Like many brands and fashion industry giants, Allbirds is turning to regenerative agriculture, considering that this system can maintain biodiversity and restore soil health while reducing the fashion sector’s environmental impact.
Allbirds sustainability lead Hana Kajimura tells us more about this new practice, and about the projects initiated by the brand to decarbonise fashion.
How can agriculture revolutionise fashion?
At Allbirds, we use natural materials such as merino wool or eucalyptus tree fibre in our footwear and clothing, which practically means that our supply chain starts in a field. When you start drilling down into your raw materials to the very fiber level, you realize that agriculture and fashion are inextricably linked. However, as agricultural practices have been industrialised, tons of carbon have been released into the atmosphere. If we’re going to successfully curb greenhouse gases and tackle climate change, we need to invest in solutions that draw carbon back into the soil.
By restoring soil health and tending to the earth more mindfully, we can achieve this while improving biodiversity to boot. As an example, wool products that come from regenerative sources could act as carbon sinks if the land the sheep graze on has been optimised to sequester carbon. If adopted widely, it has the potential to drastically reduce the carbon footprint at the raw material stage and allow the fashion industry to play their part in a decarbonised future.
What is special about regenerative agriculture?
Regenerative agriculture has been practiced by Indigenous communities for centuries. It’s not a new process, but [it] is one that big agriculture has forgotten. It is a holistic set of farming practices that focus on cultivating healthy soil, working to enhance ecosystem health rather than depleting it.
Unlike other brands, sustainability is part of Allbirds’ DNA. But you’re going one step further by committing to using only wool from regenerative sources by 2025. What will that change from today?
Wool represents approximately 25 percent of our natural material mix, but we know that it has a higher carbon footprint compared to our other natural materials due to methane emissions associated with sheep. Our commitments in regenerative agriculture will help to reduce this impact while benefiting the environment, local growers and farmers. It isn’t a quick fix with instant results, but a long-term investment that will require time, patience and collaboration. Our goal is to emit no carbon at all, so this is an important step as we race towards achieving that.
Can you also use this type of agriculture for the other materials used in your collections, such as sugar cane?
Yes, anything that grows in soil can be farmed regeneratively. At this stage, however, we’re doubling down on wool as an area where we can have the greatest positive impact.
Are you already working on products that will be made with materials from regenerative agriculture?
Since we’ve committed to 100 percent of our wool coming from regenerative sources by 2025, all of our wool-based products will eventually derive from regenerative farming. We’re hoping to introduce a few items shortly — watch this space!
Is the use of regenerative agriculture “THE” solution today to ensure that the fashion industry is no longer the second-most polluting industry?
There is no silver bullet solution to fighting climate change, so we need to develop and implement a variety of different strategies to have widespread impact. We’re betting on regenerative agriculture being one of these strategies, and we’re excited about [its] potential. Ultimately, the entire fashion industry needs to reduce its carbon emissions at every stage across its supply chain to have a meaningful impact.
(All images: Allbirds)
This story was published via AFP Relaxnews.