What makes Wull Studios sustainable?
Let me first be 100% clear that I'm not claiming that every single aspect of my business is carbon-neutral or better. It isn't. What I mean by sustainable is that compared to a standard yarn dyeing business, Wull Studios generates very little trash, uses energy very efficiently, uses only dyes that are eco-friendly, uses only eco-friendly packaging, and sources yarns based primarily on environmental concerns. So let me break that down.
- Trash/waste: almost all the waste that I dispose of, and virtually 100% of the trash, comes from the bags that much of the yarn I order is packaged in. This is a major concern and one of the least eco-friendly aspects of my business. Unfortunately the way around this is to order very large quantities at once, which isn't feasible at present. This is among the top priorities when the budget allows, and where possible I order from vendors who don't pack their yarn this way and those bags can be (and are) reused. The other main source of waste material is disposable gloves. I buy latex gloves packaged in cardboard. Latex is compostable and the dyes I use are not harmful to the environment, so I am able to compost these rather than stick them in a landfill (and the cardboard packaging is, of course, recycled). Other sources of waste include cardboard packaging, which is reused or recycled, and plastic syringes used to measure out dye. These last a very long time with proper care, but I do need to throw out approximately 4 a year.
- Energy: I heat my yarn using induction cooktops, which are energy-efficient, and using low-water immersion, meaning I don't need to heat a huge amount of water relative to the amount of yarn being dyed; both cut down on the amount of energy needed to dye a given amount of yarn. I also don't have a hot water heater in my studio, so water is only heated when it's actually needed. Beyond that, I use LED bulbs, only heat the room I'm currently using in cold weather, and don't air condition the studio. The long-term goal for Wull Studios is to install solar panels on the roof and capture that energy - as the entire building runs on electric power, this will go a very long way to neutralizing our carbon footprint.
- Dyes: I use only Greener Shades dyes, which are GOTS-certified-compliant professional-grade acid dyes. These dyes represent an entirely new category of acid dye and unlike other types, they are manufactured with no heavy metals. I've used these dyes since I started dyeing over 10 years ago, and have always been pleased by their beautiful colors and excellent performance. They are very consistent and very colorfast, so your projects will continue to look just as beautiful for many years to come.
- Yarns: I carry 4 weights of 100% organic merino, and none of my yarns are superwash. This is very intentional, as the process to superwash yarn is so toxic and damaging that for many years the only mills that provided it were in countries with very lax environmental regulations. There is now a less toxic alternative process, but it still requires much more processing of the wool and much more chemical and water use (it also isn't widely available - unless it's organic superwash wool, any superwash wool you buy has almost certainly been superwashed the older and highly toxic/polluting way). The product page for each yarn gives more detailed information about the sustainability of the fiber(s) its made from, both good and bad.
- Packaging: It's becoming increasingly clear that there simply is no way to effectively recycle plastic, especially the types used for bags. Even when they claim to be recyclable, all those collected bags very, very often just end up as trash anyway. Paper, cardboard, glass, and aluminum are the materials for which robust and economically viable recycling actually does exist. As a result, I use post-consumer and curbside-recyclable paper or cardboard packaging. Everything from the yarn labels, to the inner wrapping, to the shipping envelope or box, to the shipping label, has been chosen to minimize environmental impact. Even the ink used to stamp our logo on some of our packages is made from algae and carbon negative (ie removes more carbon from the environment than is used to make it). And packaging has also been selected with practical concerns in mind: even the paper mailers I use can withstand water for an impressive amount of time (as an example, I tested it by leaving it out in a light-to-moderate rain for 30 minutes, and the inside of the package remained completely dry - however if your yarn is damaged during shipping or delivery for any reason, I'll always replace it immediately). And once you've got your yarn, disposing of the packaging is as simple and eco-friendly as putting all of it straight into your recycling.
- Water: Another sustainability concern is water. Wull Studios uses a fairly standard amount of water as compared to other dyers of wool yarns - many of us reuse the water in soaking tubs, dye pots, and rinses as long as the water remains clean (it's not just eco-friendly, it saves us some work!). Because of both the dyes and the techniques I use there isn't much or any dye to rinse off, so post-dye washing is quick and uses little water per skein, in addition to the aforementioned water-saving tricks. This is a major advantage over natural dyes, which in addition to being far less colorfast use far more water and far more energy, and over dyes for plant fibers, which require huge amounts of water to rinse after dyeing.
So is Wull Studios environmentally perfect? Absolutely not. But I do believe it is sustainable, and I hope to make it increasingly so over the coming months and years. My two major goals to further improve sustainability are to be able to order directly from mills to eliminate plastic packaging, which will eliminate virtually all single-use plastic (and trash) that comes through the studio, and install solar panels on the studio roof to make the studio entirely self-sustaining. I'd also like to expand the range of organic fibers available, and pursue organic certification for the yarns that use organic fibers. I'll continue to be transparent about progress made (or not) toward these goals.
If you have any questions, feel I've missed something, or have any comments or suggestions, please use the Contact Us form and let me know what you think!