What Is Regenerative Agriculture?: From Farms To Sustainable Fashion Image by Sustainable Jungle #regenerativeagriculture #whatisregenerativeagriculture #regenerativefarming #soilregeneration #whatisregenerativefarming #sustainablejungle
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What Is Regenerative Agriculture?: From Farms To Sustainable Fashion

Jenny Bell

Let’s consider a world where the materials we use in our clothes support our environment—instead of destroying it. A world where cotton is grown in a cycle with food crops, mulch replaces vast amounts of water, and healthy soils equate to carbon positive clothing. 

Welcome to the world of regenerative agriculture. But what is regenerative agriculture, exactly? 

The short answer is that it’s a way to produce food and fibers by working with nature, heavily reducing the typical impact of farming and even remediating many of the environmental and social problems brought on by conventional agricultural practices (such as depleted soils, dependence on fertilizers and pesticides, and dangerous conditions for farmers). 

As idyllic as that sounds, we still want to make sure there’s no greenwashing behind those green pastures. Read on to learn if ‘regenerative’ is just one of the latest fashion buzzwords or, if it can change the fashion industry for the better.

1. What Is Regenerative Farming?

What Is Regenerative Agriculture?: From Farms To Sustainable Fashion Image by Sustainable Jungle #regenerativeagriculture #whatisregenerativeagriculture #regenerativefarming #soilregeneration #whatisregenerativefarming #sustainablejungle
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Before we dig in (pun intended), let’s start with a fuller regenerative agriculture definition—or rather definitions, as there are many. A 2020 study explored different ways the term has been defined and came up with the following:

  • Project Drawdown states, “Regenerative agriculture enhances and sustains the health of the soil by restoring its carbon content.”
  • Soul Fire Farm elaborates on how regenerative agriculture can be accomplished by using “carbon sequestering farming practices, such as no-till, cover crops, mulch, compost, raised beds, agroforestry, silvopasture, and native species restoration”.
  • Regarding “farming practices that increase biodiversity, enrich soils, improve watershed health, sequester more carbon than they release, and enhance ecosystem services,” Steward Agriculture helps us see why regenerative agriculture is the way forward.
Regenerative Agriculture Vs. Sustainable Agriculture 

While there is a huge cross-over in terms of both principles and practices, the key difference between regenerative agriculture and sustainable agriculture is that regenerative goes beyond sustainable to enhance and improve the health of ecosystems. 

Regenerative practices aim to restore biodiversity, sequester carbon, conserve water, and rebuild soil health. Specific techniques vary from one regenerative farm to another, but the end goal is the same.

To see regenerative soil practices in action, check out the environmental films Kiss The Ground (2020) and its sequel Common Ground (2023) which showcase some inspirational regenerative agriculture examples.

2. Benefits Of Regenerative Agriculture

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Image by halfpoint
Environmental Benefits Of Regenerative Ag

Why is luxury group Kering—the owner of Saint Laurent, Gucci, and other high fashion brands—also co-founder of an organization called Regenerative Fund for Nature getting involved? And why is one of the most ethical shoe brands, Allbirds, partnering with the New Zealand Merino Company to establish the world’s first platform for regenerative ethical wool?

Because regenerative farming is precisely the approach that enables natural materials (cotton, wool, hemp, linen, etc.) to be produced in a way that minimizes greenhouse-gas emissions and supports a healthier world. 

It doesn’t just mean reduced emissions; it means negative emissions because it consumes more carbon than it outputs. Plants capture (AKA sequester) carbon from the atmosphere, which can then be stored in their roots. This stored carbon supports healthy soil, helps plants grow, and combats climate change. 

With more fashion brands aiming toward carbon neutrality (often via carbon offset programs), sourcing fabrics via regenerative farms could be a significant way to get there—or for those with bigger ambitions, to become carbon negative. 

Capturing carbon is just one of the benefits of regenerative farming. When done right, regenerative agriculture—like its name suggests—has the potential to regenerate and replenish our environment. It can eliminate the need for agricultural inputs (pesticides, fertilizers, and even water), support biodiversity, and improve soil health. A 2021 study summarizes a few key benefits:

  • Improved organic matter
  • Increased captured soil carbon
  • Increased soil nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, and sulfur (nutrients to support healthy soils and plant growth)
  • Faster water infiltration rates (increased access to water)
  • Higher beneficial bacterial biomass
  • Improved soil health
  • Increased plant species diversity
  • Improved plant biomass
  • Increases in beneficial insects to prevent biodiversity loss
  • Increased crop yields (which mean significantly higher profits!)
Social Benefits Of Regenerative Ag

While not discussed as often as some of the environmental benefits of regenerative agriculture, the social benefits are worth mentioning. It can lead to higher yields and lower production costs—a big win-win for farmers. One study found farmers who used regenerative agriculture practices were 78% more profitable than those using conventional practices. 

