• Dan Pontarlier

Upcycling denim and its benefits

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

According to UNEP, we can define the green economy as a development of the current economic model that aims to reduce environmental risks, ecological deficiencies or insufficiencies and the sustainable development of the economy without degrading the environment -or natural capital-; not seeing the environmental sector as the scope to which externalities affect and incorporating it into the economy. Likewise, sustainability should not only be applied to the environmental pillar, but to improve human well-being, the development of social equity is necessary.

The development of new companies that use organic and socially sustainable fabrics is important, but also those companies that are capable of converting the waste into a resource are essential. Many brands in the fashion industry are developing actions that facilitate the transition towards a more sustainable society, from a creative and innovative perspective.

Only in Catalonia, 7,000 tons of waste are generated from the textile industry, and being able to reduce that amount through upcycling and repurposing is essential. Likewise, 70% of the textile fiber produced worldwide is denim, which makes this kind of brands thing that have a real environmental impact, in addition to the social one due to its ethical code.

The idea of these projects is to create pieces from the repurposed materials, that motivate those who wear them and those who see them, and that help to value the fact of depositing garments in the recycling containers (something that society is not really used to do), trying to also raise consumer awareness in order to drive them to the path of sustainability.

The values of these kind of brands are related to the circular economy, since they transform materials and try to minimize the generation of waste.

Besides the positive environmental impact,

many of these companies take into consideration the labor reinsertion, since people who have found themselves at risk of social exclusion work in their workshops.

As for their products, there are many things that can be done with upcycled denim: pants, shirts, jackets, bags... but also aprons, tablecloths... there is not a lot of limit of what can we do, including shoes out of denim.

To create a pair of jeans from scratch requires thousands of litres of waters -besides the more than 6.000 litres just to grow the cotton-, and lots of chemicals, so it is quite far from being one of the most “sustainable fabrics” used in clothing.

If just by extending the life of an item 9 months could reduce its carbon footprint by a 30%. What‘s the impact of upcycling it from creating a new item and keeping it 5 to 10 more years? Huge.

Also, jeans are being marketed as biodegrable, which is true in a sense (it takes between 1 to 5 months to decompose depending on the thickness and other variables), but there might be toxic dyes that could intoxicate the soil (besides methane emiss by the biodegradation.

To finish, by combining upcycled denim and other sustainable materials like mylo or piñatex, the possibilities for design are endless!

Remember that by reducing the consumption of new resources we minimise the generation of waste by two!

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