Why Sheep’s Wool Insulation Is Considered Sustainable

A photograph of a man crouching down installing sheep's wool insulation in a stud wall. An inset image in the top left shows a woman with rolls of sheep's wool insulation in a field of sheep. The words "Why Sheep's Wool Insulation Is Considered Sustainable" are written across the bottom of the image.

Images courtesy of Eden Renewable Innovations Ltd (Thermafleece), and Chimney Sheep.

Have you ever thought about the sustainability of your home’s insulation?

Although it’s not the most glamorous aspect of home ownership, insulation is essential for energy efficiency.

Good insulation will conserve energy and help to minimize your carbon footprint. If you’re eco-minded, using sustainable insulation like sheep’s wool will help to reduce your home’s environmental impact further.

But why is sheep’s wool insulation considered sustainable?

Sheep’s wool insulation is considered sustainable because it’s a natural and renewable material that doesn’t consume excessive energy to produce. It also has a minimal environmental impact. Sheep are shorn annually, each producing about 4.5 kg of wool, which regrows naturally.

In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss the reasons why sheep’s wool insulation meets the definition of sustainability.

Moreover, I’ll discuss the benefits of sheep’s wool as an insulating material. Let’s get started!

The Sustainability of Sheep’s Wool Insulation

A photograph of two sheep with the rest of the flock in the background. One sheep looks directly into the camera, and the other is side-on. In the bottom left corner is a "sustainable" badge with the word "sustainable" and circular arrows.
Sheep’s wool regrows each year, making it completely renewable.

According to research, the construction industry is responsible for 40% of drinking water pollution, 50% of climate change, 50% of landfill waste, and 23% of air pollution.

As if that’s not enough, this industry is responsible for 30 percent of the world’s final energy consumption.

The above statistics just go to show how embracing sustainable construction practices is essential if we are to reduce our impact on the environment.

Employing sustainable practices like using sheep’s wool insulation goes a long way to limiting the environmental damage due to the construction industry.

Sheep’s wool insulation is a sustainable option for the following reasons:

It’s Renewable

One of the qualifications for a sustainable material is that it must be renewable.

Sheep’s wool insulation meets this condition because it regrows naturally after shearing the sheep.

Unlike synthetic insulation materials made from non-renewable resources like oil, wool regrows naturally. Therefore, sheep’s wool insulation can be produced indefinitely without depleting natural resources.

It’s Biodegradable

Synthetic insulation materials like glass and plastic contribute to environmental pollution because they take ages to decompose.

On the other hand, sheep’s wool is biodegradable. Thus, it readily breaks down when exposed to the environment.

Low Carbon Footprint

A flock of sheep in a field with a green badge in the bottom left showing a cloud, leaves, and the word "CO2" with a downward arrow.
Sheep’s wool insulation has low embodied energy and low carbon emissions.

The production of sheep’s wool insulation has a lower carbon footprint than synthetic insulation materials.

Carbon dioxide contributes 80 percent of global warming. Therefore, the more CO2 emissions, the higher the extent of global warming.

Low Embodied Energy

Embodied energy is the energy required to extract raw materials, manufacture a product, transport it to the building site, and install the finished product in a building.

Sheep’s wool requires minimal processing to turn into the insulation. Minimal processing means less energy is used in the production process.

Besides its production, sheep’s wool insulation has excellent thermal properties, making it an effective insulator. As an insulator, sheep’s wool helps reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in buildings.

These attributes make sheep’s wool insulation a sustainable option since it consumes much less energy than synthetic insulating materials. This significantly reduces its carbon dioxide emissions, limiting global warming.

It’s Non-toxic

Sheep’s wool doesn’t contain hazardous chemicals. This makes it safe to use without fear of releasing harmful toxins into the environment.

Furthermore, sheep’s wool insulation doesn’t emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), making it a suitable option for occupants with asthma or allergies.

Is It Cruel to Use Sheep Wool?

