Waste Not, Want Not: The Jean Pool

Denim wastewater photo credit: Qui Bo/Greenpeace

Each year, 24 billion pounds of clothing end up in landfills.
This amount would completely fill 375 football stadiums.

Denim production is over a $60 billion dollar industry, as well as a major pollutant. Denim indigo and toxic chemical run off from processing and production can kill marine life and damage entire eco-systems. These factories in China and Mexico are just a few of the worst case scenarios. Currently, only 10% of denim factories have advanced water systems in place.

We’re all in this together. There is not just one solution. Change simultaneously needs to happen from the top down and from the grassroots level. Building cross industry collaboration and a coalition to push forward initiatives and raise awareness through social media to change consumer habits is the key to saving our oceans and eco-systems. The Industry (mills, factories, brands) needs to align best practices in addition to investing in and scaling new innovations. The Designers have the ability to decide how a product will be made and should be given the best resources/tools to make no-waste” products. Most importantly, consumer mentality needs to change as it has the greatest influence on how the fashion industry manufactures it’s products. With each group working in tandem, we can move away from conspicuous consumption and towards conscientious consumerism.

The Industry

  • Implement Clean Water Programs and practices. Offering incentives to factories and guidance/support for brands
  • Localize manufacturing to shorten the supply chain while reducing use and cost of fossil fuels in transport. Bring production back to Mexico, Canada and USA.
  • Invest in new technologies. Bozzetto Chemical Company developed new enzymes that burn 50% less fossil fuels to create the worn look of denim. Bring down the price of this and save costs and the environment.

The Designers

The Consumer

  • Wash jeans less. 58% of all energy consumed during the life cycle of a pair of jeans comes from the consumer washing/drying at home.
  • Freeze jeans. 24 hour in freezer will kill all bacteria.
  • Donate/recycle jeans



* National Geographic 2011 - Ocean Saving Ideas Finalist - Summit Series