Traditionally, the fashion industry ranks third among major industries contributing to pollution, and is second in water use. Making one pair of stonewashed jeans requires 500 gallons of water. On top of this, cotton is being used as one of its major raw materials, and cotton production relies on lots of pesticides that pollute our soil, water and planet.
The fact is that up to 2,000 different harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, chlorine, lead and mercury are used to produce textiles. Most of the chemicals are used for the dyeing process. Take denim for example. Most of us own at least one pair of denims and use them all the time. Most denim jeans are produced in China, and today the waterways around the factories in China are blue — not natural “water blue” but the blue of all the harmful denim dyes and chemicals.
Check out this short video called Because Denim Is a Filthy Business.
The good news is that the fashion industry is beginning to answer the demand for more sustainable fashion, so today more denim jeans producers rely on recycled materials like plastic or even old denim to make new jeans. Some manufacturers are committed to finding new ways to produce their garments with less water and less impact on the planet.
Although there are more eco-friendlier denim jeans brands than ever, the truth is that if you want to be truly sustainable, buying used jeans is the best option. I have found great deals on used jeans at Thredup.com. But if you want used jeans and can’t find them, here are some of the most ethical and eco-friendly denim jeans brands.
San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co. has been a transcendent leader and is an icon. It’s great to see that this successful company is still trying to break the boundaries. Today their trademarked Water<Less innovations has saved more than 1.8 billion liters of water and recycled more than 129 million liters. Furthermore, they also have the Waste<Less™ collection of products made of 20 percent post-consumer waste — specifically, recycled plastic bottles. That works out to an average of three to eight plastic bottles per pair. Since 2013, this initiative has used 11.9 million recycled bottles for jeans products such as Levi’s® 511™ Skinny jeans, Levi’s® Trucker jackets and the women’s Levi’s® Boyfriend Skinny jeans.
This denim jeans brand uses organic and recycled cotton, and also includes Better Cotton in its material mix. They are also using innovative dyeing and finishing processes that include ozone bleaching, laser treatments, and natural tanning of leather, which have a reduced social and environmental impact.
This denim jeans brand is produced in the USA. They work on developing new ways of making denim, replacing toxic chemicals with an all-natural material that cuts the number of chemicals in a pair of blue jeans in half, and uses 60% less water and 40% less energy than ordinary denim production. They are also trying to close to loop on old denim jeans ending up in landfills by offering to take back all denim (even denim that’s theirs) to be recycled into building insulation or rugs.
This denim brand manufactures jeans with 100% organic cotton and recycled cotton as well as recycled polyester and hemp, as they try to rely on sustainable materials only. The jeans are washed with sustainable ozone and laser techniques that save lots of water and reduce the use of chemicals.