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The Environmental Impact of A Single Pair of Denim: How Leading Retailers Are Reducing Their Carbon Footprint

November 22, 2019

The fashion industry has long worked around a love-hate relationship with denim. As a closet essential for many, and one of the most difficult garments to shop for, it’s no wonder many shoppers and retailers alike take the hunt for the best style, sizes, and fits very seriously. 

In recent years, this closet staple has caught a bad rap for being one of the most environmentally unfriendly garments. In order to meet consumer’s rising expectations for sustainable practices across all aspects of the supply-chain, many retailers and brands are looking into more sustainable practices for producing denim.

The Environmental Impact of A Single Pair of Denim

The apparel and footwear industries together account for more than 8 percent of global climate impact. On average, a single pair of denim requires 1,800 gallons of water from start to finish in the production phase. Denim is one of the most prominent garments that ends up in landfills, due to high demand for nearly 450 million pairs of denim each year.

Learn how some of the industry’s leading denim suppliers are reducing their carbon footprint by implementing more sustainable denim manufacturing and production processes: 

Warp + Weft

Warp + Weft specializes in all things denim, and part of its mission is to create sustainable pieces that are size inclusive and affordable. Warp + Weft denim is made using less than 10 gallons of water, which is significantly less than the average amount of water used to create an average pair of denim. To date, Warp + Weft has saved over 572 million gallons of water. The brand also they works to recycle and treat up to 98% of the water they do use.

By implementing a new alternative to chemical bleach called Dry Ozone technology, Warp + Weft is reducing the amount of chemicals that enter the industry and environment. The brand hopes become completely zero-waste company by 2021. As a part of this initiative, the brand has partnered with Charity Water in order to provide up to 3,300 people in Malawi, Africa clean water. 

Gap

Gap has long-served as a brand known for its classic basics and closet staples. The brand’s denim is one of the key products in its catalogue. In an effort to reduce the environmental impact of its go-to denim, Gap is partnering with Cone Mill in order to create denim made in-part from recycled cotton. Cotton is the main material used to create 65 percent of Gap’s products, making this a large focus of the brand’s sustainability efforts.

Earlier this year, Gap partnered with Arvind Limited in order to address water scarcity concerns worldwide through a denim mill. This facility will help the brand save over 3 billion liters of water by the end of 2020 and help the local community in India where the facility is located.

Learn more about sustainability across the entire retail industry

Madewell

As one of the fashion industry's leading denim producers, Madewell has created a Fair Trade Certified line of denim. Fair Trade USA works with companies and suppliers to ensure safe working conditions in factories, protect the environment, build sustainable livelihoods for employees, and help to give back to local communities.

Madewell also partners with Cotton’s Blue Jeans Go Green™ program and Habitat for Humanity to encourage shoppers to recycle their denim in-stores, in exchange for $20 off a new pair. The recycled denim is recycled into insulation for homes.

Levi’s

Levi’s has created new Water<Less® techniques that incorporate over 20 water-saving finish techniques into the denim production processes. With these techniques, Levi’s has saved more than 3 billion liters and recycled more than 2 billion liters of water. 

Recently, Levi’s collaborated with Hohenstein to utilize the Eco Passport by Oeko-Tex certification system across the supply chain in order to manage chemical safety. This certification system ensures that no harmful chemicals enter the apparel industry and, ultimately, the environment.

As more consumers expect sustainable practices, the entire retail industry is working to reduce waste and implement more sustainable practices to meet consumer expectations and become more environmentally friendly. 

Returns are one of the largest contributors to excess carbon emissions. Increase consumer confidence when shopping online to decrease the likelihood they will make a return.

Learn More