Eco Friendly Vegan Jeans: Everything You Need To Know

Did you know that the average American buys around 4 pairs of jeans a year [1]? That isn’t surprising since jeans are one of the most versatile and sturdy pieces of clothing you can wear.

But jeans are so much more than just what they appear. There are layers of environmental, social, and even animal issues behind every single pair—namely fast fashion jeans.

You might even be surprised to find that most pairs aren’t vegan jeans because of just one small (nonfunctional) part of them.

When buying jeans, it’s always important to remember key components that make denim ethical and sustainable.

To us, the most sustainable denim option is second-hand. However, you might have some trouble finding a vegan pair of jeans at your local thrift shops.

Here is our curated list of 5 eco friendly and ethical denim brands you can trust as a vegan.

Note: Not all of these brands are fully vegan. Some use animal components in other products, but none of them use leather in their jeans.

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MUD Jeans - Netherlands

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MUD Jeans believes in feeling good about the jeans you wear by doing jeans differently. With a focus on a circular economy, fair production, and organic materials, the brand’s processes are undoubtedly rooted in innovation and sustainability.

The Fit

MUD Jeans offers a wide variety of sustainable jeans. Their products come in numerous styles and fits, so you’ll definitely find what you’re looking for.

They stock eco friendly jeans for men and women.

They offer tapered jeans with a loose fit, cropped wide-leg jeans, skinny high-waisted ones, and so much more.

And while they have plenty of your typical light or dark blue denim look, they also have a couple of other colors like Relax Rose, which comes undyed or in corn and terra. If you’re up to a pair of jeans with some color, you’ll find some here.

The Relax Rose is the perfect pair for women looking for a vintage fit. It features classic 5-pocket styling and has satin-finished buttons and rivets.

If that isn’t your style, there are tons of other options available! Whether you’re aiming for time-tested styles or modern ones, you’re likely to find something you like.

Jeans are notoriously difficult to find the perfect pair for, so be sure to pick out the right size for you carefully.

Materials & Sustainability

All of MUD’s jeans are made with organic and recycled cotton in varying amounts. The nonstretch designs are typically made of 60% organic cotton and 40% post-recycled cotton.

The stretch styles have 2% elastane with 23% post-recycled cotton and 75% organic cotton.

Each product listing also shows where the denim material was sourced and who made it. They also use nontoxic dyes—both for the worker and the user. All their products are PETA-approved vegan.

Because of their interest in sustainable fashion and a circular economy, these materials were chosen specifically for their environmental value.

Sustainable fabrics such as organic and recycled cotton are some of the best ways to do that. You’ll see further below why choosing organic cotton vs. the conventionally farmed option is a much better choice.

On the other hand, they only use GOTS-certified organic cotton. The recycled materials are processed in a third-generation family-owned factory in Spain. You can read all about that here.

In the last 4 years, the brand has saved 533 million liters of water and avoided 1 million kilos of CO2. Nevertheless, they offset their emissions and are completely carbon-neutral.

Each pair of MUD jeans takes 581 liters of water to make vs. the conventional 7000 liters as the industry standard (according to the MUD website). Even with all the efforts to reduce their water consumption through sustainable practices, each pair still adds up to quite a lot of water.

As such, it’s vital to start choosing sustainable denim brands. You can read more about MUD’s sustainability efforts here. They’re incredibly detailed and transparent about their presentation and in explaining their goals and current numbers.

Community & Ethics

The brand’s jeans are made at Yousstex International, a factory in Tunisia. All the workers across their supply chain earn more than minimum wage.

Their Tunisian factory operates under ethical practices and is predominantly staffed by women.

They also have a hand at how the jeans they collect are spun into new denim yarn. Once that’s done, another factory does the dyeing for them using non-toxic chemicals. All the water used in the process is, of course, purified and cleaned thereafter.

The cotton is sourced from Turkey. If you want to know more about the production process, they explain it in great detail here. Fair production is a serious matter in the fashion industry, and we’re glad to see this brand take charge.

Overall, MUD Jeans is one of the best eco friendly denim brands in the market, especially when you count the fact that they only make vegan clothing! We recommend checking them out.

Nudie Jeans - Sweden

Nudie Jeans is undoubtedly one of the most popular sustainable denim companies. Founded back in 2001, the brand has the added edge of two decades of experience in the world of sustainable fashion.

In 2012, they started using 100% organic cotton, and in 2018, they finally started foregoing leather in their jeans. However, they still use leather in their other products, making them a nonvegan company.

The Fit

Being one of the biggest organic jean brands, it only makes sense that Nudie carries an incredible collection of jeans. Though they also have tops, jackets, and more, it’s really their pants collection that catches the attention.

