In a groundbreaking initiative at St John's School in Ranfurly, a small town in Maniototo, a five-year-long science experiment led by PGG Wrightson Central Otago wool representative Graeme Bell has revealed the extraordinary sustainability benefits of wool.
The experiment, showcasing wool as a champion fibre of sustainability, has not only captivated the local community but is contributing to a broader understanding of the environmental impact of textiles.
In 2018, Graeme Bell collaborated with St John's School staff and students to bury two jerseys in the school grounds, initiating a unique exploration into the biodegradable capabilities of wool. One jersey, made of synthetic material, and the other, a PGG Wrightson woollen windbreaker with a plastic lining and zip, were chosen for the experiment.
Fast forward to the end of 2023, when the results were unveiled as the synthetic jersey emerged astonishingly intact, showing minimal signs of degradation. Mr. Bell, expressing his surprise, commented, "You could have washed the jersey and worn it again."
Conversely, the woollen windbreaker had undergone a remarkable transformation, leaving only the plastic lining and zip behind. The students witnessed firsthand how wool had not only broken down but had become a natural fertilizer, promoting the growth of lush grass—a cycle with the potential to sustainably feed sheep, produce more wool, and continue the journey of sustainability.
Following the initial unearthing, a new chapter of the experiment began for the next group of students. This time, a woollen school jumper, synthetic carpet, raw wool, and plastic bottles were buried, awaiting discovery by future generations.
This ongoing initiative aligns with The Campaign for Wool's "Wool in Schools" program, dedicated to promoting the benefits of wool and fostering a deep understanding of its sustainability.
The Wool in Schools shipping container, converted into a classroom and placed at St John's School, symbolises a commitment to educating the next generation. Graeme Bell, a stalwart in the wool industry since 1968, remains a passionate advocate for fibre, emphasising its significance not just as a product but as a sustainable force with the power to shape a greener future.
Beyond being an experiment, the journey of wool in the Maniototo is a narrative of sustainability, education, and a commitment to a brighter, eco-conscious future. As future students at St John's School unearth buried treasures in the years to come, they will continue to unveil the profound impact of wool, solidifying its place as a sustainable hero in our evolving world.