How do we revolutionize forestry and farming practices?
Silvopastoral systems combines forestry and grazing in a mutually beneficial way, enhancing both soil protection and long-term income for the farmers. Already in use and in constant development, silvopastoral systems can also provide animal welfare benefits, reducing the animals’ stress levels and thus also reducing methane emissions. So far, these practices have mainly been tested by the cattle industry, but the environmental (and economic) benefits of using this grazing system could be even greater for the wool industry.
With a planet already under stress and an ever-growing world population, innovation in forestry and farming practices is one of today’s most pressing areas. To stand a chance in the long-run, we have to learn how to produce what we need more efficiently and more sustainably.
Silvopastoral systems are intensively managed plantations where grazing and agriculture is combined with tree cultivation, and although versions of this kind of agroforestry have been around for decades, pressing climate changes sheds light on its potential.
Perspectives on the theme
What comes after cotton?
What will the fashion industry look like when conventional cotton is out of the picture? What can we do to get there?
Moment of truth: Conventional cotton is one of the worst fibres, environmentally as well as socially, which makes the fact that it is also the most common fibre used in the global textile industry alarming to say the least. Its cultivation requires large amounts of water and chemicals which leads to soil degradation and loss of biodiversity. The majority of farmers working with conventional cotton get exposed to dangerous chemicals when using fertilizers and pesticides. Many of the farmers end up in debt traps because of the high usage of expensive chemicals. It is also common for children to work on the cotton farms.
Alongside many other actors throughout the supply chain, Filippa K gradually tries to phase out the use of conventional cotton, and constantly look for its most relevant replacements.
And here is where things get exciting. While there are yet few substitutes to cotton With the notable exception of lyocell/Tencel – a fibre which is often used as an alternative to cotton in Filippa K collections – there are presently few substitutes to cotton, but a wealth of research is currently being devoted to this field.
And it’s not only about finding substitutes to conventional cotton. It’s just as much about finding new innovative materials with different characteristics than cotton, that serve their purpose equally well. There are several new materials in different stages of development. Some of them are fabrics made from other industries’ waste, such as coffee grounds, waste water and greenhouse gases. Others are made from more sustainable parts of nature, such as lyocell, Kapok, linen, algae and fish. And then there is a third option – that of using mechanically- or chemically-recycled materials.
Whichever method or material, these innovations constitute a large piece of the puzzle which is the future of fashion. So let’s dig into these ideas and ask ourselves: what comes after cotton?
Perspectives on the theme
Why don’t we talk about wool?
Wool takes a lot of natural resources to produce. At the same time, its durable and doesn’t require a lot of water-wasting washes. A lot of wool is simply thrown away because farmers don’t have the resources to take care of it, which is a pity. Also recycled wool is an option to virgin wool that should be explored. In this section, the ups and downs of the world’s leading animal natural fibre is addressed.
Wool is the world’s leading animal natural fibre, and it’s a bit of a miracle fabric with it comes to performance. It’s durable, resilient and breathable. It resists soiling, wrinkles and moisture and retains its shape regardless. Not a lot of water-wasting washes needed here.
Yet, when looking at the fibre alone, wool has it’s challenges. It requires a lot of land, food, water and chemicals to produce–and then there’s the animal welfare to consider (which is often, unfortunately, below international standards). Wool is in other words associated with high natural capital dependency.
So, is wool bad?
Taking into account not only the fibre sourcing phase but also the use phase and the disposal at end-of-use, things are looking up. Despite the longevity characteristics mentioned above, wool is biodegradable, renewable, recyclable and compostable.
There’s no one correct answer to the question of whether wool is sustainable. The truth is, it’s complicated, and the classification of wool has to be diversified as wool production differs a lot depending on things like farming methods and countries of origin.
Complicated questions are easily ignored, but as one of the world’s most used textile fibre, wool’s opportunities and challenges have to be addressed:
Is wool production justified as long as the meat industry keeps spinning, as a means to make use of the resources at hand?
What is wool’s true cost? Are we willing to pay enough to make sure every actor along the value chain gets paid enough to guarantee sustainable solutions for workers, animals and the environment?
Although wool could be a valuable resource, most wool is simply thrown away or burnt. As an example, only a fraction of the wool that is produced in Sweden is used for the fashion and furniture industries, and there is no coherent infrastructure available for farmers when trying to take care of and make use of the rest of it.
Recycled wool is already around. Wool producers in Prato, Italy have long used scraps to produce wool fabrics, and while the practice has been considered a bit of a taboo, it is increasingly recognized as a process that is both cheaper and more environmentally friendly. But when do we start scaling this business–when will the mass industry start working towards recycled wool on a bigger scale?