Table of Contents
Cotton Cultivation: Water Footprint and Soil Erosion
Dyeing: Water Pollution from Dyes and Chemicals
Top left: Denim factory worker, bottom: Greenpeace staff taking samples of wastewater discharge from a jeans factory (Xintang, China) Photo: Lu Guang, Greenpeace
Finishing: Worker Health Problems
“If people knew that the spraying of permanganate on your jeans to give you that acid-wash look was killing the guy doing the spraying, would you still want that look?” designer François Girbaud asks in River Blue, a documentary that airs out the dirty laundry of the denim industry. “I don’t think the customer is aware of what is happening abroad. We have to change the process of making jeans and brands have to be willing to invest because we are destroying the planet.”
User Phase: Freshwater and Marine Toxicity
Sustainability in the Denim Industry
- Wash less. You can hang your jeans out in the sun and air to freshen them up in between wearings.
- Line dry instead of tumble drying. The heat and air agitation during tumble drying cause microscopic damage to the fabric, wearing out your clothes faster or even shrinking them.
- Repair and alter jeans if needed. If you can’t sew or don’t have the time, take them to a professional. Your local tailor will appreciate the extra business, too.
- Shop less, but buy better. Choose raw or untreated jeans, which don’t have chemicals or dyes. Checking labels when you buy also gives you an idea of how it’s made. Most eco-friendly and sustainable jeans will have certifications that state the type of cotton or dyes used.
- Beware of greenwashing. If you really care about the impact of your choices, you can even go beyond checking labels and do some research on the ethics and policies of a brand.
- Support companies that invest in sustainable practices. Stylish and ethical at the same time? Yes, please! We’re sharing with you some of the best sustainable jeans you can find online.