The future of fashion is... farming?

featured-post
category - sustainability
sector - fashion
type - opinion
Opinion
Allbirds’ head of sustainability, Hana Kajimura, says it’s time for the industry to reduce carbon impacts through collaborative, regenerative practices

The climate crisis is the greatest challenge facing humanity, and to help reverse it, the fashion industry needs to play a pivotal role. While it will require many solutions taken together to solve climate change, one lies directly under our feet – regenerative agriculture.

To some, the relationship between fashion and farming might seem far-fetched. However, the two are inextricable when you source and rely on natural materials like we do at Allbirds, because many of our supply chains start in a field. For example, wool is one of our signature materials and has a host of amazing properties. While measuring the carbon emissions of our business, however, we identified that wool traditionally has a higher carbon footprint compared to other materials that we use, like eucalyptus tree fibre and sugarcane.

Indeed, modern industrial agriculture practices have disrupted nature’s ability to take care of itself. Pesticides, tilling, fertilisers and more have stripped carbon from the soil and released it back into the atmosphere, knocking the carbon cycle out of balance. In response, regenerative agriculture has the potential to help restore balance in the carbon cycle, providing an important tool in the fight against climate change. This holistic way of farming has been practiced by Indigenous communities for centuries and focuses on enhancing ecosystems, instead of depleting them.

In short, healthy soil results in a healthy planet because of its ability to sequester carbon and store it in the ground. Leveraging these techniques could provide a game changing tool in brands’ sustainability toolbox. Which is why Allbirds is all in – and we think the rest of the fashion industry should be, too.

Published by:

2 August 2021

Author: Hana Kajimura

Image: Allbirds

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Allbirds

With our materials in mind, both wool and sheep have a huge opportunity to accelerate the transition to regenerative agriculture. Working closely together with our farmers and growers, we’re committing to source 100% of our wool from regenerative farms by the end of 2025. We’ll also be reducing or sequestering 100% of on-farm emissions related to wool.

While this change will help Allbirds tread lighter on the planet, it will also benefit other brands, by helping to increase the pool of available regenerative wool. It means that making a product can actually be positive for the environment. Imagine a jumper acting as a carbon sink, because the land the sheep graze on has been optimised to sequester carbon.

In fact, anything that grows in soil has the potential to be farmed regeneratively, such as cotton, hemp and linen. This means that brands who use natural materials, in favour of petroleum-based synthetics, can look to source regenerative fibres, or work together with growers and farmers to build regenerative models, supporting them along the way.

The untapped potential of regenerative agriculture is clear, but it will require time, patience and investment. Education and knowledge sharing are key to making this a reality. As a business that believes in collaboration over competition, we’re eager to share our research and knowledge to help others on their sustainability journey. This collaborative mindset across the fashion industry could help to speed up the transition to regenerative agriculture. Ultimately, the greater the demand, the faster positive change can be realised.

We need to rally together to take action, because there is no time to wait for perfection. While solving the climate crisis will require a multitude of solutions, some of which we haven’t dreamed up yet, we’re betting that regenerative agriculture will be one of them.

Hana Kajimura is head of sustainability at Allbirds. Look out for The Future Laboratory's Sustainability report, landing soon.

‘Imagine a jumper acting as a carbon sink, because the land the sheep graze on has been optimised to sequester carbon’
Hana Kajimura, head of sustainability, Allbirds

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