricks to help you mend small and big holes in your wool garments

At Core Merino we love to sell our wool garments, however, we are also passionate about you keeping, wearing and loving your Core Merino products as long as possible. Why? Because it means you got your money worth, and it is also better for the environment. One way of extending the life of a garment is to repair it whenever small holes or tears occur. 

Lately, we have been getting some questions from you about how to best mend a wool garment, so we thought we put together a practical blog post for you to learn everything there is to know about repairing and mending your Core products if need be.

Holes happen

Just like sh**t happens, it is just one of those annoying things in life that holes happen, too, if we like it or not. Even though we do everything possible to make our Core Merino garments out of high-quality material, you will still sooner or later get a small hole or tear in your garment. That’s life. 

The reasons for holes and tears to happen can be plenty: 

  • A thorny bush that sticks out while you run past it
  • The fabric gets caught in a zipper or Velcro
  • Your cat or dog is too playful with you
  • Despite good precautions, a moth finds its way into your closet
  • The seams or hem wear out because you have been using and washing your garment many times 

No matter the reason, garments, including those out of wool, just wear out and get holes and tears. But, that is not a reason to just throw the garment out, you can easily repair it and enjoy the garment for longer. 

Why is it worth repairing your wool garment?

When you have a hole in your (wool) garment, it may seem easier to just replace it with a new one. We all have busy lives, and taking the time to mend a garment just does not seem to fit into our schedule. But before you do throw out and replace, consider these facts first: 

Repairing saves money

The cost for a new garment is much higher than the cost of repairing the garment yourself or even getting it done by a professional. Every new garment you are not buying saves you money. 

Better for the environment

As we already discussed in many of our other blog posts, manufacturing garments uses up resources such as water and energy. The fewer garments that need to be manufactured, the lower is the impact on the environment. Therefore, extending the life of a garment through repair helps save resources and protect our lovely planet.

Learn and cultivate a new skill

Our grandparents and maybe even our parents used to learn how to mend garments, it was a normal and important skill to learn. However, if you are part of a younger generation, you may not have been taught how to fix a hole or sew on a button. Therefore, you might find it interesting and challenging to learn a new and useful skill. YouTube and other media platforms have tons of video tutorials on how to mend garments, and we encourage you to try learning something new as it will make you feel good, trust us on this one. 

Increase your creativity

In one of the early Friends episodes, Phoebe covers a stain on her dress with a Christmas ornament before going out to a gala dinner. Now that’s a creative solution to the problem. Once you dive into the world of mending garments, you will also notice that there is more than one way to fix things. You may find yourself developing creative solutions that you never knew were within yourself. A creative mind is also a happy mind. 

Stress relieving

Finally, researchers also found out that working with a needle and thread can actually help you relieve stress and calm you down. There is something about concentrating on the task in front of you and using your hands, that helps us cope with stress. While we, of course, prefer being active outside to manage stress, you might like to throw in some needlework from time to time as well for the overall benefit of your body and mind. 

Enough about why you should repair your wool garments. Let’s now focus on how to repair them. 

How to repair your wool garment?

As mentioned above, there are many techniques on how to best repair a wool garment, and the best solution always depends on what needs repairing, your skill level, and your taste. Most importantly, it is always wise to repair sooner than later, meaning it is easier to fix a small hole than one that has grown over time bigger and bigger. 

Small holes

The easiest is fixing a small hole as you mainly need a needle and a thread. 

There are many tutorials out there on YouTube and websites, here is some to check out: https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/How+to+Darn+a+Hole+in+a+Knitted+Garment/27415

https://www.loveyourclothes.org.uk/care-repair

But basically, it comes down to this: 

  1. Find a thread in the colour of your garment, if you can find a wool thread that’s great, but also a cotton or polyester thread will work. Cut a piece of thread no longer than 40 cm, as it gets harder to work the thread the longer it is.
  2. Get a thin needle suitable for the fabric of your garment
  3. If your garment is made of very thin material, use a single thread, otherwise, you can use a double thread. 
  4. Pull the thread through the needle and tie a knot at the end.
  5. Turn your garment inside out and look at the hole. 
  6. Find a good spot near the hole to fix your thread to the fabric
  7. Now start sewing the hole closed by stitching 2-3 mm above and below the hole and closing the hole shut. 
  8. Tie off the thread by fixing it again with a knot, so the thread won’t become loose. 
  9. Voilà, you are done! Good job!

Big holes

Sometimes, small holes turn into big holes, or you did tear quite a big hole into your garment, to begin with. Big holes need a bit of a different approach and there are several techniques to consider. 

  • Buy a patch to sew it over the hole
  • Make a patch out of some fabric or another wool garment and sew it over the hole
  • Use a mushroom darner and weave the hole shut (see this tutorial https://youtu.be/qNH3irSYu6I)
  • Learn how to close the hole with the felting technique (see tutorial: https://youtu.be/Y0j6H1aK2pU)

Here are several websites that provide an overview of techniques on how to fix a big hole: 

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/sep/22/how-to-mend-moth-holes

https://clothes-doctor.com/blogs/journal/how-to-repair-a-hole-in-knit-fabric

https://www.thesprucecrafts.com/how-to-fix-holes-in-a-sweater-1106644

Replace buttons and zippers

Sometimes it is not a hole that needs fixing, and instead, it is a broken zipper or a missing button. Both can also be fixed, of course as well. 

Replacing a zipper can be a bit of a bigger task, and you might want to leave that to a professional or do some research online first. 

Sewing on a button, however, is an easy task and can be accomplished in 5 minutes once you get the hang of it. Ideally, you still have the button that came off. Otherwise, check if the garment came with an extra button sewn to the label inside or delivered in a small plastic bag attached to the swing tag. If you cannot find the original matching button, you can try to find a similar-looking button or consider replacing all buttons on the garment, so they all have the same look and feel. 

Here is a good tutorial on how to sew on a button: https://remake.world/stories/style/how-to-mend-your-clothes-during-quarantine-5-easy-stitch-fixes/

Mend seams and hems

Another area that tends to need fixing is the seams and hems of a garment. This can be actually the most thankful repair work, as you just need to redo the needlework that came undone, and even if you are not very skilled, it will hardly be noticeable. Watch this tutorial on how to mend a seam: https://sewguide.com/clothing-repair-mending-tears/

Take your garment to a professional

Finally, you can of course also take your garment to a professional garment repair shop or tailor and get your garments mended there. Small repairs usually do not cost a lot of money and when you are short of time or don’t have the patience to mend yourself, then this might be your best option. 

Cherish your tears and holes

When you are done with your repair, you might not be fully satisfied with the result, and yes, chances are that you can still see where the hole was. In other words, your garment will not always look as good as new. However, we encourage you to take a different perspective and cherish your tears and holes. These small imperfections can either represent a memory for the time when you were out and got caught in the thorny bush, but that may also be the time you ran your best time ever or saw the most beautiful sunrise. The other way to look at your fixed holes and tears is to see them as a form of custom-made or personalisation of your garment. The imperfection makes the garment different and special from all others. 

This is even an upcoming trend called visible mending. People around the world actually deliberately mend their garments in a way that is visible as an expression of their individual personalities. Margreet Sweerts is a visible mender, and she summarises her craft like this:  “There can be beauty in a flaw, a golden scar. It is a sign of life, it tells the story and history of a piece.” You can read more about visible mending here. 

 

We hope this blog post motivated you to have a go at repairing your wool garments, and that we provided you with a bunch of resources to get you started. If you have any questions or suggestions, then get in touch, and we will be happy to assist you in the best possible way. 

 

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. 

 

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