As a college student in the 1980’s, I remember when Earth Day was all about recycling beer tabs, turning off water while brushing your teeth, and rolling down the car windows instead of using A/C. No one ever told me that the 10 pairs of jeans I bought cost 29,000 gallons of water to produce.
I didn’t believe it at first, but numbers were pretty consistent across various sources, including the Environmental Protection Agency, noting that ~1,800 of those gallons were for growing the cotton needed to make a single pair of jeans. It breaks my heart when I think of how many jeans I donated (80% of which still end up in a landfill) or tossed as my weight changed and trends evolved throughout the years.
So, what’s a Bell-Bottomed Material Girl to do? Here are three easy ways to turn your blue jeans to green jeans:
Turn Denim Into Insulation
The Blue Jeans Go Green program is an incredibly proactive initiative by the cotton growers themselves. They recycle used denim into home insulation for communities in need– think Habitat For Humanity. Mail in your old denim (jeans, jackets, shorts, etc) or drop it off at your local Madewell store. This program has already saved over 1,000,000 garments from landing in fills.
Buy Eco-Friendly Jeans
They exist, but they can be time-consuming to track down. So, I put together an Eco-Friendly Jeans lookbook with links to jeans made out of either recycled denim or sustainable materials like bamboo. The lower the footprint made in production, the better in the long run. You may freak out at the price tag. Keep in mind that jeans are resource expensive and a premium is necessary for responsible manufacturing. Plus, the more you wear them, the less they cost per wear. NOTE: Read the care instructions. Some will say “made with organic cotton,” which definitely saves our water and soil from harmful chemicals. HOWEVER, they then require you to to dry clean them! This obviously defeats the purpose and adds tremendously to your cost-per-wear. If it gives an option to hand wash, you’re good to go.
Stop Washing Them
Yes, this sounds disgusting. But denim is made to get dirty, according to Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh who went a FULL YEAR without washing his jeans for the Dirty Jeans Manifesto. We waste water and energy on fabrics that work better when not exposed to regular washings. Reviewed.com’s contributor Josh Fields gives us four eco-friendly ways to properly care for your jeans.
Over-40 fashion, IMHO, includes being conscious of where our clothes come from, how we use them, and where they go next. And not just on Earth Day. Let’s build a collective conscience for Mother Earth’s timeless style!
Post will be featured in April 2016 issue of SheSpark magazine.