Their jeans come in dry, pre-washed, and black options.

Dry (or raw) denim is essentially untreated denim; it doesn’t look like your typical worn-out jeans yet. It’s basically up to the amount of time and how often you use them, that will determine how your jeans will turn out. But, do note that there’s a particular way of breaking in raw denim.

With regular jeans, you can just wash whenever. But they recommend breaking them in for at least six months of regular wear before washing. It’s really an entire experience of making memories with your new pair!

Plus, dry denim is more environmentally friendly since it takes less water to produce.

But if that isn’t your style, you can also get them pre-washed in whatever style you choose.

Nudie Jeans has just about every style of eco friendly jeans you can imagine. From tight skinny fits to loose cuts, they’ve got you covered.

The best part is that you can get your jeans second-hand from this brand! They regularly drop a re-use collection featuring trade-in jeans that have been repaired. However, these jeans aren’t guaranteed vegan as they only started using jacron a few years ago.

The Rebirth collection features jeans that are made from post-consumer recycled Nudie jeans. If you don’t find anything in the re-use section but want to buy recycled, we highly suggest looking into the Rebirth set.

Materials & Sustainability

Nudie Jeans is excellent at ensuring they have transparent practices. There are entire sections on their website dedicated to relevant reports on what materials they use and how sustainable they are.

If you want to read through it, you can check it out here. But the gist is that Nudie Jeans only uses organic, recycled, or fair trade cotton.

This effectively lessens both their environmental and social impact, being that cotton makes up 94% of all the fabric they use.

As most of us know, cotton is one of the most popular types of vegan fabrics. We also know that it’s one of the most damaging crops globally due to the production process and the scope of its production.

But a better way is possible. Nudie Jeans uses GOTS-certified organic cotton that is fair trade where applicable. Cotton can only be marked fair trade when it comes from certain areas such as India.

The brand predominantly sources its cotton from Turkey, with the second-largest provider being India.

They also have a re-use initiative. Customers can turn in any old pair of their jeans in exchange for a 20% discount. This fabric is then used as scrap fabric for patches during repair or fixed and resold in their re-use collection.

In an excellent effort towards sustainability, the Swedish brand will repair all jeans bought from them for free in any Nudie Jeans Repair Shop, regardless of when and where it was purchased.

Community & Ethics

Nudie Jeans’ ethics shouldn’t lag behind their excellent sustainability efforts—and we’re happy to report they don’t disappoint!

The publicly available information on their production process also details much of how they treat their workers. For one, they provide a Code of Conduct and Human Rights Policy, which is already more than what most brands offer.

A significant portion of their production is based in Tunisia, but they source labor from other countries as well, including Italy, Portugal, and India.

All of their workers make at least minimum wage, which they acknowledge that in most areas isn’t actually a livable amount.

Therefore, to try and bridge this gap, they are in the process of supplementing wages to ensure that each worker is paid a living wage. Namely, 32% of the workers across the brand’s supply chains receive this supplementary amount. We are hoping to see this percentage rise in the future.

Workers operate under safe and fair working conditions, verified by the brand’s regular social audits. Some of these audits were done by the Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), of which the brand has been a decade-long member.

Although they aren’t a fully vegan brand, Nudie is one of the best companies to get your new jeans from.

Boyish - USA

Boyish is a California-based womenswear company with a special focus on ‘boyish’ fabrics that fit into a feminine silhouette.

Through using sustainable and ethical practices, the brand hopes to lessen their negative impact as much as possible. They are PETA-approved vegan and only operate with cruelty-free practices.

The Fit

A lot of the brand’s styles are influenced by vintage fits tailored to be more modern. You can clearly see the vintage touch on so many of their designs, each with its own personality and worn touch.

With that, they have a host of different styles and cuts as well: flared, high-waisted, skinny, stretch, and more.

What sets this brand apart from the others we’ve already talked about is its number of color options. Their jeans come in other colors beyond the regular variations of blue denim.

Some (but not all) of their styles are available in colors such as gold, green, lavender, among others.

Though blue denim is undoubtedly the most common choice for sustainable jeans due to its versatility, having other color options doesn’t hurt!

Their ripped jeans like the Tommy in Dirty Dancing and City Slickers are great for streetwear, while some styles like the Harrison in Natural can be used for more formal occasions.

It’s up to your personal taste, of course! But we’re confident that you’ll find something you love in their collection.

Materials & Sustainability

All Boyish products are animal-free and made with eco-friendly fabrics. They use organic cotton, recycled fabrics, Tencel™ Lyocell, and deadstock fabrics to make their denim.

Sustainable materials are the very core of what they do as a clothing company. They actively stay away from synthetic fabrics and conventionally farmed cotton.

