Denim can cost the Earth

Want to save the planet? Wear your jeans two days a week, wash them every fifth day, and let them dry by themselves. Or better still, don’t wash them at all. And don’t even think of ironing them.

This is the conclusion of a report commissioned by France’s environment agency on the ecological impact of a pair of denims.
The study looked at an “average” pair of jeans—made of 600gm of denim, lined with 38gm of polyester, with six rivets and a button, worn one day a week for four years, washed every third time in a high-energy machine at 40°C and ironed before wear.

The study, by the research firm Bio Intelligence Service, looked at the jeans’ life cycle, from material production to daily use of the garment. It concluded that a French jeans wearer would damage the environment the least by buying denims made of cotton from a country not too far from Europe with strict anti-pollution laws. Machine washing, tumble drying and ironing caused 47% of the eco damage the jeans caused—240kWh of energy a year, equal to using 4 000 lightbulbs, each of 60 watts, for an hour. Dry cleaning was “an environmental disaster”.

The report’s author, Nadia Boeg-lin, who suggested also minimising impact on the planet by giving jeans away or cutting them down to make shorts, said: “We focused on jeans but all the things we use daily are a problem ... just by paying attention to a few simple details we could reduce [greenhouse] gas emissions.”—Â

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