Sustainability has always been a part of my adult life. I spent more than 10 years living off grid, enjoying a slow life and appreciating the nature around me. I was delighted to be given the opportunity to become the INSPIRE intern for Tir Glas in February of this year.
My passion is sheep and wool, and I have threaded this enthusiasm throughout my time as Tir Glas intern, beginning with a joint project with the INSPIRE Greener Campus intern, Shericka. UWTSD Lampeter has recently installed a series of raised beds for students to grow their own fruit and vegetables, a project led by Shericka. Now despite my smallholding and sustainability aspirations, I am rubbish at growing things, but I know a bit about preparing the ground- especially when wool is involved. Wool is becoming more popular for use in the garden for many reasons; it adds nutrients to the soil, helps protect new growth from late frosts, aids water retention and deters slugs. Early in the year, we covered all the raised beds with locally sourced sheep fleeces to give the students of Lampeter the best possible start growing their own food.
One of my big projects during my internship was the Gwerth Gwlan (The Worth of Wool) exhibition, which formed part of my dissertation project. The exhibition was held at the library on the Lampeter Campus and looked at how wool was an integral part of the development of civilization and can also help us build a more sustainable future. Wool has so many wonderful sustainable properties. It is a natural, biodegradable material that we have in abundance in Wales because we have lots of sheep, and they need to be sheared for their welfare. Raw wool contains lanolin, which is not only good for the skin, but also makes wool water-resistant. Even clean wool where the lanolin has been removed can hold up to 20% its own weight in water before it begins to feel “wet”. These are the properties that made wool such a great material for the famous fisherman’s jumpers!
Another big project was the community-based Wool Forum. Wool has suffered in the last 200 years, firstly by the rise of the cotton empire, driven by the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and then by the development of synthetic fibres, like nylon and synthetic polyester, in the 1920s and 30s. In resent years, the price of wool has dropped so dramatically that many farmers are burning, burying or giving away their clip as it is more cost effective than selling it to the wool board. The aim of the Wool Forum was to facilitate convocations about wool with those producing it in a setting they felt comfortable with. Vanessa at the Tafern Jem was very enthusiastic about hosting the event and even laid on bacon sandwiches for everyone! During the forum, I talked to wool producers about the innovative non-textile uses for wool that could help restore the Welsh woollen industry if we work together! We are hoping to hold more wool forum later this year, both at the Jem and in a pub near you!
My internship at Tir Glas has given me valuable skills for the future and shown me how I can use my passion in my career. I have made some wonderful friends and supporters in Laura Cait and Hazel and carried out projects at the university and in the community that have had a real impact. The internship has inspired me to forge a career in sustainability and I have applied to the Centre for Alternative Technology to study MSc Sustainability and Behaviour Change. Watch out for more woolly projects in Lampeter in the near future!