Not So Innocent Little Hats – It’s Not Getting Better

Back in October 2019 I wrote a blog post about the Little Hats which Innocent Smoothies ask people to make in return for a small donation to Age Concern UK. At the time I said

” Let me start by saying that I think businesses donating to charities is a fantastic thing. Age UK seems like a great charity. ”

I still hold that view.

I still think making hats for plastic drink bottles isn’t the way to go. Almost two years on from that blog post there’s a lot more awareness of the impact that plastic has on our environment, especially when it’s single use. That’s what most of these little hats are – single use plastic that’s going to be thrown in the bin.

I suspect that most people who read this blog are interested in yarn. They have more knowledge about the different fibers that go into yarn than your average smoothie buyer. So it’s quite possible that many people who end up with these unwanted hats won’t think that they are plastic.

I’m blogging about this again because I saw the info graphic that’s being used to encourage the production of more hats.

I was interested to see that Innocent were asking that wool be used. Grab some wool. Knit a little woolly hat or two. I wondered if they’d made the decision not to accept hats made from acrylic so I got in touch to ask them.

My initial phone call was speaking to someone who didn’t know if acrylic was acceptable (and I’d have been pretty surprised if she’d been up for a discussion about yarn bases and their environmental impact). So I was passed to the people’s champion team.

I received an email from Tilly who is one of the people’s champion team. Here’s what she had to say.

Hello there Joy, 

Thanks a lot for giving us a call on the bananaphone and chatting to our Laura.

An alternative to sheep’s wool is something we’re always looking into for the Big Knit. For now, we just want you to know that we only ever use wool from sustainable, cruelty-free sources, and encourage our knitters to do the same (we’re in the process of putting together a page doing just that, so keep an eye on our website for that appearing soon). As you mentioned, acrylic’s a great alternative, and we know lots of our knitters and crocheters are using that instead. 

Most people use scraps of leftover wool from other projects that would otherwise have been chucked, and if people aren’t using their hats for anything else, we ask for them back so a lot are reused over and over again.

Overall, the Big Knit does a lot of good, but that won’t ever stop us from finding out if there’s a better way to do things. 

Thanks for letting us know your thoughts on this, and rest assured they won’t go ignored. 

Bye for now, 

Tilly

Let’s start with the obvious – I absolutely don’t think acrylic is a good thing to use for little hats.

I wrote back to Tilly a week ago- and as yet she hasn’t replied.

Here’s my letter.

Hello Tilly,

Many thanks for your email.

I think there’s been a bit of a mix up in the message you were given – I don’t consider acrylic a good yarn to use for this project.

I contacted you as the info graphic for the big knit specifies wool and I wanted to find out if that meant you wouldn’t be accepting hats made from acrylic. Wool refers specifically to an animal fiber, and one of the great things about that is that it’s biodegradable. So when little hats end up in the bin and go to landfill this means they’ll break down without causing further harm. Acrylic doesn’t offer that advantage.  It takes decades to disintegrate and while this is happening microparticles of plastic are being released into the water system.  Acrylic isn’t wool. It’s yarn, and that’s an important distinction. I suspect the majority of your customers won’t think about the hat on their bottle as being plastic. They’ll recycle the bottle but they won’t realise that putting the hat in the bin is just as environmentally damaging. I know you’ll take the hats back – but how much better would it be to not create the hats in the first place?

I fully support the use of wool from sustainable, cruelty free sources. Wool is a brilliantly sustainable substance. Sheep can graze in areas which wouldn’t be much good for growing crops. Sheep need to be sheared and it’s important for farmers that there’s a viable marked for fleece. There’s a lot of wool processing done in the UK, and that means that the standards for animal welfare and control of the whole production process are high.

My main concern about the little hats project is that something is being produced which has very little use. My local supermarket stocks Innocent smoothies – and every year when the hats start appearing they get left in a pile on the shelf. People don’t want them. I’d image these hats get put in the bin and end up as landfill.

Scraps of yarn can be used to make all kinds of good things. One of the issues that AgeUK will be very aware of is fuel poverty and the impact it has on the older members of out population. Making squares instead of hats would allow blankets to be made – something which is useful and beneficial to the charity that Innocent are supporting.

I live in Yorkshire and we’re about to have the World Cycling championships. People are being asked to knit little jumpers which will be used for bunting – and the brilliant thing is that there’s a plan for using the bunting once the championships are finished. The jumpers will become blankets, so they’ll be about for years to come.

So for now if you’re accepting hats made with acrylic then the infographic needs to be corrected. Going forward – wouldn’t it be brilliant for Innocent to say that it’s time to change things up and get people to use their time to make something which has a lasting benefit? That could be done. If you need a cute project that would be brilliantly appealing to the press then there’s a call for sweaters for penguins – you can find all of the details here https://penguinfoundation.org.au/penguin-jumpers/

Thank you

Joy McMillan

Louise Scollay aka KnitBritish has been asking for groups who can use hand knit items. I’ll pull a list of these resources together over the weekend and put it on the blog.

I’m watching for the update from Innocent about cruelty free resources. Maybe it will be written by someone who knows what they are talking about – and maybe that job will get passed to a member of the peoples champions team and they’ll write the update based on what they can find with a quick google.

There’s a lot of misinformation about shearing sheep – and it’s that misinformation that’s likely to get picked up and regurgitated.

There’s an interview on BBC this morning with an ethical vegan and Welsh sheep farmer. The ethical vegan (what she calls herself) thinks sheep shearing is cruel because it means the sheep are cold in the winter. When it’s explained to her that sheep are sheared in the summer when it’s warm and the fleece grows back that doesn’t seem to make sense to her. You can see the interview here.

So Innocent – just in case someone is reading this? – it isn’t cruel to shear sheep. And if you’d like some input into your page about cruelty free resources do get in touch.

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