Each pair of jeans has a different composition, but the jeans will usually contain some combination of cotton and Lyocell. Don’t worry, though. Each product listing clearly describes what each product is made of and the certifications that go with it.

Boyish uses Organic Content Standard (OCS) Certified cotton, ensuring that the material was indeed sourced organically. They also use GRS-certified recycled fabrics.

Additionally, the brand uses plant-based, non-toxic dyes with OEKO-TEX Standard 100 approval. They also recycle the water they use to ensure that the environment and local communities aren’t harmed by the chemicals used in production.

Furthermore, they also engage in ethical washing procedures to make their process as eco friendly as possible.

Their jeans are made with durability and longevity in mind. If you truly want to be sustainable, the best choice will always be timeless and durable pieces that will last through trends and fads.

The brand uses eco friendly packaging by using recycled materials in their tags and labels. They ship using plant-based bags.

Boyish has also been carbon neutral since day one, with their carbon emissions offset through projects that reduce emissions. In 2019, they became Climate Neutral certified.

You can view their full Sustainability Report for 2020 here.

Community & Ethics

In terms of Boyish ethics, they have a publicly available Code of Conduct detailing their policy on work hours, compensation, forced labor, etc.

All workers are paid at least minimum wage, and the brand is in the process of ensuring all their factories pay their workers a living wage.

Most of the supply chain is located in Turkey, with the jeans being sewn in a factory in Istanbul. They indicate that their partner factories are audited via third-party organizations such as Sedex and Intertek.

Moving forward, Boyish will focus on diversity and inclusion when creating their collections. They are also actively donating to organizations supporting women of color.

Warp + Weft - USA

Warp + Weft is a family-owned and vertically integrated denim company. This means that they oversee all levels of production, from cotton processing right up to assembly.

They are completely vegan and do not use any animal ingredients in their products or test on animals.

The Fit

What makes Warp + Weft so special isn’t just their high-quality denim. It’s also in how inclusive their selection is.

It is one of the brand’s major goals to produce denim that makes everybody feel welcome regardless of what shape and size they are.

They have a regular variety of jeans in different styles: straight cut, skinny, boot cut. But more than that, they also stock sizes that may be difficult to find, such as those for petite or relatively taller people.

Utilizing jeans is awfully difficult if you don’t find a good pair that fits you. So when you’re a little shorter or taller than average, it can be tough to find jeans that are both the right size and length! Getting clothing retailored is probably something you’ve done many times in the past.

As such, we find it admirable how the brand actually puts in the effort of making inclusive sizing the core of their business.

Plus, they also have jeans available for children! Whether you have older children or toddlers, their selection will accommodate your needs.

Materials & Sustainability

Warp + Waft mainly works with four different fabric types. Dynamic, Oneder, Power, and Classic. Each one feels different and has its own personality.

For every product listing, you can choose which fabric type you prefer. For example, if you want weightless denim, go for Oneder. If you’re looking for mid-weight denim with just a little stretch, choose Classic.

Since the brand is vertically integrated, all these fabrics are made from scratch! This significantly simplifies the supply chain and allows for overall better management of all processes.

The company sources cotton, Lycra, and Tencel from the U.S. They are still working towards exclusively using organic cotton, but their cotton fields are regularly visited by the Better Cotton Initiative.

A pair of Warp + Weft jeans will usually take less than 10 gallons of water to produce. That’s around 37 liters. Quite significantly lower than any other we’ve seen on here. They also recycle 98% of all the water they use in the process.

Additionally, the company does not use bleach, making their production process even more eco friendly. Instead, they use Dry Ozone technology.

They also have an in-house power plant to help them achieve better energy efficiency.

If you want to know more about how this brand produces its jeans, you can check out the process here.

The beauty of a vertically integrated system is that they are their own supplier and customer. This allows for eliminating markups in intermediaries, giving customers the opportunity to access quality denim with an affordable price tag.

Community & Ethics

From the information on their website, it seems that all their production goes on inside a single facility (located in Pakistan).

We couldn’t find any certifications related to how they treat their workers, nor was there a Code of Conduct. However, they indicate that their factory follows International Social and Environmental & Quality Standards.

They also specify that they’re committed to the ethical treatment of their workers by implementing fair wages and reasonable hours.

Hopefully, their transparency on labor and worker treatment is something they can improve on soon since more and more consumers want to know about the hands that make their clothes.

Triarchy - USA

Triarchy is a Los Angeles-based sustainable denim company founded by three siblings back in 2011. Unlike the other brands on this list, they didn’t start with the intention of creating clean denim.

