can my jeans save the planet? Credit: Lewis Forsyth, Christine Forsyth

Can my jeans save the planet?

3 mins read

The Stirling Climate Festival held a talk on the impact of our jeans on the environment, with the UK being the fourth largest contributor to clothing waste.

The talk from Christine Forsyth, an ex-English teacher and “keen upcycler”, discussed the impact of the denim industry on our planet. She spoke of 20% of all water waste coming from the $110 bn jean industry, how jeans are made, the impact of this and what we can do to help.

The problem lies quite fundamentally in the money. Forsyth said: “we want cheap jeans, so we use cheap cotton”. Organic cotton would be better, with a more ethical work force, however, it would be much more expensive.

Currently, 2.5% of the world’s agriculture land is dedicated to cotton fields. On this land, 16% of all pesticides are used. This land is often in developing countries or countries which need a water supply such as China, India, Pakistan or the US. This causes irrigation problems – eight to 22 tonnes of water for each kilogram of cotton.

Jeans cannot save the planet but holding onto jeans already owned can help. The more organic the pair of jeans, the more they can biodegrade however not completely. Forsyth emphasised the problem is that jeans often contain petroleum-based components such as Spandex or Lycra, as well as metal on zips or pockets, which cannot biodegrade.

Forsyth slammed fast fashion as it “is the biggest culprit of them all… It’s ridiculously cheap”. She urged people to get busy upcycling pieces of fabric while showing off a jacket she’d made from jeans, saying “Pinterest is a great source of ideas”

The idea of changing clothes or fixing them was discussed as a fashion point now with brands such as Yeezy going for more distressed looks. Practises such as sand blasting denim often wears it down considerably before it even gets to the customer.

Forsyth insisted that people “learn to mend… truly make it yours”.
There are events such as the Clothes upycling event on the 13th October and the Repair Café on the 15th where there will be classes teaching and showing how to start upcycling yourself.

More information can be found here: Welcome – Stirling Climate Festival

The festival runs from 11th October until the 17th, and features a wide variety of events raising awareness of Climate Issues in the run up to COP26.

Feature Image Credit: –

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