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3 Ways Your Jeans Impact Oceans & Rivers

5 min read

3 Ways Your Jeans Impact Oceans & Rivers

There’s no escaping the fact that every piece of sustainable clothing comes with an environmental cost. There’s the cultivation and sourcing of raw materials, fabric production, clothing fabrication, and then the logistics required to have eco-friendly clothing delivered – all of which inflict certain eco consequences on the planet. And the impacts don’t stop there, with a garment affecting the environment long after it is purchased and worn for the first time.  

Sustainable jeans and their eco-friendly denim are no different in this regard, with pieces impacting oceans and rivers throughout their lifetime. Knowing what these impacts are can empower owners of TWOTHIRDS ocean denim to reduce the footprints of their coveted, sustainable denim shorts, trousers, shirts and jackets. Interested? Read on!

1. Thirsty Cotton

All denim, whether it’s fast fashion denim (Boooo!) or our sustainable denim (Yay!) is made of cotton. Cotton’s water impacts are well known, with its cultivation being particularly water intensive. There are some pretty shocking facts out there, such as 1kg of cotton requiring 10,000l of water to be cultivated, or the fourth biggest sea on the planet, the Aral Sea, virtually disappearing due to intensive cotton cultivation.

The good news is that TWOTHIRDS’ Ocean Denim is only made from organic cotton, which has a much reduced water footprint than its standard cotton counterpart. Our number crunchers have estimated that organic cotton cultivation is up to 90% less water intensive than that of standard cotton. This is thanks to less reliance on harmful pesticides, fertilisers and wasteful irrigation, which additionally means that less synthetic chemicals leach into precious river and ocean habitats. 

Organic cotton cultivation is also up to 70% less carbon intensive that of standard cotton. Because the ocean acts as the planet’s main carbon sink – keeping the world from dangerously overheating – the less CO2 its waters are required to absorb means less ocean warming, less coral bleaching, and fewer mass die-offs of some of our favourite sea creatures.

Despite the reduced water and carbon footprints left behind by sustainable fashion pieces made from organic cotton, there’s no denying that organic cotton crops still have a sizable negative impact on rivers and oceans. To this end, we are attempting to use alternative fabrics, but which are still capable of producing that classic denim look and feel. This accounts for the increased amount of low impact recycled cotton that features in some of our new jeans designs, like the Kiritibati and Kabara.

2. Colour Comes At A Price

Ever wondered how denim garments are given their vibrant blue hues and fashionable washes? The uncomfortable truth is that they are often made possible by dyes and wash cycles which are anything but sustainable. Xintang in China’s Guangdong province is known as the “Capital of Denim”. A third of all the world’s new denim jeans are manufactured there. 

Such prolific levels of production came to a head in 2013, when it was reported that the city’s river had been dyed a toxic blue – the unnatural colour accompanied by a rancid smell. It transpired that the city’s denim factories had been dumping waste chemicals, used to dye and wash jeans, directly into the river.  

Not only do we think it is unfair to impose such harmful pollution on the communities of developing countries (all TWOTHIRDS clothes are made locally in the EU), we believe that such dirty production practices should be done away with altogether.

Much of our sustainable denim is made in GOTS certified factories, meaning these facilities adhere to strict rules and guidelines that protect waterways. Moreover, lots of our denim is crafted using cutting edge e-Flow technology, which imbues eco-friendly jeans with beautiful hues, all the while producing practically zero water or chemical waste. e-Flow is undoubtedly the future of sustainable denim and we as an eco-friendly fashion brand are at the forefront of this burgeoning eco denim revolution.

3. Microfibres Are A Denim Problem Too

Most people think that the environmental impact of a pair of sustainable jeans ends the moment they are delivered to a customer’s outstretched arms. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth. Denim jeans of all varieties continue to have some form of impact on oceans and rivers long after they leave the factory as a finished product.

One of the ways this happens is when people wash their denim garments. As a sustainable trouser or eco-friendly shirt tumbles round and round in the washing machine it sheds microfibres. You might think that because these fibres are organic they can’t do the same level of harm as those shed by synthetic fabrics, but that’s not entirely the case. 

Studies have shown that up to 56,000 microfibres are released by a single pair of jeans during just one (yes, that’s 1!) wash. While these fibres are indeed less damaging to the environment than synthetic fibres, they still have an impact, clogging ocean and river ecosystems, as well as contaminating waters with the chemical traces they have picked up while in contact with humans.

What can you do to prevent this microfibre onslaught from choking rivers and oceans? Machine washing your sustainable denim less often is the most effective way of reducing the release of microfibres. Spot washing stains is also a good way of prolonging not having to machine wash an eco-friendly garment. However, if your jeans really do need to go in the wash, why not pop them in a specially designed wash bag, which catches microfibres! One wash bag that works a treat is the GUPPYFRIEND, although other brands also exist.