Eco-Friendly Jeans and Denim

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Millennials are more interested in ethically produced clothing than previous generations, that’s being proven in the rise of ethical fashion lines. Eco-consious clothing can come in many versions from how it’s designed to how it’s produced. Production is the most energy-intensive part of clothing, and denim in particular is quite challenging. Tons of water is used to make a single pair of jeans and that water run off, if poorly dealt with, can poison local water systems.

One company, Everlane, has created a supply chain that is eco from top to bottom. We should be seeing more companies following their lead in the coming years.

Saitex’s president, Saanjeev Bahl, who also sits on the board of directors for the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, has been a vocal force for change. Unhappy with the apparel industry’s practices—it’s second only to oil as the planet’s worst industrial polluter—Bahl built a LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) operation considered one of the world’s most sustainable denim-manufacturing facilities, thanks to incredible efficiencies. A closed water system and jet washing machines lose only .4 liters of water per pair of jeans through evaporation; typical commercial machines waste as much as 1,500 liters per pair. Rainwater harvesting further minimizes water usage, while a five-step filtration process separates water from contaminants. (Preysman and Bahl made a video of themselves drinking the filtered waste water to prove it.)

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New Ways to Style Denim

Sandblasting jeans seems to be the cool thing to do nowadays. I’m not big on fashion so this is all strange to me. Well, as you can probably imagine sandblasting denim is not good for the environment so some smart people have figured out a better way to blast your jeans.

Blue denim jeans are one of the most popular and iconic fashion items in the world; now a study published in Biotechnology Journal reveals a cheaper, more efficient and eco-friendly method for treating dyed denim. The process of ‘surface activation’ used to wash-down the denim following dyeing could also offer an alternative to the dangerous, and internationally banned, sandblasting technique.

“The global production of denim is estimated at 3 billion linear meters and more than 4 billion garments per year,” said Thomas Bechtold, from the Research Institute for Textile Chemistry and Textile Physics at the University of Innsbruck. “To create blue jeans denim is dyed with indigo an organic compound which is estimated to be produced in quantities of over 30.000 tons per year.”

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I still don’t get why we need sand in our jeans.

Old Jeans, New Insulation

Good news everybody! Your old pants could be worth more than you thought!

Students at University of Memphis have been collecting used denim for insulation in housing for Habitat for Humanity. So hang on to your old clothes so you can make somebody else’s house a little warmer.

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“It’s a project called ‘Cotton: From Blue to Green,’” explained Angie Dunlap, advisor for the student group. “The denim actually gets recycled into insulation that’s donated for housing for rebuilding communities.”

Many of those communities were hit by Hurricane Katrina, and many of the homes will be built by Habitat for Humanity, explained Brad Robb, vice president of communications for the Cotton Board.

“[The recycled cotton] is environmentally friendly,” said Robb, whose organization works with the program. “Not only is it just as good as regular insulation, you don’t have to use gloves. It’s not itchy, so that’s a plus.”

He said recycled cotton adds up to a lot of insulation.

“[It takes] roughly about 500 average size jeans for an average size house, around 1600 feet,” Robb explained.

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