How to: Buy Clean Jeans

Armed Angels Nudie Jeans Patagonia

By Valerie Hutterer | News
Posted Oct 13, 2016

Jeans are one of the most worn garments in the world. On average, each American has at least five pairs of jeans in their closet – that’s more than 1.6 billion jeans in the United States alone. However, not many people know how devastating the environmental and social impacts of one pair of conventional jeans are. It can take up to 11,000 litres of water for the cultivation of cotton and the washing/colouring alone. Of the global denim market, worth an estimated $60 billion to retailers, only one in a hundred jeans is ecologically and ethically produced.

Seals of approval

When buying jeans you should look out for the following seals of approval:

GOTS-Global Organic Textile Standards: the worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres, including ecological and social criteria, backed up by independent certification of the entire textile supply chain
Fairtrade Certified Cotton: clothes from made from Fairtrade cotton ensure typically low paid cotton farmers are receiving a fair and stable price for their crops
Fair Wear Foundation: works with brands, factories, trade unions, NGOs and sometimes governments to verify and improve workplace conditions where clothing is made.

Country of Origin (COO) – where it’s made 

“Made in Europe” or “Made in the US” does not always mean the jeans were produced ethically. Recent news reports have shown that garment workers in Turkey and Eastern Europe are being exploited, and it’s also an issue in America.

So which jeans to buy?

The Austrian Chamber of Labour tested 13 sustainable denim brands based on 40 questions in ecological standards, social standards and innovations/specials. Their top four sustainable jeans brands are:

  • Armed Angels: This German brand’s mission is to combine fair working conditions and sustainable, high quality materials with beautiful design. Received the highest rating: 24.82/25 for ecological standards, 17.8/25 for social standards, 1/5 innovations/specials.
  • Nudie Jeans Co.: The Swedish brand using 100% organic cotton denim, social responsibility and transparent production, Received 15.55/25 for ecological standards, 24/25 for social standards, 3/5 innovations/specials.
  • Sey: Premium German organic denim brand. Received 25/25 for ecological standards, 11/25 for social standards, 3/5 innovations/specials.
  • Patagonia: The notoriously ‘passionate for the environment’ outdoor brand also has jeans. Received 12/25 for ecological standards, 21/25 for social standards, 3/5 innovations/specials.

Extra tips for buying #cleanjeans:
• Dark blue, untreated jeans are ecologically more sustainable
• Seek out the seals of approval mentioned above
• Real sustainable consumption is less consumption. Buy well and make them last. Consider repairing your jeans instead of throwing them away; you can get tips from YouTube-Videos or go to a “Repair-Café” near you.

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