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by Bela Shehu on November 11, 2020

In an industry defined by waste, here is the true price of denim.

One day you’re pouring those beautiful gams into the snuggest of skinny jeans. The next thing you know, ankles are being released from their denim shackles to go cave diving in sky high-rise bell bottoms. It’s time to hit the stores.

Trends change and we shop accordingly. Sometimes, garments fall apart and we head out to restock our closets. 

It all seems so innocent. You simply want/need a new pair of jeans. Maybe two. It’s a buy more, save more world — might as well stock up. 

Sadly, each of these quick, impulsive buys take a bite out of the earth in ways we don’t see in the moment, but will most definitely feel in the long-run (notice those icebergs melting more quickly these days?). 

Our point? The number on that denim price tag is but mere a fraction of the total cost to our planet.

Unlike jeans, which many of us have in spades, we only get the one earth. And although that makes us sound like the hippy science teacher that most definitely takes a few hits of the doobie at lunch, it’s more than a concept, it’s a tangible, measurable fact.

In a recent article by The Fashion Robot, the author presents chilling statistics on the amount and cost of the waste made by manufacturing a pair of jeans

“To grow a single pound of cotton, it takes around 2,000 gallons of water.  That's enough cotton to maybe make a single pair of jeans. At a rate of 8 glasses of 8 fluid ounces per day, it would take you 10 years to drink 2,000 gallons of water!” 

The single step of turning a denim textile into a garment alone — cutting fabric into curved shapes for construction, tossing out pieces that don’t line up perfectly — wastes $337.5 million a year.  

From growing and ginning cotton to shipping and quality control, each step of the denim supply chain lays waste to millions of dollars, natural fibers and literal tons of water. Not to mention the 10.5 million tons of clothing (total, not just denim) — from scraps of fabric to end-of-season shredding of unsold items (that’s right, thrown out, not donated or repurposed) — that end up in landfills every single year.

So what do we do, stop buying jeans and other cotton-based garments entirely? Not at all. As more brands have started to see the light, they’ve begun to produce more options for us to shop mindfully and sustainably. It’s on us to seek those options out.

Take AGI Denim. Using new fabric technologies, the brand has developed methods to save water, create less harmfully impactful fibers, such as hemp and organic cotton, work with un-dyed, naturally colored denim, and invent new fabric blends (with fibers like tencel) that perform better and hold up longer.

Meanwhile, Cotton Incorporated’s CottonWorks program now offers a 3D design accessibility to it’s Fabricast library, where designers and developers can collaboratively explore and innovate on the company’s product developments in cotton and cotton-rich fibers. 

It’s not about saying no to jeans (we could never), it’s about saying yes to fewer, but better pairs that stand the test of time and trends.


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