A library of free resources

 Regenerative Consumer resources

What’s “regenerative”?

adjective | re·gen·er·a·tive |  rəˈjen(ə)rədiv

tending to or characterized by regeneration, i.e.

  1. re-creating or re-forming something
  2. renewal, rejuvenation, revival
  3. renewal or restoration of a body, bodily part, or biological system (such as a forest)

“Regenerative” can be applied to any process that improves and restores, rather than destroys, the resources it relies on. For example, regenerative agriculture renews and rebuilds the soil and the nutrients that are required to grow more crops in the future, rather than depleting them.Read more

The same principles can be applied to business enterprises, community projects, or an individual’s lifestyle. In a regenerative system, outputs become inputs, waste is minimized, and renewable resources are used. One-way extractive relationships are replaced by mutually beneficial, cyclical or reciprocal relationships.
Why is Regenerative better than Organic?

We’ve come to think of organically grown food as the best for both people and the planet. So many of us are surprised to learn that we can—and should—set the bar even higher.

There’s no doubt that not using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides—which the organic certification does indicate—is a good thing. But the absence of chemicals alone does not guarantee that the farmer is improving the soil health, and therefore storing carbon in the soil, and therefore helping to stabilize the climate. There’s nothing inherent in the USDA Organic standards that requires soil regeneration.Read more

Many large-scale organic ag operations, for example, grow crops in heavily irrigated and tilled monocrop systems, which harm the soil and release more carbon into the atmosphere. Yes, many (especially small-scale) organic farmers do improve the health of their land and sequester carbon. But only the term “regenerative” actually requires it.

Rule of thumb:

Organic is better than conventional. But if you want your food (and clothing) to have a positive impact on the climate, look for regenerative.

Is there a “regenerative” or “carbon farmed” certification?

This has been a hot topic within the regenerative movement for a while. In September 2017, Rodale Institute revealed the draft standards for a new Regenerative Organic Certification, a cooperative effort among a coalition of farmers, ranchers, nonprofits, scientists and brands. When finalized, the new certification will go “beyond organic” in that it requires evidence of soil health, fair working conditions for farmers and farm workers, and animal health. It will help you, as the consumer, to make the best choices possible when buying food.

I’m having a hard time finding regeneratively produced goods

Regeneration is still a new frontier. The farms that have transitioned to regenerative growing practices, and the companies and brands that have committed themselves to regenerative supply chains, are a small minority. They are the early and courageous adopters — and so are you, to be even thinking about this!

The available selection of goods that are verifiably produced according to these very high standards of regenerative and climate-beneficial is small. It’s important to acknowledge that for quite some time, it won’t be possible to become 100% climate-beneficial in our purchasing choices.

Read more
But it’s all the more important to support the pioneering farms and producers who are going against the grain out of a commitment to make a difference in terms of a livable climate for all of us. Slowly, as more of us express a desire and a demand for climate-beneficial, regeneratively grown food and products, companies and brands will start shifting their practices accordingly. Even if it’s just a few choices per month that you can align more and more with the climate-beneficial economy, do that — and gradually more choices will become available.

Three next steps:

  1. Check out the “Cool Companies” list below
  2. Read our post “Going Shopping at the Carbon Farmers’ Market”
  3. Download the Regenerative Consumer Toolkit

Cool companies

A dynamic list of companies and producers that either already have regenerative supply chains and networks, or have committed to the goal of regenerative sourcing. These are the climate heroes of their respective industries, and deserve your support.

Patagonia Provisions | EPIC bars | Tanka bars | Wild Idea Buffalo | Nova Chocolate | Cholaca | Cacoco | LUSH Cosmetics | Nutiva Organics | Dr. Bronner’s | Organic India | Cooperative Coffees | Full Circle Wool | Philosopher’s Stoneground Nut Butters

If you know of a company or brand that deserves to be listed here but isn’t yet, let us know. To maintain its 100% integrity, Project Grounded receives no compensation from any company mentioned here. We are advertising and affiliate-link free.

Regenerative Farmer resources

A Sample Carbon Farm Plan

Starting in 2018, Project Grounded will be offering carbon farm planning, design, and consultation services for farms in the United States. A Carbon Farm Plan is a comprehensive assessment and planning process that takes into account a farm’s operations, objectives, and landscape, as well as site-specific factors that influence the choice of carbon farming strategies. To see a sample Carbon Farm Plan prepared by Project Grounded staff, click here. Depending on your state, your local Resource Conservation District or NRCS office may also provide assistance in planning for your farm’s regenerative future.

Regenerative Farmers: Get on Project Grounded’s Carbon Farm Map!

A beta version of Project Grounded’s Carbon Farm Map is up! We’re steadily researching and adding new farms and ranches and are working towards a more user-friendly, searchable map.

If your farm, or a farm that you know, meets the criteria below and is interested in being included, please contact us. Getting listed on the Map is free, and will be a huge service for those consumers who are looking for beyond-organic, regeneratively produced food. Criteria

A farm can be included if it can demonstrate meeting one or more of the following criteria:

  • increase in percentage of soil organic matter (and/or inches of topsoil)
  • improved soil health (structure, water infiltration times, etc.) or ecosystem health
  • an existing Carbon Farm Plan and proof of implementation underway
  • established one or more of the regenerative farming practices listed here

Regenerative Agriculture FAQ

What’s farming got to do with climate change?

