Regenerative Agriculture and the Fashion Industry: What It Means for Clothing Manufacturing

The fashion industry is one of the biggest contributors to global pollution. Textile manufacturing processes are notorious for their toxic waste production and textile companies have been criticized for not doing enough to reduce that pollution. Over $500 billion worth of clothing is dumped into landfills each year, and it’s only getting worse.

The good news though, is that there’s hope on the horizon! Regenerative agriculture promises a sustainable future for clothing manufacturing as it has been found to be better at sequestering CO2 than conventional farming methods.

In this blog post, I am going to talk about regenerative agriculture- and how it is making a big impact on the environment.

What is Regenerative Agriculture?

Regenerative agriculture is a relatively new, yet easy concept to understand. It is a type of farming that focuses on sustainability and improving the ecosystem. It’s a way of managing land so that it retains its natural resource functions.

An example of this is planting perennial crops to reduce soil erosion, as they are able to withstand harsh weather than annual crops can by storing more carbon underground. Another benefit of regenerative agriculture is the reduction in chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This has been achieved by increasing biodiversity on farms, which allows natural predators to control pests and weeds while also boosting pollinator populations that surround crops.

In February, Noble Research Institute defined regenerative agriculture as “the process of restoring degraded soils using practices based on ecological principles.”

The notion is that farmers utilize a holistic environmentally friendly approach to sustainable food and fibers in one combination. These fibers can later be used by major brands that are turning towards regenerative fashion for their consumers.

In theory, the process of regenerative agriculture stems from the soil and the carbon in our atmosphere. It’s no secret that industrial farming is a large contributor to overall climate change. Today’s farmers, however, have realized that caring for the soil we plant in, in turn with a little help from photosynthesis can create more valuable crops and other materials.

The benefits of regenerative agriculture are astronomical. It was only a matter of time before we realized that nature itself could remedy healthy crops and eco-friendly clothing material.

Science, my dear Watson.

If you had asked any environmentalist decades ago if regenerative fashion was possible, they would have scoffed in amusement. Today, that’s not the case and we are continuing to find ways to live holistically through the earth.

Major brands like The North Face, Allbirds, and Patagonia have invested heavily in regenerative fashion. The North Face in particular is hauling out large sums of money for premium organic cotton from regenerative farmers. The new collection is set to launch in Autumn.

But what role is this all playing in overall sustainable fashion? As brands slowly begin to gravitate towards this new environmental approach, fast fashion is kicking the curb. The fiber that is being grown on these farms is both of the highest quality and relatively easy to grow.

Sustainable fashion is the real deal, trust me or fashion icon Stella McCartney, a vegan fashionista, who consistently uses earth-friendly materials in her brand.

A woman in a cowboy hat sitting in farm field.

How does Regenerative Agriculture apply to the fashion industry?

Regenerative Agriculture is strongly rooted in providing sustainable, biodegradable, and resourceful materials. With a little help from photosynthesis and soil, ethically sourced fibers and cotton can be created. This in turn provides useable materials for today’s fashion brands to utilize.

Multiple small-owned fashion businesses are supporting the need for reversing the effects of climate change by supplying organically grown and naturally dyed materials. This small act goes a long way in the overall systemic change needed to save our planet.

Why does Regenerative Fashion Matter?

At the end of the day, why does it matter? Why should we care about the environment we surround ourselves with? Why not leave this for the next generation to care for?

According to researchers, it’s very likely we are the last generation if we continue at the pace we are going. With our outstanding carbon footprint, it’s no wonder our world is leaning towards total destruction in terms of climate change.

Regenerative fashion is one of many small ways we can contribute to reducing the effects of climate change for our generation, the next, and so on. The clothing produced by regenerative fashion is the same you’re wearing while reading this post, but made in a more ethical way.

According to Amy J. Hall VP, Sustainability, Eileen Fisher, and Founder & President, Impactorum
“Fashion is no longer just about style. Fashion is intimately connected to the health of our planet and the wellbeing of our people. So, the choice is yours. By choosing circular over linear, regenerative over conventional, slow fashion over fast, we have a fighting chance for a healthier future for all human beings.”

What environmental benefits does regenerative farming bring to the fashion industry?

Let’s dive right into the benefits regenerative farming brings to society and the fashion industry in its entirety.

According to NRDC, it benefits the water quality and quantity by decreasing the number of dangerous pesticides brought into the ground and surface water.

Regenerative farming enhances biodiversity both above and below the surface. Also within the same article by NRDC, the shift towards regenerative farming increases stronger bonds developed between farmers and the overall community.

The World Economic Forum mentioned one major benefit being that it increases soil fertility naturally. An overall increase in plant species diversity. A higher quality of clothing is made from powerful fibers. Improving farm profitability. Increasing crop resilience.

Though our world is rapidly growing, there is no need for fast fashion when we have an abundance of land to grow sustainable materials.

This material as I previously discussed is made of the finest and highest quality material while providing a large number of benefits to the earth itself. Socially, economically and environmentally regenerative farming shows that fashion is truly greener on the other side of the grass (pun definitely intended)!

A woman on a farm.

Is Regenerative Agriculture the Future of Sustainable Fashion?

Yes, it most certainly is. Though it will take time for other companies to join Northface and Patagonia in the hope to reduce their environmental footprint, the future is sustainable fashion. Wool and the cotton industry are continuously booming. The results cause more intense cotton and sheep farming which results in damage to the soil, biodiversity, and surrounding areas.

