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  • Astrid Kitchen

A sheep isn’t just for Christmas

Astrid Kitchen

Research Assistant @ OMTM

Dear World,

Ever thought your woollen goods smell weird when they’re wet? A bit like how dogs smell worse in the rain? And then you remember this garment used to be attached to an animal and suddenly the cosy jumper you got for Christmas from Mum, feels a bit more alive than is comfortable.

For owners of a Sheep Inc jumper, this experience is more relatable than ever. The British wool company developed an app which allows you to track the life of the sheep whose wool you now wear. You are able to tune in with its mundane day-to-day: where it is, what its up to, as well as catching the more significant life events such as birth!

"You're continuously kind of involved with the story behind your sweater. If anybody asks you where your sweater comes from, you simply tap your phone to the tag, and you can show every single step in the manufacturing story,"

- Edzard van der Wyck, co-founder of Sheep Inc.

So these items are 100% traceable. There is a laser-engraved tag containing NFC technology within each jumper. If you scan this with your mobile, you get access to the whole production backstory: from the name of the New Zealand farm where the journey began, to the human who hand-spun the ‘cashwool’ yarn (apparently ‘a new level of soft’). The textile factory runs on renewable energy and each unisex jumper is 10x carbon-negative because they re-invest money into environmental projects for each sale. Yet, everything leaves a trace; the tag also details the jumpers' carbon footprint.

My MUD jeans contain the same (see image). When I went to photograph the label, Open "" appeared on my phone screen which completely spooked and confused me; they were still drying from the wash and yet my phone technology was responding to this little pattern (I know QR codes aren't that new on the scene but there is still something radical about a material picture sending a signal which can be picked up by a technological device).

Tech can be the problem but here it is behaving itself, instead educating us on the actual complex truth of the production chains of the things we buy. This is a powerful, important thing we often don't pay enough attention to. A pertinent (if slightly niche) example of this is the meal-kit market which is generally thought to be excessive and environmentally unkind. However, a recent study found a meal-kit meal produces 30% less co2 emissions than a supermarket dinner. This is because the food tends to be Fairtrade or sourced from local producers and distribution vehicles are electric. Because the ingredients are portioned, less food ends up in the bin which means no harmful gases are emitted from decomposing food and production costs are not unduly spent. People tend to favour the former stance because it is the easiest, most accessible environmental story.

A happier future for us as conscientious consumers and for our dying world may well lie in traceable lines of production. Or, a lifelong relationship with a sheep.

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