Fewer chemical inputs doesn’t just mean less money spent on such inputs, but less exposure for the farmers to harmful pesticides and insecticides.

Reviving Traditional Farming Practices 

There is one potential con of regenerative agriculture: its roots in systemic racism and colonialism. While regenerative agriculture has “emerged” as a new way to mitigate the impacts of climate change, it’s not a new idea at all. Black, Indigenous, and people of color have been carrying out regenerative soil practices long before its whitewashed version made the news.

From a Civil Eats interview with Romero Briones from the First Nations Development Institute, “The present-day regenerative movement is—much like agriculture in general—’inherited, guarded, and perpetuated by white men.”

While this in no way diminishes the environmental benefits of regenerative farming, it’s something to be mindful of as we consider who and what to support in this movement. It’s also a reminder that we have much to learn from indigenous farming practices that have developed over many generations of working closely with nature.

3. Regenerative Agriculture Certifications

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Image by Regenerative Organic Alliance

Let’s touch on one of regenerative agriculture’s other criticisms: the difficulty of certification. 

In 2017, the Regenerative Organic Alliance (ROC) introduced the world’s first Regenerative Organic Certified™ standard for food, fiber, and personal care ingredients. Considering three pillars of soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness, it’s a comprehensive framework—the first of its kind—and a valuable certification for conscious consumers.

However, to be eligible for the certification, farms must first be USDA certified organic, an expensive feat in and of itself. Many small farms simply can’t afford to foot the bill of a certification process, let alone two. If they achieve that and meet all other criteria, they may be certified on one of three levels: bronze, silver, and gold (with gold having the most rigorous regenerative practices).

Since ROC set the standard, a host of other regenerative agriculture certification programs have come into being, including:

  • The Savory Institute runs the Ecological Outcome Verification (EOV), an “outcome-based monitoring protocol for grassland environments.” If the data shows regeneration is taking place, products can receive the Land to Market Verified seal.
  • Regenified offers the Certified Regenified Mark for farms and ranches. The 6-3-4 Standard encompasses soil health, adaptive stewardship, and ecosystem processes. 
  • regenagri works with approved certification bodies to certify farms for food and natural fibers against its regenerative agriculture criteria. 
  • Green America’s Soil & Climate Initiative provides “a holistic farm-to-shelf regenerative agriculture program with third-party verification.” It supports farmers with soil regeneration by providing advice and access to funding. 

4. Regenerative Agriculture In The Fashion World

What Is Regenerative Agriculture?: From Farms To Sustainable Fashion Image by Christy Dawn #regenerativeagriculture #whatisregenerativeagriculture #regenerativefarming #soilregeneration #whatisregenerativefarming #sustainablejungle
Image by Christy Dawn

We live in a world where the majority of our clothes are made with plastic-based synthetic fabrics, garment worker exploitation is still a problem, and the fashion industry is associated with 10% of annual global carbon emissions. Ironically, this 10% is the amount of man-made emissions that could be sequestered by healthy soils.

No wonder several better-than-organic brands working to revamp your closet with a fresh, regenerative look:

  • Patagonia: This sustainable outdoor brand helped establish the Regenerative Organic Certification and continues to grow its Regenerative Organic Certified™ cotton range. 
  • Allbirds: By December 2025, Allbirds aims to source 100% of the wool for their footwear from regenerative sources. 
  • Eileen Fisher: This fashion brand is a member of the Savory Institute’s Land to Market Program and prioritizes sourcing wool from regenerative farms. 
  • Coyuchi: Coyuchi has partnered with Fibershed to use Climate Beneficial™ wool for its sustainable bedding. They also donate funds to Fibershed and another regenerative agriculture organization, White Buffalo Land Trust.
  • Christy Dawn: Taking regenerative to the next level, this organic brand is growing its regenerative cotton collection, literally, by partnering with the Oshadi Collective in India to grow regenerative cotton for its Farm-To-Closet Collection
  • Dr. Bronner’s: David Bronner, the man behind the brand creating some of the best eco-friendly cleaning products, is a board member of the Regenerative Organic Alliance. As well as sourcing from regenerative farmers, they support regenerative non-profits including Kiss The Ground, Project Drawdown, and Regeneration International. 

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