Making Better Choices in Denim

Despite being a very popular fabric in fashion, because of its durability and comfort, denim is rather damaging to the planet. Being cotton based, lots of water is required to produce the raw material to make the fabric, approximately 1500 gallons per pair of jeans. Alongside this, pesticides are often used to help protect the crop and prevent wastage, which leads to biodiversity loss. The iconic blue denim then requires chemical dyes, which often get into local water sources. Once the denim is dyed, it may then be sand blasted or acid washed, which poses numerous risks to workers health, as it exposes them to chemicals and airborne particles. The finished product will then be shipped around the world and packaged, most likely in plastic, contributing to CO2 emissions and plastic pollution. Finally, the denim item will be thrown into landfill, where it will most likely not biodegrade, because the cotton has been mixed with other plastic based fabrics to make it stretchy and soft.

Photo by Mica Asato on

Naturally then, when I found a hole in my only pair of jeans, which I have been wearing for 2-3 years, I was upset, and confused about what I should do next. I wanted to continue wearing denim jeans, however, I didn’t want to be contributing to the destruction of the environment that denim can cause. So, I took myself through a couple of questions, and by doing this I have found myself a more eco-friendly denim option.

  • Can I repair the Jeans? Unfortunately, this pair of Jeans was beyond repair. The actual hole was in the crotch area, and patching or stitching here would just draw unwanted attention there. The surrounding denim was also starting to wear rather thin, so even if I did mend the hole I could have expected more to follow.
  • Do I need another pair of Jeans? For me this was a definite YES. I wear my jeans most of the time, they make for the perfect casual outfit, and I honestly don’t know what I would wear if I didn’t have any, I’m not one for skirts or dresses.
  • Can I buy a pair second hand? Buying second hand would reduce the environmental impact of the jeans, as they ave already been produced, so by giving them extra life I am then saving another new pair being made and impacting the planet. However, I started looking in the charity shops and I could not find a suitable pair, most of the already looked quite thin and I questioned how long I would be able to wear them for.
  • Can I buy a pair that have been produced better? Que hours of internet searching for denim made from organic cottons, in factories run on renewable energies etc.
  • Is there anything I can do to protect the Jeans I do buy? Due to the location of the hole in my jeans, I have opted to move away from skinny jeans in the hope that this will make them last longer as there will be less wear there. For others, who may find they get holes or fraying at the bottom of their jeans, they could opt to buy a pair in which you choose leg length, so they are never too long and dragging on the floor, and for those who get holes over the knees , you could practice your balance so you don’t fall over quite so much.

After all these questions, and a lot of searching, I have managed to find myself a more eco-friendly denim jean. I opted for a pair from G-Star Raw’s sustainable collection. They use organic cotton, so there are no chemical pesticides used, which protects biodiversity. Their indigo dye has 70% less chemicals than normal, and once dyed the jeans are air dried to save energy. The labels for washing information and branding are made from recycled materials, and when you order them online they are delivered in a cardboard box with no plastic. Overall, I am really impressed with them. They ticked all the eco-friendly boxes, they were a reasonable price (£50), which many of the other sustainable denim brands were not. They are comfortable, and because they are from a big fashion brand they are doing the on-trend styles, not only the classics, so I have ended up with a pair that I really like the look of. I can’t fault them really. What I hope for now, is that other brands take on this same style of denim production, so we can have jeans without having to feel the guilt of knowing what damage they have caused the planet.

My new jeans when they arrived.

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