In a meadow at 10,000 feet above sea level, in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, a herd of 1,000 robust Gaddi sheep roam about. They graze on organic pastures, tested biannually to ensure no pesticide use. A frigid, clear mountain stream runs downhill. Peaks over 20,000 feet high loom above. Herders and dogs keep an eye on any stray sheep.
This herd is a part of Avocado Organic Wool® in the Himachal Pradesh region of northern India, where 180,000 of our sheep wander throughout the 40,000 hectares we manage. The sheep are herded twice a year, when we shear them. The relationship is symbiotic. Domesticated sheep don’t lose their wool naturally, so they get haircuts that would otherwise become an overly burdensome coat, causing them to overheat and have their movement restricted. In a year, each sheep produces around two kilograms of wool, or about half a mattress worth.
For the best organic mattresses in the world, we use the highest-functioning, sustainable natural fiber — pure organic wool. Wool keeps sheep warm and dry through harsh mountain winters and cool during the warm summer months. It has to — a sheep’s survival is dependent on it.
Humans, too, rely on its powerful properties. We’ve used the wool fiber for clothing for over 10,000 years. No technology can outperform it — wool is still the preferred material for summer and winter outdoor adventurers. That’s because it’s warm (or cool) and breathable and stays dry. Gaddi sheep’s wool has fine, hollow fibers, so it’s particularly flexible and lightweight — and effective at transferring moisture from the body into the air. It’s those breathable fibers that make it naturally thermoregulating — keeping you insulated and warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot. Wool also provides a natural odor management and flame retardant. The fibers will singe and char, but are very difficult to ignite.
“Wool is a wonder fiber,” says George Mathew, our Vice President of Organics, Sustainability Standards, and Certifications. “It consists of protein together with a small percentage of lipid. It has a high specific thermal resistance so it impedes heat transfer. It is crimpy and elastic and readily absorbs moisture. It self-extinguishes because of the high moisture and nitrogen content in the fibers. All these properties make wool as the most suited natural material for use in our best selling organic mattresses.”
Wool outperforms any synthetic or natural fiber in virtually any category. What’s more, synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester, which are forms of plastic and byproducts of petroleum, won’t biodegrade. Wool will.
Wool’s unparalleled efficacy makes it the ideal material for mattresses. More importantly, it's naturally renewable — our farmers sustainably and ethically harvest the fleece. That’s why we use GOTS organic certified wool in our mattresses and toppers. (For those that don’t use animal byproducts, we also offer a vegan certified and PETA-approved mattress and topper, which don’t use wool.)
Of course, the quality of wool we use is exceptional. With a 27-micron fiber diameter, it is classified as "very fine."
Lots of companies use wool. But few, if any, own their own sheep herds and natural processing. We do. We bought our own to ensure sustainable farming practices, humane treatment of the sheep, and so that we could help empower the local community with safe, sustainable work.
“We give our farmers the tools to succeed — we make sure they are taken care of financially, their children are going to school, and they have access to medical care,” says Mathew. “And because their welfare is supported, we’ve made a big social impact, and the farmers are loyal and treat the sheep really well. Basically the whole ecosystem benefits when we do the right thing.” Plus, by owning the entire supply chain, which includes employing 100 farmers and 400 herders with fair, living wages across 50 villages, we are able to keep prices low and quality high for our customers. That’s the promise of our farm to mattress concept.
Not to mention our commitment to sustainability. As with all ranching, intensive sheep farming can lead to overgrazing and degradation of pastures, but our sheep, led by our goats, regularly move from pasture to pasture naturally, allowing the areas to fully recover from grazing herds.
“In line with our philosophy of organic, natural, sustainable, and ethical business practices, our wool factory is an embodiment of all these values,” says Rajeev Sharma, who founded and directs the co-owned wool factory in India. “Providing living wages to the workers, most of whom come from the marginalized sections of society, we offer them a life of dignity while processing the best quality of wool for our mattresses in a clean and beautiful factory using only GOTS compliant processes and materials. We care for our planet and all those living in our only home that we know — and that is what we are committed to.”
Most wool processors use acid and chemicals to clean their wool. We only use water and a gentle GOTS approved soap. The process is simple. Our wool is cleaned, carded, and combed mechanically. GOTS prohibits the use of toxic inputs, including dyes and chlorine-based pre-treatments for scouring and descaling. They also require the treatment of wastewater discharged from cleaning and other wool processing stages. For added assurance, our wool is also certified to Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX® standards (19.HIN.68466, Hohenstein HTTI).
Most brands also mix their wool with polyester and flame retarding chemicals, use bleach or sulfuric acid, or rely on other chemicals to bond the wool fibers together. We do not. Absolutely nothing is added. At our needle-punch wool factory, located a few hours south from where our wool is cleaned and combed, our wool arrives in large bales. Here, a series of large looms, each filled with up to 45,000 German steel punch needles, slowly separate the wool fibers. This is also a slow, mechanical process. The wool fibers are needled and intertwined as they move from loom to loom. We use this process to create two types of wool specifically for applications within our mattresses. A tightly compressed felt is used as a flame retarding layer (shown below), since wool chars rather than burns. And a fluffy, uncompressed wool is used extensively across the top comfort layers of our mattresses and toppers to regulate temperature and add luxury.
That’s the guarantee of Avocado Green: Materials and products you can trust to meet the best standards of sustainability, ethics, and quality.
ORGANIC TRADE ASSOCIATION VERIFIES:
No genetic engineering. All feed, forage, and bedding are organic. Sheep have year-round access to outdoors. No use of synthetic pesticides or hormones. No mulesing or tail docking practices. Don’t exceed carrying capacity of land.
RESPONSIBLE WOOL STANDARD VALIDATES:
Sheep have access to adequate nutrition and clean, safe drinking water. Land is not degraded by overgrazing and farmers protect biodiversity. Sheep have access to shade, shelter, wind breaks. Sheep receive routine welfare inspections. Soil erosion and compaction monitored and managed. Soil erosion and compaction monitored and managed. Mulesing is prohibited.
GLOBAL ORGANIC TEXTILE STANDARD ENSURES:
All chemical inputs meet environmental/toxicological criteria No use of toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, or GMOs. No chlorine or other chemical bleaching. Employees do not work excessive hours and have fair pay/safe conditions. Certification of the entire supply chain. Waste is minimized and wastewater is treated. Packaging material does not contain PVCs.