Sourcing for more environmentally friendly materials is a new must for the fashion industry, and raw materials from regenerative agriculture is a buzzword of the moment.
Recent talks and webinars presented key insiders’ opinions of these new, though old (as used in the past) growing and breeding practices that have to do with caring for earth, animals and–ultimately–people.
The widespread cultivation of fibers with industrial techniques and noxious chemicals can cause the production of up to a quarter of the world’s yearly gas emissions according to Patagonia. In addition, industrial agriculture degrades the soil and may cause the loss of topsoil and water, reducing the ability to generate healthy crops. Passing from industrial agriculture to these rediscovered organic regenerative methods can help let the ground rest and regenerate, help soil absorb more carbon, keep water, restore biodiversity and, as a consequence, protect animals and contribute the economic stability of farmers. In fact through social equity actions such as the payment of adequate salaries, an equal treatment, education offer and other opportunities, the social and economic position of workers can improve.
How buying a T-shirt can help the planet
Patagonia is highly committed to sourcing raw materials produced according to environmentally respectful standards. Since 1996 it decided to use organic cotton only for its collections. In 2017, it helped the establishing of Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROA), a certification that supports a holistic approach to agriculture that includes the wellbeing of grazing animals, fair treatment for farmers and workers, but also solid conditions for soil’s health and management of the land. Through Patagonia Action Works, the brand’s own activist organization, it supports and promotes the work of a series of local movements in favor of organic and regenerative practices all over Europe.
The brand has also recently launched a selection of T-shirts made with certified organic regenerative cotton, from 150 cultivations in India involved with a pilot project for organic and regenerative certification.
Can boots "kick" back carbon to nature?
Timberland is focused on achieving specific and measurable goals that can help the environment by offering 100% products based on circular design and using 100% materials obtained through regenerative agriculture by 2030.
As regenerative agriculture practices imitate natural processes also breeding animals can follow similar patterns as animals are let moving freely and graze naturally to let the ground rest and regenerate itself.
Timberland has been working to create a solid regenerative value chain of leather in the US, Australia and Brazil and in fall 2020 launched its first selection of boots as part of its Earthkeepers selection made with leather from animals grown in regenerative agriculture farms in the US. For next seasons it also aims to increase the selection of materials obtained including using cotton, rubber, wool and sugarcane among others, always obtained from such practices, as for instance, a s/s 2021 sneaker using the Green Stride sole technology based upon a sugarcane-derived foam and natural rubber from plants raised according to regenerative agriculture principles.
VF moves ahead
Not only Timberland is keen about increasing the use of regenerative farming at VF Group. The North Face also follows this path. “Regenerative practices mimic nature and give it the chance to rest and heal as they can replicate the diversity found in nature. In our group we are very fond of this strategy,” says Julian Lings, sustainability manager, VF/The North Face.
The North Face has started moving in this direction in 2017 when it started selecting wool from sheep raised according to regenerative agriculture methods and launched its first selection of beanies part of The Cali Wool collection. “That test was a real success as consumers really reacted up to it,” continues Lings. “Therefore, we expanded our offer adding a scarf and a jacket. Now we want to look into other areas and explore new uses for natural fibers like cotton and rubber.”
Are these sustainable products more expensive? Generally they are, though not incredibly more when it comes to materials as these. In fact, the Patagonia Regenerative T-shirt costs €45, the Timberland sneaker with Green Stride sole costs €135 and The North Face beanie cost US$62. They are slightly more expensive but still affordable. Therefore, it seems it’s worth spending more if it can help people and the planet.