According to PETA in regards to wool and its impact on the environment, “Nearly 50% of all of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions comes from the agricultural sector, which includes the wool industry.”

Where Can I Find Regenerative Fashion Products?

Regenerative fashion products are all around us. From the towers in New York City to the sea in California and beyond. Some of the most biodegradable, environmentally friendly, and ethically sourced products can be found by educating yourself and others.

These beautiful brands are only a few google searches away. If you’re unsure as to whether a brand is practicing regenerative fashion standards, companies are required to comply with a certification of proof. There are several certifications and things in rotation to look out for;

Fashion Revolution: Keep an eye out for brands following this revolution of fashion that focuses on sustainability!

Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS): verifies the organic status of about 70% of materials. Although the product could be sourced from a multitude of countries, it’s a great certification to be sure that the clothing you purchase is organic.

Cradle 2 Cradle focuses its efforts on certifying clothing through them they are doing good for the planet itself. They check if it’s reusable, recyclable, biodegradable, water efficiency quality, and more.

How Do I Know When a Fiber is Regenerative?

Though it’s difficult to tell from the bare human eye, a nonprofit organization based in sunny California known as Fibershed will help individuals understand regenerative fibers through research, education, events, and partnerships. Fibershed is Climate Beneficial Wool verified. In hindsight, this means the material produced by them can be carbon sunk. Climate Beneficial Wool was designed by Fibershed in order to support carbon farming practices.

Is There a Certification for Regenerative Products?

Recently, in order to determine whether a product is regenerative or not, a certification of sorts has been in the works. This certification, known as Regenerative Organic Certified, is the first of its kind to point individuals towards the right direction of brands supporting regenerative fashion.

In order for brands to achieve this certification, they must already hold a USDA organic certification or international equivalent. Regenerative Organic Certified was established in 2017 by a group of passionate farmers, business leaders, and individuals concerned with the overall sustainability of our world. Their mission is simple, to create a planet where we live free of environmental hardships and restore what was once so beautiful.

Brands that are going regenerative

There are so many brands turning to regenerative farming tactics for their clothing material. Here are just a few of them;

Harvest and Mill

Harvest & Mill, founded in 2012, goes above and beyond for their clothes by providing individuals with organic, USA-made, Cruelty-free, Non-toxic, and Carbon neutral products. Their brand includes an assortment of Women’s and Men clothing, including the comfiest fair trade pyjamas!

Italia A Collection

Italia A Collection is a recently released brand by Italia Hannaway in 2019. The brand’s mission is to create beautiful clothing that is ethical and circular. They primarily use plant-based fibers in their clothing.

The North Face

This is probably the most well-known company to turn towards regenerative fashion practices. The North Face has an abundance of outdoor-style clothing from jackets to shoes. The brand is turning towards ethical farming practices for their cotton for their upcoming Autumn launch.

Patagonia

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Image: Patagonia

Similar to The North Face, Patagonia is also an outdoorsy brand. The company not only sells ethically sourced clothing like backpacks, swimsuits, jeans and winter coats but also provides customers with a page regarding activism and climate change. The NY-based clothing company provides a large number of resources for new activists to utilize on their homepage.

United By Blue

United By Blue products are sustainably sourced and made in GOTS-certified factories. United By Blue spreads its passion for climate change by removing one pound of trash from oceans and waterways for each product purchased through them, including their sustainable hats.

California Cloth Foundry

California Cloth Foundry produces ethically sourced clothing, as well as provides individuals with an exact ingredient list on what is in it. Their packaging is also 100% compostable to follow their mission of creating a healthier world.

Eileen Fisher

Eileen Fisher is a largely well-known women’s clothing brand that supplies organically made and sustainable clothing, it’s one reason why I’ve included her in the Master List. They offer several types of organic clothing (including plus-sized) and have recently turned toward regenerative farming for their standard materials.

Christy Dawn

A woman wearing a pink dress from Christy Dawn.
Image: Christy Dawn

Christy Dawn is a farm-to-closet brand. They have an organic cotton collection of dresses that are coloured using natural or organic dyes. The company strives to make their collections from Mother Earth for Mother Earth.

Seed2Shirt

Seed2Shirt is a black-woman-owned vertically integrated apparel manufacturing & print on demand company in the US. The company is partnered with Fibershed to produce ethically and sustainably sourced cotton from African, and African-American farmers.

At the end of the day, it’s clear that there are so many beautiful and affordable brands that are practicing ethical farming for their materials. All of these companies and more strive to provide their consumers with ethically sourced, biodegradable, and sustainable attire for all shapes and sizes.

More recently, skincare and makeup brands have been turning towards their own type of regenerative agriculture to source their materials. This is a huge step for the overall saving of Mother Earth!

Regenerative Agriculture is a Sustainable, Ethical Way To Help Transform the Fashion Industry

Regenerative agriculture is taking the fashion industry by storm. This farming technique provides well-sourced and sustainable materials while providing for the soil it grows from.

In addition, Regeneration International has since created a campaign in regards to regenerative fashion practices called “Care What You Wear” insisting consumers put thought into their everyday attire and where it’s coming from.

Large companies and brands are turning towards this new way of ethically sourced materials knowing the limits we will have as climate change gets progressively worse. Besides the typical recycling of materials and using reusable bags, supporting regenerative fashion is a sure way to do your part in saving the planet.’

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