How Green Are Your Jeans?

Jeans are an absolute staple in everyone’s wardrobe. Be they white, black or blue, one simply can’t exist without a trusty pair of jeans.

But if you knew that it takes 3781 litres of water to make one pair of jeans and that the blue dyes are toxic to the environment and to the workers, would you be keen to buy another pair so quickly?

Despite the popularity of jeans, they are destructive to the environment. Not only due to excessive use of water and chemicals, but also the use of metal rivets, buttons and zips makes them difficult to recycle. With a pair of jeans on average only lasting about a year, this produces a lot of environmental waste throughout the short lifespan of jeans

How the blue jeans came about

Jeans or denim – although seen as American - are European in origin. The core material of jeans is a sturdy Italian-made cotton twill fabric, which was used in the 18th century to make trousers for sailors and was sold via the harbour of Genoa.

The fabric was later replicated in Nîmes, France, and was called ‘bleu de Gênes”, (blue of Genoa), which in (phonetic) English became the blue jeans.

But this cotton twill blue jeans fabric only became history when a German immigrant to the US, called Levi Strauss, brought it with him to the new world in1853 at the height of the Californian Goldrush, which brough about 300,000 gold-diggers to the West Coast.

Jacob Davis, a Nevada based tailor, was wrecking his brains how to create flexible and durable work trousers for the goldminers and cowboys, as their clothing kept tearing. He turned to Levi Strauss to use his canvas like, blue jeans, fabric to make trousers and came up with the idea of using metal rivets to reinforce the pocket corners and the base of the button fly. These riveted ‘jeans’ were an instant hit and Davis and Strauss immediately patented it.

For a long time, jeans were seen as (rough) work trousers only. But fast forward to today, and jeans are THE most worn garment in the world. But can the sustainability of jeans be improved?

What does the largest producer of jeans in the world do about water and waste?

The original pioneer and largest jeans producer in the world, Levi’s, has made some steps towards sustainable jean-making. The company launched their “Water<Less” process in 2011 and claim to since have conserved more than three billion litres of water in their manufacturing process, and 30 million litres of water through reuse and recycling.

In 2015, Levi’s launched Wellthread, which serves as a laboratory for sustainable design innovation. Wellthread has generated a series of new, sustainable, materials, such as ‘cottonised hemp’ and, recently, a Levi’s Wellthread jeans made with 40% Circulose – a mix of recycled denim and sustainably-sourced viscose.

Levi’s, like many other brands, has also entered the resale market with its Authorised Vintage collection and repair service, encouraging circularity.

Jeans are far from ‘green’, yet, and therefore today, the most sustainable thing to do is to buy a good pair of green-ish blue jeans and wear them as long as possible and, if needed, repair them. This is a great way of doing your part to preserve water, an increasingly scarce resource, and reduce waste #everylittlehelps.

Recommended Links:

The best eco-friendly jeans | British GQ

Environmental impacts of denim - ScienceDirect

What's different about Levi's | Retail Dive

15 Ways to Reuse, Repurpose and Reimagine your Jeans - Levi Strauss & Co : Levi Strauss & Co

How did Jeans become so popular when nobody was wearing them before? | by Renoon | Re-Think by Renoon | Medium