A good pair of jeans is a chief element of a modern day wardrobe, which is both fashionable and durable. Large amount of greenhouse gases are released from the denim manufacturing processes and its impact on the environment is not so happening, as this ever fashionable garment. However, denim companies are invariably trying to reduce these environmental consequences with their sustainable approach.
Jeans, a global trend, sells approximately 6 billion pairs around the world every year. It is anticipated that the sales from jeans will cross $65 billion by 2015. In spite of foreseeing such flourishing scenario in denim business, denim companies are facing pressure to change the methods of manufacturing jeans to tackle the environmental issues.
With such staggering figures of sales, it is obvious that jeans manufacturing processes have a major impact on the health of workers and the earth. It is a known fact that workers are at the risk of tuberculosis or silicosis during the sandblasting process to give that perfect 'worn out' look. At the same time heavy toxic methods of production emit harmful gases which impact the environment.
Although, at a glance manufacturing jeans in the conventional method may not seem to be a big issue in terms of sustainability, but if the size of the sector and the methods of jeans production are considered, it will make a big difference. One can imagine the impact of the denim sector on the environment, if all the jeans in the world are produced using eco-friendly methods.
Fortunately, many denim companies today are striving hard to embrace greener methods and are also making effort to develop new techniques of producing jeans, as a part of their business strategies to protect the environment. They have understood the importance and the need to build a sustainable business.
In addition, the denim companies must have a clear understanding of the practices carried out by the suppliers. Although, the supply chain is spread in different countries but, when they compromise on their ethical and environmental standards, the brand reputation is damaged.
Currently, cotton prices are all time high and there is a rising demand from the customers for jeans. In this tricky situation, manufacturers also need to adhere to the concept of sustainability. Sustainable jeans is not a concept that has been introduced in developed nations only, but also in developing countries like India and China. Indian designers have come up eco- friendly denims for their customers.
These jeans are manufactured from 100% organic cotton without using bleach. To get the desired denim look, they use two types of processes. One is the wet process wherein simple enzymes are used to decrease water wastage and the second is the dry method. This method uses various techniques such as scraping, whiskering, grinding and distressing. Instead of chemical dyes, vegetable dyes are utilized to get the authentic indigo shade of denim.
Some denim companies have come up with new techniques to manufacture 'green jeans'. Denim manufacturer in Sweden has made an effort to recycle 1600 tones of materials into new garments and has saved 50 million litres of water while manufacturing jeans. Another denim brand manufactures jeans entirely from cotton and recycled water bottles. Plastic waste is a big global issue. Around 66 billion water bottles are used every year in the U.S. alone.
Each pair of these jeans contain 8-10 waste bottles and scrap cotton collected from factory floors which otherwise are thrown to the landfills. It shows the company's commitment to protect environment and still manage to run a profitable business. Though it looks simple, but a lot of research and development has gone into manufacturing jeans from used water bottles, thus making plastic fashionable.
New developments like waterless jeans and growth of organic cotton industry has helped to maintain the sustainability approach. One must make sustainable choices while purchasing denims such as go for organic cotton, natural dyes, rivets and buttons made from natural or recycled materials. Avoid washes that require harsh chemicals like distressed, stonewashed, bleached jeans. Always buy classic styles that will remain in fashion.
Denim companies in the last few years have offered some excellent green jeans options to the consumers globally. Some make jeans that use 100% organic cotton, while some use natural indigo dyes and others use bamboo buttons for jeans. There are denim companies that not only make trendy organic cotton jeans but give away some part of their profits to charitable organizations.
It is estimated that producing a pair of jeans consumes more than 2,500 gallons of water, almost a pound of chemicals and large amount of energy. If this is multiplied by the number of jeans produced globally, one can get a glimpse of the huge contribution of wastewater and harmful gases by the denim industry to the environment.
Scientists have reported a new process known as 'Advanced Denim' that can considerably reduce the above mentioned impacts. This budding green process can reduce 92% of water consumption, 30% of energy consumption and almost no wastewater while producing a pair of jeans compared to the traditional methods. Moreover, the process also reduces cotton waste by 87%, which is normally burned that add to the generation of carbon dioxide and other green house gases into the atmosphere.
In addition, traditional denim production requires around 25 dyeing barrels and range of dangerous chemicals. Advanced Denim process needs just one barrel and advanced eco-safe, concentrated liquid sulfur dyes. The remaining steps of production are removed. According to the scientists, if 25% of the denims produced in the world are dyed using this technology, water requirement of 1.7 million people can be met every year.
This technology would also prevent the wastewater generation by 8.3 million cubic meters and save 220 million kilowatt hours of electricity. Simultaneously, it will curb large amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere yearly. Top denim manufacturers of the world are showing high interest in adopting the Advanced Denim technology. This type of green process is a great example for saving water, energy, materials and reducing environmental pollution.
The denim industry will soon witness drastic improvements from its latest innovations. Denim companies need to measure their environmental footprint to protect the environment, as the answer to the call of sustainable jeans, at the same time benefit from the business.