A lot, it turns out. Even though the emissions from industry, transportation, and household consumption tend to get the most attention, the global food system is responsible for an estimated one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions–and a big part of that is farming.

The biggest farming-related greenhouse gas contributors are fertilizers and on-farm use of fossil fuels, conventional farming practices such as tilling the soil, methane emissions from conventional livestock operations, and the decimation of forests and wetlands to make space for more farmland.

That’s the bad news. The reverse side of the story — quite literally — is that farming, when done differently, has the potential to become carbon negative, and start reversing climate change. That’s what we call regenerative agriculture, or carbon farming. Read on below!

What’s regenerative agriculture?

Regenerative agriculture—sometimes also called “carbon farming”–refers to any farming and grazing practices that rebuild soil organic matter and, in the process, pull down atmospheric carbon into the soil and plant biomass.

Regenerative agriculture produces the food, fiber and fuel we humans need and enjoy, WHILE helping to slow down and potentially reverse climate change.

Regenerative farming practices include:

  • minimal tilling of the soil, or not tilling at all
  • refraining from using chemical fertilizers and instead increasing fertility through cover crops, crop rotations, compost, and animal manures
  • well-managed animal grazing systems
  • agroforestry, where trees and shrubs are deliberately integrated with crops and livestock

Besides the positive climate impact, regenerative farming practices also reduce erosion, improve the soil’s capacity to percolate and hold water—therefore mitigating both drought and flooding—protect biodiversity, increase food security, and produce more nutrient-dense food and forage. Did we mention they are low-tech, low-cost in the long run, and benefit especially small farmers?

To learn more about what regenerative farming or carbon farming actually looks like, head over here.

What makes regenerative farming a climate solution?

Healthy, fertile soil—the kind that regenerative farming practices build and increase—is by nature high in organic matter, which means it’s also by definition high in carbon. Plants growing in such soil pull carbon from the atmosphere and store it in soils, roots, and above-ground plant biomass, often for long periods of time.

In other words, healthy, regeneratively managed soil can act like a sponge that draws down the carbon that we have in excess in the atmosphere. This is a natural process that occurs wherever plants do their thing and photosynthesis occurs. No flashy, high-tech, potentially dangerous solutions required!

Although technically all agricultural production involves photosynthesis and therefore sequesters some carbon, particular farming practices are known to improve the rate at which that soil can capture and store carbon. We call these practices regenerative or carbon farming practices.

I thought raising livestock and eating animal protein was really bad for the climate.

This is a complicated — and fraught — question.

  • Yes, livestock as it is currently managed within the conventional food system is a major contributor to a number of environmental problems.
  • Yes, livestock systems can contribute to desertification if they are not managed properly.
  • Yes, livestock—particularly ruminants such as cattle, sheep, and goats—is a major source of methane (a potent greenhouse gas), even the grass-fed ones.
  • Yes, we would all do well to follow Michael Pollan’s famous food rule “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Yet eating mostly plants doesn’t have to mean eating only plants (although some people choose to do that, and that’s great). It means a plant-based diet. For those who wish to, animal proteins too can have their rightful place at the table, in moderation—IF they are sourced from a responsibly managed farm system that honors the age-old reciprocal relationship between healthy pasture and healthy animals.

The problem with most discussions on the subject is that they fail to distinguish between conventional industrial agriculture and regenerative agriculture. Animals grown at CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) are a climate and animal rights disaster. The environmental and climate impact of meat, eggs and dairy products that are certified organic, humane and/or grass-fed is radically different (not to mention their impact on your health).

But the way the pasture and grazing system are managed can actually make a livestock operation not only “less bad,” but in fact climate-beneficial.

First of all, grasslands need animals to stay healthy. In particular, in many of the world’s brittle, dry regions, herbivores are crucial to regenerating degraded soils.

Planned grazing systems, where the animals are moved from pasture to pasture in a carefully monitored way, improve not only animal and pasture health, but also the soil’s ability to store carbon.

  • herbivores’ hooves break the soil cap, allowing better water infiltration and seed-to-soil contact
  • the herd effect provides a positive form of disturbance to the land
  • the animals’ manure provides important nutrients for both plants and the soil
  • grazing stimulates plant growth, which in turn means that they develop more robust root systems
  • in a planned grazing system, the pasture gets a long interval of rest, which also increases plant biomass and vigor

This regenerative potential of grazing can be further increased through practices such as applying compost to grazing lands. Adding trees to pasture, in what is called silvopasture, also substantially increases the carbon sequestration rates.

To learn more:

EWG’s A Meat-Eater’s Guide to Climate Change

Ruminants and Methane: Not the Fault of the Animals

The Role of Ruminants in Reducing Agriculture’s Carbon Footprint in North America

Climate Change, Healthy Soils, and Holistic Planned Grazing

Marin Carbon Project

Is farming the only way to sequester carbon in the soil?

No. Some of the most impressive carbon storage rates are shown in various kinds of wetland ecosystems, riparian (stream shore) areas, and forests. Therefore, nature conservation projects that focus on reforestation or wetland and riparian restoration are some of the most promising initiatives to support. At the same time, in regenerative farming systems, wetland or riparian or forest areas could also become productive areas.

Media Library


Soil Solutions, narrated by Michael Pollan

Allan Savory TED Talk

Soil Carbon Cowboys

Graeme Sait: Humus — the essential ingredient

The Soil Story by Kiss the Ground

The Regenerators: A Better Way to Farm