Everyone has a favorite pair of jeans. Many of us have several favorite pairs. We have boyfriend jeans, skinny jeans, high-waisted jeans, distressed jeans, bootcut jeans, flare jeans, and, of course, the classic 501’s. Jeans are durable and feel like they last forever. Their longevity would seemingly put them in the category of sustainable clothing, but the environmental cost of a pair of jeans is staggering.
One pair of jeans
The classic blue jeans that we know and love come at a tremendous cost to the environment. The dye used to give the jeans that blue-jean-blue look requires a toxic concoction of chemicals, not to mention hundreds of gallons of water. Wastewater produced by the textile industry damages rivers, ecosystems, and communities resulting in a public health crisis.
One of the most significant fashion trends is the worst for our environment. Distressed jeans require a series of chemical washes to give them that “Oh, these! I’ve had these forever” look. The chemicals contain heavy metals that end up in the water supply and pose a severe health risk. The danger isn’t just to local communities. Chemicals travel and will find their way into our North American oceans, water supply, atmosphere, and food chain.
With a little innovation and willingness to change the process of making jeans, there should be no reason you can’t have your distressed jeans without the high cost to the planet. New technology, like lasers, are making it possible to reduce the use of water significantly and eliminate the toxic ways that we produce a pair of jeans. Many brands are also improving their dyeing practices to minimize the amount of dye that washes out into rivers and oceans.
When you shop for a pair of jeans, consider the cost. Choose brands and companies that recognize the environmental cost of a pair of jeans and have taken steps to change their production practices. Low-cost clothing, although tempting, are usually the worst culprits.
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