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Regenerative Agriculture for a Sustainable Fashion Industry

By Eva M. Loza Vega, Umar Abdulsalam, Manisha Sharma

The Earth is naturally heated by greenhouse gas (GHG), which occurs in the Earth's atmosphere trapping in solar radiation, playing a key role in ecological systems (Denchak, M., 2019; Mann, M., 2021). However, over the last century, the Earth has been experiencing environmental stress as a result of an increment in GHG emissions due to human activities such as consumption and production (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2021). The global surface temperature has increased in accumulated heat by at least 1°C since the pre-industrial era (1880-1900) (Lindsey & Dahlman, 2020; NOAA, 2021). It is expected the average surface temperature will exceed 1.5°C by 2025 (Hausfather, H., 2020). To project surface temperature is useful the carbon footprint data, showing the GHG emissions associated with individuals, industries, services, or nations. (Hertwich, E. 2021; Selin, 2020).

In the apparel industry, more than 70 % of the GHG emissions come from raw material production, preparation, and processing, whilst activities such as transport, packaging, retail, usage, and end-of-use generate 30% of GHG emissions (Berg, et. al., 2020). The apparel industry produces 4-10% of the global greenhouse-gas emissions (primarily CO2), and 20% of global wastewater, where 5,000 gallons of water are required to manufacture a T-shirt and a pair of jeans (Chayne, K., 2020; European Parliament, 2020; Lieb, T., 2021; Regeneration International, 2019).

The culture of overconsumption and disposability in combination with fashion industry practices generates negative environmental impacts such as rising air temperature, ocean acidification, land degradation, and eutrophication (Chayne, K., 2020). According to the latest IPCC report, the present agriculture system is one of the biggest contributors to GHG emissions, that is 24% of the total global GHG emissions are directly caused by agricultural production (EIT Food, 2020; The Climate Reality Project, 2019). The global textile industry requires the growth of cotton and other fibers to produce clothes and other products, often grown using degenerative practices at the expense of precious fertile soil and biodiversity (EIT Food, 2020). In addition, conventional cotton is the largest pesticide-consuming crop, using 11% of all pesticides globally, affecting soil and water (Regeneration International, 2019).

To reduce the levels of GHG emissions and limit global average surface temperature below 2°C, the apparel sector is committed to facing the climate crisis by participating in protocols and initiatives such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, and The Agenda 2030 to tackle environmental issues among others (Lieb, T., 2021; UN, 2015). The objective is to prevent the degradation of ecosystems through sustainable consumption and production, to support the needs of the present and future generations (European Environmental Agency, 2015). A sustainability approach will help to implement fewer waste production practices as a foundation of circular textile models (Lieb, T., 2021). In addition, while some companies are collecting and recycling used clothing, other companies are calling for a return to “slow fashion” to improve sustainability efficiency (Drew & Yehounme., 2017).

The World requires sustainable and regenerative agriculture to mitigate the excessive use and extraction of natural resources (Zylem, 2021). Therefore, regenerative fashion supports circularity by upcycling materials and through the soil-to-soil cycle of regenerative agriculture, restoring the natural rhythm of the ecosystems, thereby improving productivity of those restored systems (Brown, A., 2019; Chayne, K., 2020; EIT Food, 2020; Zylem, 2021). But what is regenerative agriculture? Well, regenerative agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that intends to rehabilitate/regenerate and enhance the farm’s ecosystems (The Climate Reality Project, 2019; Zylem, 2021). The main benefits of regenerative agriculture are organic matter in the topsoil, water cycle improvement, recycling nutrients, carbon capture, tillage conservation, and biodiversity (Brown, A., 2019; EIT Food, 2020; Ohletz, J. 2021; The Climate Reality Project, 2019; Zylem, 2021).

However, it is the moment to recognize that Indigenous and traditional artisans are the pioneers of regenerative fashion, making their clothes using local materials, wild-harvested, natural dyes, and generational craftsmanship techniques (Chayne, K., 2020). According to the indigenous community’s cosmology, nature is sacred and humanity is acknowledged as part of it (United Nations Environment Programme, 2020). Indigenous people play a key role in environmental preservation, conservation of local ecosystems, and combating climate change. (Nature, 2017; Heim, T., 2020).

Adriana Marina, recognizing the value of the ancestral wisdom of artisans and their relationship with nature, believing that artisans hold the key solution to generating a systemic change founded luxury brand Animaná and NGO Hecho por Nosotros (HxN) (Animaná, 2021; Hecho por Nosotros, 2020). Both the brand and organization take a sustainable approach, supporting an ethical, transparent, and inclusive fashion industry that contributes to human and economic development in local communities. Thus, Animaná is collaborating directly with more than 7,500 artisans from all over the Andes region, training for the preservation of ancestral skills, prioritizing sustainable production processes, using natural fibers from Patagonia and the Andes, and generating value to local communities through fair trade. Whilst HxN is an organization with consultative status in the UN, it follows The Agenda 2030 to prevent the degradation of ecosystems through sustainable consumption and production. HxN creates channels that link the ethical fashion offer in Latin America and international Markets, promoting artisans' work, the principles for the sustainable fashion industry, responsible consumption, and work networks that allow the dissemination of theoretical tools that contribute to the shift of sustainable fashion.

More and more individuals and companies around the world recognize the need for a change in the production processes and consumption that contribute to sustainable development for the preservation and conservation of ecosystems. Nature conservation, environmental and biodiversity protection is an important topic for everyone, enough reason to start acting. Consume local, consume responsibly, consume from artisans.

References

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