How are jeans made? Their impacts on the environment.

“How are jeans made?” might be a question that you have already raised to yourself without really looking for an answer. You will be surprised to learn that the very own first usage of denim has been completely changed as well as its production process. Those new methods and habits have a terrible impact on the environment and it would even make sense to talk about jeans pollution. Read our article to understand why and to find solutions.

How are jeans made?

The answer to “how are jeans made?” will sound ironic. Traditionally, denim was used to make sails so it was strong and resistant. Nowadays, we stone wash them and destroy the denim to give our favorite jeans a worn look. Can you see the contradiction ladies? Let’s go through the step one by one so we can later consider all the possible jeans environmental impacts.

How are jeans made: the material production

A real blue jeans’ yarn is made out of 100% cotton or 98% cotton and 2% elastane). The yarn is then died with either a natural or a synthesis indigo dye. The last materials are steel for the zips and buttons, as well as plastic or leather for the brand labels. Can you already start picturing where the jeans pollution could happen?

How are jeans made: the manufacturing process

The cotton is woven, dyed and dried. Then the garment is sewn, pre washed and stone washed with detergents or other mechanical techniques.

Jeans environmental impact 

Using 1 pair of jeans each year results in the production of 32,5 kg of CO2 minimum so Attitude Organic think that the term jeans pollution is applicable. Let’s see how we reach such a high figure.

Jeans pollution during the cotton production

Have you ever heard anyone asking: “how much water does it take to make jeans?”. Well 25 000 liters per Kilograms. At Attitude Organic, we were astonished when we read this figure… Irrigating that much cotton modifies the courses of the rivers and makes the soils salty. It also requires to spread a lot of pesticides that kill many organisms.

Jeans pollution during the dying process

Whether the producers use natural or indigo dyes, the process consumes a lot of water and chemicals. Besides, before the dying, the cotton yarn is washed and bleached several times with detergents that pollute the water. Once dyed, the denim is rinsed and the same pollution is noticeable. The following spinning / weaving  process uses a lot of energy too.

Jeans pollution during the garment production

The worst step for the environment in the jeans production is the finishing. The brands destroy the denim by bleaching them or stone washing them in order to obtain the worn look that we all love lately. The first issue is that chemicals are used and pollute the water. Then, the garment is not long lasting, which means that you will buy unnecessary pairs in your lifetime. Finally, the mechanical stone or sand wash, which consist of putting the pants and stones in a huge washing machine represents a huge carbon footprint as the stones need to be mined and shipped. Besides, as the jeans need to be washed a few times to look proper, it consumes a lot of water. (Up to 45 litres, crazy, right?)

Finally, the problem with jeans production is related to the zips and buttons that make it difficult to recycle.

Ethical issues related to jeans

How are jeans made? Unethically! On one hand, most of the labels are in leather, which is not vegan. Let’s remind here that the leather industry is very cruel.

On the other hand, the working conditions of the people sewing your daily basics are awful. As an example, distressing denim rejects small particles in the air that are then breathed by the workers.

How to go for sustainable jeans?

Before the fashion industry decides to take any action, there are a few options you could explore to find more sustainable jeans. First, you need to pay attention to the materials. Get your jeans in organic or recycled cotton, in tencel denim…

Then you should wash them less often to limit your water consumption. Indeed denim is a material that does not absorb the smells and the sweat so easily so there is logically no need to wash your denim trousers each time you wear them.

Also, instead of buying brand new old looking jeans, you should have a look in secondhand shops or in your mum’s closet. Levi’s old school jeans have been worn for years so try to choose an already worn model to avoid the jeans pollution related to the manufacturing and shipping steps.

Finally, look for sustainable jeans brands.

Check out Iden Denim, sustainable jeans

Iden denim is our favourite sustainable jeans brand. It is on point, we are big fan of all their designs and especially of their jeans. They are also affordable, which is a great point. But the reason we fell for them is that most of their jeans are eco-friendly and ethically produced.

Environmentally friendly jeans

Iden Denim are made of the newest fabric such as organic cotton, recycled cotton yarns and recycled polyester. 50% of their jeans are in organic cotton, the labels are made in recycled leather and the buttons are Bluesign approved.

They are also made to last as they are resistant and that the designs are staples.

Finally, the denim that is not organic, is produced respecting the Better Cotton Initiative.

Ethically produced jeans

The sustainable jeans are produced ethically in Turkey in a factory that provides good working conditions.

We hope that you learnt a lot reading this article, that you can answer to the question: “how are jeans made” and that you will ask yourself the good question when you wish to buy your next jeans. If you look for more eco-friendly brands, you can refer to our sustainable fashion page

Let’s be trendy and sustainable together,


Attitude Organic