7 brands that make sustainable jeans using eco-friendly materials and production methods
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- On average, it takes 1,500 liters (about 396 gallons) of water to produce a single pair of jeans.
- Along with the massive amount of pesticides used to grow cotton and the energy consumption in factories, jeans are one of the least eco-friendly clothing items to produce.
- As consumers become more concerned with how the products they buy affect the environment, brands are continually finding new ways to make jeans more sustainably.
- Below you'll find seven brands using eco-friendly materials like organic cotton and sustainable production methods that use less water, energy, and toxic chemicals. You'll find familiar faces like Levi's along with relative newcomers like Warp + Weft.
The way I see it, jeans are the cornerstone of any wardrobe worth having. People of all ages, styles, professions, and income levels wear them, but as common as the popular pant style is, they're actually rather harmful to the environment.
From the pesticides and insecticides used to grow cotton to the massive amounts of water, energy, and chemicals used to process the materials and turn them into denim, jeans rank as one of the least eco-friendly clothing items to make. According to Everlane, it takes about 1,500 liters (that's roughly 396 gallons) of water to produce a single pair of jeans.
Realistically, those stats aren't going to prevent anyone from buying jeans. But as responsible consumers, we can do our part by shopping brands that value sustainability in their production methods. So, to point you in the right direction, we rounded up seven brands that are making jeans more sustainably by implementing less wasteful manufacturing techniques and more effective recycling programs.
From startups like Frank And Oak and Outerknown to legacy brands like Levi's, you won't have a problem finding denim with high-impact style and low-impact everything else.
7 brands making sustainable denim:
Learn more about Everlane denim and shop for men and women here.
Everlane has always been about transparency. In addition to prioritizing ethical labor practices, it has made sustainability a major tenet of it its production process.
You'll find apparel made from recycled plastic in the ReNew Collection along with what the brand calls the "world's lowest-impact sneakers" from its shoe line, Tread. But jeans are another area Everlane has made huge strides in as far as sustainability goes.
The jeans are made in Saitex, the world's cleanest denim factory. The facility recycles 98% of its water and uses clean energy. After the water is recycled, Everlane's jeans use 0.4 liters of water compared to the whopping 1,500 liters of water per pair when using traditional production methods.
Outerknown S.E.A. Jeans
Shop Outerknown S.E.A. Jeans here.
Founded by professional surfer Kelly Slater, Outerknown is self-described as "For the people and the planet." The brand makes every decision with the highest regard for people that manufacture their products and planet on which they're produced.
Outerknown's S.E.A. Jeans are made with 100% organic cotton and are also produced in Saitex's clean factories. Despite putting a lot of focus on being eco-friendly, Outerknown didn't cut any corners in terms of quality — and the brand fully stands behind its products with a lifetime guarantee.
If your S.E.A. Jeans ever wear or break, you can send them back and Outerknown will repair or replace them for free.
Read our reviews on the Outerknown S.E.A. Jeans here.
Warp + Weft
Shop Warp + Weft jeans here.
Founded by Sarah Ahmed, Warp + Weft has made an impact on the apparel industry with its ultra-inclusive range of sizes and inseams, but it's also touted as the world's cleanest vertically integrated denim company (meaning it owns its own factory).
Since the brand's launch in 2017, they've sold more than 477,000 pairs of jeans and saved more than 572.4 million gallons of water.
To be completely transparent about its manufacturing process, Warp + Weft gives a look inside its factory, highlighting elements like responsibly sourced cotton, eco-friendly dye, water-saving techniques, and solar power.
Read more: Warp + Weft makes women's jeans in sizes 00-24 for under $100
Shop all jeans at Levi's here.
In 2010, Levi's launched the Better Cotton Initiative, which trains farmers to use less water, pesticides, insecticides, and synthetic fertilizers when growing cotton plants. Currently, more than 20% of the cotton Levi's uses — not just for its denim, but for its apparel as well — is qualified as Better Cotton, and they're rapidly growing that percentage. By 2020, the brand hopes to use cotton from sustainable sources in 100% of its products.
In terms of manufacturing, Levi's Water < Less techniques have done a lot to benefit the environment. So far, Levi's has saved more than 3 billion liters of water and recycled more than 2 billion liters of water. To date, more than 67% of Levi's products are made with Water < Less techniques and by 2020, the goal is to increase that to 80%.
The brand also recently teamed up with Cotton's Blue Jeans Go Green program to save old denim from landfills by turning it into insulation for homes and buildings.
Taylor Stitch Organic '68 Denim
Shop Taylor Stitch Organic '68 Denim here.
When Taylor Stitch first started producing its signature '68 Denim in 2011, the brand teamed up with Cone Mills in Greensboro, North Carolina. By relying on the legendary cotton textile company, Taylor Stitch was guaranteed the highest quality American-made selvedge denim for its jeans — but when Cone Mills closed doors to its last White Oak plant and the existing supply finally ran out, Taylor Stitch went back to the drawing board with the goal to reproduce the jeans to be more sustainable and better than before.
After spending more than a year looking for the right materials and manufacturer, Taylor Stitch collaborated with ISKO mill, the world's largest producer of denim in the world, and re-released the '68 Denim — this time using 100% organic cotton (no pesticides) and sustainable production methods that use far less water, energy, and chemicals.
If you love traditional selvedge denim (like myself), the Taylor Stitch Organic '68 Denim will give you the same exact look and feel you're after — and you won't feel bad about wearing them.
Read more: Taylor Stitch recreated its popular $148 Selvedge jeans using 100% organic cotton and sustainable production methods
Frank And Oak
Shop Frank And Oak denim here.
In 2012, childhood friends Ethan Song and Hicham Ratnani founded Frank And Oak with the simple goal of helping men dress better with affordably priced clothing. After far exceeding its initial goal, the brand launched a women's line and set out to actively reduce its carbon footprint — and denim is one of its main areas of focus.
By teaming up with Hydro-Less Laundry, an eco-certified factory in Dubai, Frank And Oak's denim production uses 79% less energy, 50% fewer chemicals, and 95% less water than traditional manufacturing techniques. While its conservation efforts are comparable to other brands making sustainable jeans, Frank And Oak stands out with its affordable price.
Regardless of what fit or wash you choose, you can get a pair of Frank And Oak jeans for $89.50 or less.
Read more: We reviewed Frank And Oak's high-quality sustainable jeans for men and women
J.Crew and Madewell
Shop jeans on J.Crew here.
Shop jeans on Madewell here.
Back in February, J.Crew (and its sister brand Madewell) teamed up with Fair Trade USA, a non-profit organization that helps brands create better working conditions for employees and implement environmentally friendly manufacturing processes.
In doing so, both J.Crew and Madewell launched their first Fair Trade Certified denim collections. Also made in Saitex factories, the jeans use 75% less water, 65% fewer chemicals, and less energy.
Beyond the sustainability benefits, J.Crew and Madewell's jeans provide Saitex factory workers with benefits, equal pay for women, and additional donations to support infrastructure in their local communities in Vietnam.
And if you've got old jeans that you no longer want or need, you can donate them to J.Crew and they'll work with nonprofits that turn them into housing insulation that can be used by organizations like Habitat for Humanity.
Read more: J.Crew and Madewell's Fair Trade Certified Denim is good for employees and the environment — here's how
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