How hard is it to find a pair of sustainable jeans? Pretty hard actually. Finding a single supplier that fits my ethical and sustainability criteria at the right price has taken me more than a year. So I turned to Ethical Consumer magazine for help.
Ethical Consumer Magazine, And How I Navigated Around It
With my last decent pair of jeans starting to shred I finally bit the bullet and today got myself a new pair. Using Ethical Consumer was an approach which, as you’ll see, had its issues but I got there in the end. By the way, if you want to know why sustainable fashion is important check out Sustainable Clothing: Nine Great Reasons To Change.
I managed to bag myself a pair of normal fit jeans from a local charity shop when they were open. I count these as “sustainable jeans” as I bought them second-hand. Sue couldn’t believe I’d just walked in and found them, and told all her friends.
They are still wearable but starting to get a bit tatty, even by my standards, so I felt it was time to rebuild my stocks. But charity shops have been closed for several months now so that’s out.
eBay and Facebook
With eBay and Facebook Marketplace I found the photo looked better than the item itself, and after returning three pairs because they had stains on them I gave up trying to buy second-hand online.
As a subscriber to Ethical Consumer I get a list to choose from. Ethical Consumer have researched the main outlets and given them a score between zero and twenty, although no one seems to get a twenty, or even close to it. But what actually is an “ethical” supplier anyway?
High St. or Boutique?
The ones who make it easiest to buy – and often the most experienced at selling online – are the major outlets like supermarkets, and this is where it gets a bit sticky. Working our way down the list of High Street Clothes shops on Ethical Consumer we have:
- Patagonia, scores a respectable 12.5 out of 20 (great but very expensive)
- American Apparel, scores 9 (don’t seem to sell denims)
- H&M Conscious, scores 9 (couldn’t find any)
- Asos Organic, scores 8.5 (couldn’t find denims)
and so on.
I Like Ethical Consumer But There Are Challenges …
By the time I get to Marks & Spencer I’m looking at a score of 6 out of 20, not good. But if you think that’s bad – Gap, John Lewis and Matalan all score 4.5. And if you think that’s bad Sainsbury’s TU scores a paltry 2! And if you think that’s bad what about Tesco F&F with 0.5 and Asda, Amazon and Primark with 0. Yes, you read correctly – the guys at Ethical Consumer couldn’t find a single reason to award half a point between the lot of them. Supermarkets aren’t all bad – see Supermarkets Make A Stand. What could these giants of commerce have done to become so un-rated? I decided to do a bit more research myself and see what’s behind the scores.
Wading Through The Rankings For Eco-Friendly Jeans
When it comes to environmental reporting M&S actually get a glowing report, and have made some effort to remove HFCs – hang on! – in their refrigerators? What’s that got to do with sustainable jeans? A few points down for food waste. Marked down for their soya policies, and so on. The only ones that seemed to have anything to do with clothes were its toxic chemicals policy and where it sources its cotton from. M&S were marked down for being neutral on GM crops and also for not seeming to worry too much about pesticides.
So, essentially, everything’s jumbled together – animal welfare, people, environment, product sustainability and politics. And politics is politics.
It is, however, possible to filter out the politics and other categories, but I found this made the M&S score even lower for some reason, and this applied to the other outlets too.
Are supermarkets a bad place to buy clothes, if you care about ethics and sustainability? To be honest, quite likely. Low price and better ethics don’t usually go together in the fashion industry.
No Eco-Friendly Jeans in The Supermarkets?
So finally I decided to ignore the supermarkets and big stores and follow the Ethical Consumer Ethical Jeans guide. Where else to look for sustainable jeans? And -yea! – after working my way down several tiers to my price comfort level I managed to find just one pair I could live with, called the Jack Relaxed Jean in light stonewash, from monkeegenes.com. Because ‘relaxed’ is exactly how I want to feel when I’m wearing jeans.
Let’s talk about fashion for a bit. I was never interested in fashion, the choice now seems to be slim (read peel on/off) or baggy (read get them caught in on the edge of a table). The big retailers like M&S have filters so you can avoid slim and baggy and go straight to what grabs you, but fashion retailers and I don’t have a great relationship – they want me to be cool, I want to be as neutral as an M&S buyer at at GMO convention. I shop for utility and comfort, and partly because it’s illegal to go out naked.
But since I’ve come this far, I’ll settle for a bit baggy. If you want to see what they look like on a model check out the attached photos from the monkeegenes website.
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(photos: monkeegenes.com; the earth is alive: buddhajeans.com )