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Sheep to Shawl -- Organically

How do I get an organic certification for imported wool?

Glad you asked. Some people joke about organic clothing; "Hey, I'm not going to eat my shirt!" they say. But the point of organic agriculture, of course, isn't just to protect the consumer; it's to preserve -- or even enhance -- the regenerative capacity of the agricultural systems that support us.

In any case, it's not a simple question, since, according to the Organic Clothing blog, "there are no global or even U.S. domestic standards for organic or sustainable textiles such as there are for USDA organic produce which specify that packaged food and personal care products sold as "USDA Organic" must contain 95% organic ingredients produced without conventional fertilizers or synthetic pesticides and use sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural methods."

Cotton seems easier, since cotton seeds and cotton oils are also important food products. By that standard, you might assume that sheep that produce certified organic mutton or lamb would produce certified organic wool. But, according to a University of Texas research paper,the "major sources of pollution in wool processing are scouring and finishing [as well as dyeing]. Wool finishing mills use more water than any other type of finishing mill; washing and dyeing are particularly water-intensive processes.... Consequently, fewer and fewer states are allowing scouring plants because of the environmental impact."

The Organic Cotton blog, again:
Some of the more influential organic organizations developing standards for organic and sustainable textiles and garments are the Organic Trade Association (OTA) in the U.S., the Soil Association in the U.K., the International Association Natural Textile Industry (IVN) in Germany, Demeter in Europe and internationally, KRAV in Sweden and the Scandinavian countries, and the Japan Organic Cotton Association (JOCA).... Each of these organic trade associations has developed standards for defining and regulating what constitutes organic and sustainable fabrics, textiles and garments.
The Organic Cotton blog entry provides considerable detail on the approach each of the organizations has take to the challenge of organic fibers and clothing

Some other informative sites include Greenfibres, and certifiers such as CCOF and OneCert .

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Gil Friend, systems ecologist and business strategist, is president and CEO of Natural Logic, Inc. -- offering advisory services and tools that help companies and communities prosper by embedding the laws of nature at the heart of enterprise. Sign up online to receive his monthly column via email. Read Gil's blog here.

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