Guest Post from Coco

Hello, my name is Coco and I am doing a master’s degree in Environmental Engineering at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. Why am I writing a blog post for Mixter Maxter you might ask? As part of a course offered by Strathclyde University, I am collaborating with Mixter Maxter to run an experiment exploring sustainable methods of disposing the waste of wool off-cuts into the soil. These left-over yarn snippets are often too short to reuse and may end up being thrown away. The aim was to find a simple and easy alternative that ideally would have a beneficial impact. Under the supervision of Dr Charles Knapp, who is overseeing this experiment, I came up with an experiment plan and proceeded to dig up a bucket full of soil from my back garden in preparation for the experiment to see whether adding lambswool to soil would have an effect on plant growth.

Figure 1. Original wool samples

I wanted to do this project because I support initiatives that attempt to reduce their waste output, and shift to circular economic methods of operating. I love working with soil and plants, and grew up knitting and crocheting scarves, blankets and hot-plate holders, and so have a deep appreciation for beautiful woollen products.

Figure 2. The process of “shredding” the wool for the experiment.

So far, some of the grass seeds that I scattered in each soil pot have started to sprout and peak their green heads out of their pods, lapping up the water and reaching up in search of sunlight. Some of the most interesting observations 3 weeks into the experiment, have been that the pots with the most wool mixed into the soil, are damper on the surface that the pots with less or no wool. Essentially this means that when there is less rainfall the soil with the wool in it is more resilient. It is too early in the experiment to make any significant statements to do with whether the soil with the wool tend to have more successful plant germination and growth. You will have to stay tuned to hear the results of the experiment and find out whether wool is a secret ingredient to soil fertility boosting plant growth. The experiment is scheduled to run for a full 8 weeks, which means it will come to a close on the 10th of March, when I will write up a report of the results of the study.

Figure 3. The wool and soil ready to be mixed

Before I sign off let me tell you a little more about myself and what brings me to be studying in Glasgow. I am Dutch and last summer graduated from a university in the Netherlands. I grew up in London where I went to a Steiner School and grew up knitting, painting, felting, amongst many other activities. Many of my hobbies include arts and crafts activities, such as bookbinding, jewellery making, painting, and crocheting. Home-made gifts are so beautifully infused with love and care because you have spent time and attention to crafting these creations. I came to Glasgow for my studies and it has taken a little while to get used to the differences compared to back in the Netherlands. I am looking forward to exploring more of Scotland’s raw and rugged landscapes as the weather becomes warmer and the day-light hours become longer. I am keen to welcome any recommendations or suggestions that you may have.

Figure 4. The legend which outlines the wool dilution of each of the samples
Figure 5. The medium wool-concentration (25%) soil pot with a small grass shoot peeking out.

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