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  • 10.05.10

Bellwether Materials Turns Sheep’s Wool Into High-Quality Insulation

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The sheep’s wool industry is a wasteful one; 90% of all sheep’s wool generated in the U.S. is too coarse to use in the textile industry, so it’s sent to landfills instead. That may not be the case for long, though–Bellwether Materials, a San Francisco-based startup, has figured out that waste wool makes for high-quality home insulation.

We caught up with founder Priscilla Burgess at last week’s West Coast Green conference, where Bellwether had sample insulation on display. Burgess encouraged us to touch it. “It’s just as effective as fiberglass, but you don’t need a respirator and it’s cheaper to install,” she says.

There are other advantages, too. Wool is allergen-free and naturally pest, fire, and mold resistant–Burgess adds only boric acid to emphasize those qualities. Bellwether isn’t the first company to use sheep’s wool for insulation, but competitors all use plastic additives.

Bellwether’s product is ready to go, and customers have been lined up. Now the company just has to start its manufacturing process, which should be ready for commercial production by January. Instead of outsourcing the supply chain to China, Bellwether is
hiring professional millers from the milling-reliant town of Adamstown,
Pennsylvania. “We’re hoping to support one whole town that was going to
turn into a ghost town,” Burgess explains. How many other companies can say that in a down economy?

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.AS