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growing clothing to sequester carbon  RSS feed

 
r ranson
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Here's an article that talks about a way of growing and making clothing that doesn't just reduce our carbon footprint, it helps sequester carbon in the soil.  This is a good thing!

Climate Beneficial Wool



A significant number of the sheep in our region are moved through and grazed upon the vegetation of California’s rangeland, pasture, perennial and annual cropland systems. Currently alpaca, llama and mohair producers also utilize pasture (managed, grazed domestic forage) and to some degree rangeland (grazed resident vegetation) for their agricultural practices. All of these grass-fed, fiber-producing animals have the potential to graze on managed landscapes where Carbon Farming practices are being implemented, thus creating products that are Climate Beneficial™, by virtue of their integral place in the Carbon Farming system.


So basically, with proper land management, grazing fibre animals are a useful source of carbon farming.  Now they are just starting research into this area, and note, they say that these "animals have the potential to graze on managed landscapes where Carbon Farming practices are being implemented" and that they can have an "integral place in the Carbon Farming system."  I take this to mean, that when taken in isolation, sheep alone don't have as much bennifit as when integrated into a holistic system (so basically, long winded way to state the obvious). 



I'm curious what this system will look like in different locations and in different situations.  Grazing alone sequesters carbon in some locations but is a bit iffy how effective it is in other locations.  I bet trees are involved.  Perhaps grazing under fruit and nut trees?  Perhaps it includes how sheep can take marginal and degraded land and (with proper management) return fertility to the soil, making it productive to grow crops again.  Perhaps changing how we process and use clothing is a vital step. 

This idea of clothing sequestering carbon is great.  I want to learn how to make this happen.

There are some interesting bits about Carbon Farming in a Fibershed context here.
 
Peter VanDerWal
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Sheep are great at converting carbon into methane.  Methane has 30x the global warming potential of CO2.

So while sheep can help sequester CO2, they do it by generating a far worse gas when it comes to AGW.

Not that I'm against sheep, just pointing out that they are counter productive towards this specific goal.
 
r ranson
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Peter VanDerWal wrote:...

Not that I'm against sheep, just pointing out that they are counter productive towards this specific goal.


An interesting idea.  I worry that focusing on one element like Methane misses out on the whole picture.

1. The quality and the quantity of the gas that animals like sheep produce depends on their diet and environment.  I've never seen a study that didn't use a heavy grain-based diet for the sheep.  I suspect that if one did a study of pasture-raised sheep fed on an optimum diet, like in a permaculture setting, the numbers would be far less.

2. Everything I've seen so far suggests that one t-shirt produced in the modern industrial way, produces far more negative environmental impact than the most gaseous of sheep do in their lifetime.  A t-shirt is usually part cotton - massive amounts of water, pesticides, herbicides, and labour issues, then transported several countries during the construction phase, and massive amounts of water pollution.  The other part of the t-shirt is a synthetic substance, again transported to many countries, massive water pollution, dye pollution, labour issues.... ad nausium. 

On the other hand, sheep improve soil, sequester carbon, provide food, and improve ecosystems.  It is a renewable resource.  Wool is usually transported to one or two countries when commercially processed.  When processed on a scale like the article suggests, it has a much shorter journey. 


When we look at it this way, perhaps the sheep aren't so counter-productive.

 
Peter VanDerWal
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r ranson wrote:...
2. Everything I've seen so far suggests that one t-shirt produced in the modern industrial way, produces far more negative environmental impact than the most gaseous of sheep do in their lifetime.  A t-shirt is usually part cotton - massive amounts of water, pesticides, herbicides, and labour issues, then transported several countries during the construction phase, and massive amounts of water pollution.  The other part of the t-shirt is a synthetic substance, again transported to many countries, massive water pollution, dye pollution, labour issues.... ad nausium. 


One could argue that organically grown and locally processed cotton (or flax) could offer all of the same benefits, without the methane.

Also, grass fed sheep produce MORE methane than grain fed.

On the other hand, Merino wool has a lot useful properties that cotton/flax can't match.
 
r ranson
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Peter VanDerWal wrote:

On the other hand, Merino wool has a lot useful properties that cotton/flax can't match.


On the nose! 

Wool is good for things that plant-based fibres simply can't match.  Some land can't support sheep but can grow plant fibres, likewise, some land can't support plant fibres but can support sheep.  They all stack functions differently.  Some build soil, some degrade it.  Some keep it the same.  I like methods that build soil like the sheep mentioned in the article.

It's a matter of choosing the right method and material for the situation.


Whereas the modern industrial systems force cotton and synthetics to be all things to all people - rather like forcing a dog to lay eggs or a tree to grow carrots from its branches. 

Completely my bias speaking here, but I feel so strongly that we do a lot more good in this world reducing our dependence on industrialized clothing then worrying about which of the replacement is the 'best'.  They are all better than what we have now.  It worries me when I look at the numbers (for example, the book Carbon Farming Solution has some great tables and numbers in it), and I see that a 'westernized' person's wardrobe does as much if not more harm to the environment than their diet.  I like the idea of showing people there are positive alternatives. 
 
Travis Johnson
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Sadly peter is right.

While there are many reasons to raise sheep; one of those being to produce a person's clothing, sequestering carbon would not be it. In fact if they pass sequestering carbon requirements, sheep farmers are going to have a very tough time making a go of it.

As with most things, it is not what the article says, but what it leaves out that is most important. In this case sheep produce a lot of methane and it must be calculated in.
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