Jeans are one of the most polluting items in fashion. Over one billion jeans are sold yearly and manufacturing each pair of jeans takes a staggering 7,000 litres of water. If that doesn’t make you think twice about buying a new pair of jeans, I don’t know what will.
Lease your jeans and avoid landfill
There is an alternative. You can lease your jeans from Dutch company MUD and significantly reduce the environmental impact. MUD, a Dutch company set up in 2012 by Bert van Son, has addressed the challenge of creating sustainable jeans in a series of ingenious ways. Creativity and innovation have been a mark of their business since the very beginning. Under their lease model a customer can lease a pair of jeans for 12 months for €7.99 per month. After 12 months customers can either keep their jeans or send them back for recycling. Depending on the condition of the returned jeans, they are either upcycled (and sold in MUD’s Vintage Collection) or recycled and reincorporated into a new pair of jeans.
Through this approach, no jeans end up in landfill. MUD’s commitment to the circular economy makes them an outlier in the fashion industry, where less than 1% of textile waste is recycled for clothing and globally a truckload of textiles is landfilled or incinerated every single second.
Manufacture with a significantly lower footprint
An average pair of MUD jeans uses 393 litres of water, 94% less water than the industry standard. This is made possible by using recycled cotton (97% of the jeans they sell contain recycled content) and through the water recycling plants and innovative washing techniques at their partner factories. MUD is committed to ensuring that no toxic chemicals are used in the making of its denim. Their products have all been certified by the Nordic Swan Ecolabel which reviews procedures. They have also eliminated the use of PP spray, chlorine and stone washing from the production process. Avoiding these techniques is not only better for the environment, but also for the health of those working in their factories.
Their approach to manufacturing is to have what they call “connected partnerships”. Here is how they describe them: “Connection is necessary not only to build an ethical business, but it is a requirement to build a circular one. It is through collaboration and partnership that a business can drive innovation and continuous improvement. MUD Jeans takes responsibility for all the people that are involved in the making of our jeans. Therefore, every material decision we make and supply chain partner we choose is focused on ensuring that they reflect our values of transparency, equality and safe working conditions.”
Producing one pair of MUD jeans emits 5.9 kilograms of CO2 which is 75% less than industry standard: the savings come from use of low energy production techniques, land and water transportation and the use of recycled cotton.
Changing consumer behaviour
MUD is not content with revolutionizing the way that jeans are manufactured, and how they are recycled. They also want us as consumers to change our behaviour. Extending the life of jeans from one to two years reduces its emissions path impact by 24% and MUD actively works to get this message across. They offer a free repair service for jeans and encourage their customers to wear their jeans for longer between washes, and then wash at 30 degrees and line dry. They have also developed a short course for designers and those in the fashion industry to learn more about sustainable fashion.
Best for the World 2021
MUD’s performance has been recognized by B Lab, the global certification network for B Corps, in 2021 they were awarded the highest score in the environment category worldwide.
Published: 6 September 2023
Author: Jean Callanan is a strategic thinking consultant and sustainable innovation facilitator. She blogs about companies doing inspiring things to create a better world.
SDG solution: SDG 12
About ‘Green Shoots – Stories from Business for our Planet’: Green Shoots is a weekly blog by Jean Callanan that shares stories of businesses and brands doing inspiring and innovative things to address #climatechange and create a better world.