A farmer carefully shears a sheep lying in a field of long grass with tree-covered hills in the background.
Careful shearing of sheep is essential to the sheep’s well-being and isn’t cruel if done correctly.

If done correctly by skilled shearers, it is not cruel to shear sheep. In fact, sheep can die from heat exhaustion and other complications during the hot summer months if they are not shorn.

This is because new wool grows continuously, and if last year’s wool is not removed, the following year’s growth simply adds to it, which can cause the fleece to become matted and overgrown.

In addition to overheating, a matted and overgrown fleece can increase the risk of harm from pests such as flies, which can cause fly-strike and can even restrict sheep’s movement. These factors increase the risk of harm to the sheep and can even cause death.

According to a PETA investigation, sheep have been abused and mutilated for their wool, which is supposed to cover their skins and protect them against cold and dirt.

PETA says that, like humans, sheep feel pain, loneliness, and fear. It says that sheep can succumb to injuries due to accidents during shearing, and sheep that sustain injuries are not given painkillers but are left in pain and suffering instead.

In my experience, sheep farmers look after their animals well. After all, it’s in their best financial interests to do so. But, even if that were not the case, most farmers would still take great care of their livestock and would be dismayed at the findings of the PETA investigation.

Using sheep’s wool for insulation helps reduce the construction industry’s carbon footprint when done responsibly. It also provides a sustainable, non-toxic insulation option.

By working with ethical sheep farms, you can enjoy the benefits of using sheep’s wool for insulation without contributing to animal cruelty.

Does Wool Insulation Rot?

Sheep’s wool insulation doesn’t rot. Usually, sheep wool fibers are held together mechanically or bonded with recycled polyester adhesives to make insulation. This fabrication method makes sheep’s wool insulation highly resistant to water absorption and unlikely to rot even if exposed to moisture.

Sheep’s wool insulation is also treated with boron to make it more resistant to water and insect damage.

As mentioned above, one of the reasons sheep’s wool insulation is considered sustainable is that it’s biodegradable. However, it only decomposes at the end of its life when it gets dismantled and discarded.

When discarded, the individual wool fibers are exposed to the environment, making them vulnerable to biodegradation. As a result, they will break down naturally instead of persisting in the environment as plastics do.

The Benefits of Sheep’s Wool as an Insulating Material

The following are the benefits of using sheep’s wool insulation:

It Saves You Money

Sheep’s wool insulation has an R-value of between 3.6 and 4.3. This high R-value makes it an excellent insulator that’s highly resistant to heat flow.

The excellent insulation properties of sheep’s wool keep the indoor temperature constant, reducing heating and cooling demand. Consequently, you save more money on your heating and cooling bills.

Unique Moisture Control

A closeup of a sheep's fleece with the individual fibers visible. Overlain are drawings of water droplets soaking into the fleece and arrows suggesting vapor rising out of the wool.
Sheep’s wool absorbs excess moisture from the air and releases it into the atmosphere when it is dry. This helps to regulate the humidity in the building.

If installed incorrectly, some insulation materials could be exposed to condensation.

In some cases, for example, where a vapor barrier is absent or installed incorrectly, condensation can form between the insulation and the walls, resulting in water damage.

Sheep’s wool insulation helps to avoid this problem due to its unique moisture-control properties. It absorbs excess moisture from the air and releases it back into the atmosphere when it is dry. This creates a warm, dry interior that mitigates the risk of “sick building syndrome” and water damage.

It’s Highly Breathable

Breathability is essential for keeping a healthy, balanced interior environment. Sheep’s wool insulation is highly breathable due to its porous structure, which avoids excessive moisture buildup.

Besides preventing moisture buildup, this property of sheep’s wool reduces condensation and humidity in the interior space.

Final Thoughts

Sheep’s wool insulation is a sustainable option that provides excellent insulation and moisture control.

It’s manufactured from a living animal’s wool, which regrows every year and must be removed anyway for animal welfare reasons, making it a highly renewable insulation material.

Now that you know why sheep’s wool insulation is considered sustainable, check out this review of Havelock’s wool insulation.

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