The Ethical Dilemma of Denim
Jeans; we all own them. In fact, the average American owns seven pairs and buys four additional pairs annually. But how much do we actually know about them? If you are an ecomom, you will want to know this:
It takes 3,781 liters of water to make a pair of jeans, from the production of the cotton to the delivery of the final product to the store.United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
In addition to this staggering statistic, there are the following alarming facts to consider:
- Cotton may only take up 2.5% of agricultural land, yet it accounts for 16% of all the insecticides and 6.8% of all herbicides used worldwide.
- Harmful carcinogenic chemical dyes are often used extensively in denim’s dyeing process.
- A popular distressing technique called “sandblasting,” involves workers literally blasting the jeans with sand to soften the fabric and wear them down. This poses significant health risks as the fine dust particles can lodge themselves in people’s lungs.
- The US Department of Labor reported in 2016 that child labour or forced labour exists in the cotton production process in 18 countries, including several of the top six producer nations (China, India, Pakistan, Brazil).
Secondhand as an Alternative
Personally, I buy at least 75% of my denim secondhand in thrift shops or at online consignment websites such as Thredup.com and Swap.com. That way I know that I am not contributing to these problems anymore than what already exists. But I am also so glad to see all the ethical clothing brands step up and offer us better alternatives when shopping for new denim.
While these more sustainable options tend to cost quite a bit more, they are also typically of better quality and will last through several years of wash and wear. For those on a budget, however, here are five brands that sell sustainable jeans for under $100.
This company sells a wide variety of clothing in a wide variety of sizes and styles. They even have a small selection of wedding dresses. What makes them so sustainable is that they choose their fabrics carefully in search of the options that will require the least amount of processing.
There is a lot for eco moms to like about Warp & Weft. First and foremost, they are a well-established family-run business. In their eco-friendly mill, they are able to produce a pair of jeans with only ten gallons of water. Furthermore, they recycle 98% of the little water they do use.
This ethical company also skips the environmentally-harmful bleaching process and opts for a cutting-edge Dry Ozone technology instead. On top of all that, they treat their workers right. They offer men and children’s jeans for sale as well.
My only concern is the new antimicrobial treatment called Viroblock that they are adding to their fabrics in light of COVID-19. I’m not sure how important it is for our jeans to have a germ barrier and I am leery of experimentation. My research leads to claims that this barrier is bio-based and sustainable, so I am hoping that is actually the case.
Other than that, this company seems to be one of the most affordable options for sustainable clothing out there, with almost all of their jean options under $100 and good sales. In fact, their kids jeans prices seem no higher than conventional retail. Use the code WELCOME15 and get 15% off your first order!
Levi’s is an old company with a lot of fresh ideas. One of the sustainable innovations they’ve made in recent years is the addition of their Secondhand collection. With this, they are collecting and recycling old Levi’s that have plenty of wear left in them.
This amazing company also allows you to filter by all of their other eco-friendly jean options when shopping. These filters include things like as WaterLess (less water used in the making), Cottonized Hemp and Recycled (cotton, polyester).
Use the promo code EPIC30 for 30% off your order of $100+!
Everlane cares about climate change and it shows. To date, this company has replaced 75% of virgin plastic use with recycled plastics from bottles, etc. By sometime next year, they expect that number to be at 100%.
In addition, this progressive company has the admirable goal of relying solely on certified organic cotton by 2023. Speaking of the materials they use, Everlane places great importance on sourcing from humane Alpaca farms. They also honor numerous toxin-free and sustainable materials certifications.
Subscribe to their email list and receive 10% off your first order.
This ethical company has all of their sustainable bases covered. In regards to packaging, they have drastically reduced plastic and focus their shipping, etc on recycled and recyclable materials. Through a tree-planting program, they are also aiming to become carbon neutral.
Furthermore, this company partners with EcoChit to obtain their receipt paper from sustainably managed forests. Frank & Oak focuses on minimal waste with their product tags, store furnishings, and everything they do.
On top of all of this, they will take your gently used clothing, refurbish them and donate them to those in need. And I just found out they have a subscription box, so guess who’s signing up?
These are the kinds of companies we need to be supporting. You will be seeing more information about ethical brands in the future. This is where we can really use our dollars to support the kinds of changes that will preserve our planet.
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