Published: June 9, 2021

Category: Regenerative Agriculture

Conscientious consumer choices—it’s happening in the food realm as demand soars for sustainably produced items. Can it work in the $1.3 trillion fashion industry?

The list of fashion brands eager to source even a small portion of their raw materials from regenerative farming operations is growing—including Patagonia, Allbirds, Timberland, Mara Hoffman, Christy Dawn, and luxury conglomerate Kering. Industrial agriculture provides the bulk of cotton, wool, and rubber materials for fashion items—at great environmental cost. Agriculture accounts for 30% of global carbon emissions, 70% of fresh water use, and 60% of biodiversity loss. “Brands and consumers are now completely detached from the source of their clothing,” says Rebecca Burgess of Fibershed, a nonprofit developing regenerative fiber systems.

Pesticides, irrigation, and monocropping are being replaced by regenerative practices like cover crops, reduced tilling, and pesticide elimination. Rodale Institute’s Jeff Tkach noted, “There is a growing movement around agriculture in fashion that could make soil sexy.”

Patagonia, partnering with Rodale, works with Indian cotton farmers—2,000 farmers on 4,000 acres—to produce regeneratively grown cotton. Timberland is building a regenerative rubber supply chain in Thailand, hoping to pilot products in 2023. Allbirds committed to converting its wool supply to regenerative sources by 2025. Kering, with Conservation International, is transitioning 2.47 million acres in five years. Los Angeles label Christy Dawn partnered with Oshadi, an Indian regenerative farming collective, leasing acres of land and paying farmers three times the standard wage to use traditional techniques replenishing soil.

A next challenge is developing a regenerative standard for the industry—the Savory Institute is establishing guidelines to help farmers. Patagonia uses the Regenerative Organic Certification program for the Indian farms. “These ancestral farms are now these beautifully biodiverse places,” said VP Helena Barbour.

Source: Fast Company

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Organic & Non-GMO Insights June 2021