Biodiversity, Regenerative Agriculture and Fashion

Biodiversity, Regenerative Agriculture and Fashion

The circular economy is out, regenerative agriculture is in. At least if you're reading a press release from a large fashion conglomerate. Trends in sustainability always come and go, but regenerative agriculture and fostering biodiversity have a long history rooted in Indigenous land management. They also require meaningful long term commitments that some fear will get lost if the fashion industry quickly moves on to the next sustainability trend. 

Biodiversity is simply the variety of living things on earth. Regenerative agriculture is farming in a way that repairs soil to encourage biodiversity, stop soil erosion, prevent flooding and create healthier crops without needing harmful chemicals. Both are key in mitigating the effects of climate change and sequestering carbon (removing carbon from the atmosphere).

Industrial farms, including farms from which many brands source their cotton, wool and leather, are major contributors to climate change. Companies like Patagonia and AllBirds have begun working with farms to convert them into sources for regenerative cotton and wool. They hope if their suppliers are actively sequestering carbon and restoring soil, their products will eventually become truly carbon neutral. Of course, the process to convert a farm to regenerative practices takes years and requires significant investment.  

Investing in better farming to diversify crops and restore soil is important, but there is a worry that because regenerative agriculture is becoming trendy it will get greenwashed and diluted like other sustainable practices. The mainstream conversation around regenerative agriculture has also already begun ignoring its roots and long history in Indigenous practices and spinning it instead as a new breakthrough in sustainability.   

The need for restoring biodiversity and investing in regenerative agriculture goes hand in hand with the last fashion buzzword, the circular economy. If we can reuse and recover more existing materials, there will be less need to produce new ones. This would hopefully lead to less clearing out for new farmland and give time to convert existing farms. There is a long way to go in both and hopefully brands will keep up their long term investments. 

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