Instead, the brand we see today is a product of realization and research throughout their years in the industry. Triarchy is PETA-approved and does not use any animal or animal by-products (no leather patches).

The Fit

The company predominantly designs and manufactures women’s jeans. Though they have some luxury jean jackets for men, the jeans themselves are geared towards women’s silhouettes.

They have a smaller collection compared to the other brands we’ve featured on this list, but they still have a variation of skinny jeans and those with a relaxed fit (straight and wide leg).

Their best product fit is their plastic-free stretch skinny jeans.

While most stretch jeans contain elastane/spandex to keep it stretchy, their denim uses natural rubber, making it a more eco friendly option.

Moreover, apart from their Core Collection, they also release seasonal collections. Their Spring 2021 colors are absolutely gorgeous, with a mix of pink, indigo, and off-white.

Although these are labeled as seasonal releases, that doesn’t mean they aren’t usable for years to come! Denim is timeless.

The Amelia jumpsuit in their Spring collection is perfect if you’re looking for an overall denim style. It comes in off-white and clay.

These jeans are a bit on the pricey side, though. But if you have the budget for it, the quality is worth the price.

Materials & Sustainability

Triarchy only uses eco friendly fabrics such as organically farmed cotton, Tencel, natural rubber, and vintage denim.

Each denim product is vegan friendly, and their entire collection is PETA-approved vegan.

They use a varying amount of each material depending on the denim style, but their standout combination is their use of cotton and rubber together to create stretch jeans.

Instead of using plastic, as is the industry standard, they use 96% cotton and 4% rubber to give the denim the stretch it needs. This makes the denim much more environmentally friendly as it biodegrades fully.

They also use vintage denim, aka repurposed denim, specifically for their Atelier Denim selection. They deconstruct old jeans and use the parts to create something entirely new! However, those specific pieces come at hefty prices since they’re handmade.

Their fabric is OEKO-TEX 100 certified, guaranteeing that it is free from harmful chemicals and dyes. Moreover, they use reduced indigo dyes for their denim, which contains 80% fewer sulfates.

They also use a sustainable washing process using a combination of ozone washing, nanobubbles, and laser technology.

The company also offsets its carbon footprint and has saved more than 1 million days of drinking water and nearly 5 million hours of bulb energy.

If you are interested in taking a closer look at how they do this, check out their page on sustainability.

Community & Ethics

Sustainability efforts are never complete without the human component. The brand does not have a dedicated page for all of their suppliers and factories, but they have excellent supply chain transparency through retraced.

Each product description contains all the value-added steps taken for your jeans to transform from the raw material into the final product. Most of their productions are located in Turkey, but they also source labor and supplies from other countries (e.g., China, France, Italy).

They have a publicly available Code of Conduct and all their workers (across all factories) make above-average wages beyond the minimum wage.

These claims are verified by third-party organizations such as retraced and GreenStory.

Aren't Denim Jeans Made of Cotton?

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We spent all of that time talking about vegan jeans, but aren’t denim jeans supposed to be vegan in the first place?

Well, yes. That is 100% true. Denim, by definition, is a type of fabric made from cotton. However, one feature in jeans makes it not vegan in a lot of cases. The leather patch.

On the backside of every pair, you will often find a brown patch that features brand or product details. Though just a small part of a pair, this little patch is the biggest reason why so many jeans aren’t vegan.

Most major denim brands will have vegan-friendly options in their collection, but you have to check if they’re using animal skin in the patch or if it’s a vegan alternative.

The most common alternative to leather patches is jacron, which is a type of vegan leather. It’s fully washable and resembles kraft paper, although it is much more durable than that.

With such a trivial part of jeans, it’s also a mystery why so many brands haven’t yet transitioned to making non-leather patches.

Considering that the leather patch isn’t even functional really makes us question why they’re still there. It could be novelty, tradition, style, among many others.

But at the end of the day, choosing the paper option over leather is a much better pick.

Choose Organic Cotton For Your Denim Jeans

Cotton is one of the most popular fabrics in the world. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most environmentally damaging crops, mostly due to agrochemicals (i.e., pesticides), water consumption, and land use [2].

A regular pair of denim pants will usually need 1.5lbs of cotton to produce. Such an amount of conventional cotton will take about 1500 gallons or close to 5700 liters of water to cultivate [3].

If your daily water intake is approx 3 liters, it would take you around 5 years to consume all that water.

On the flip side, using organically farmed cotton will save you 1,982 gallons of water for one shirt [4]. It also does not use pesticides, so no polluting nearby water sources!

It is important to remember that these numbers are not the same all over the world. Different locations will use vastly different amounts due to discrepancies in farming methods and efficiency.

Even though organic is the better choice right now, you still shouldn’t mindlessly buy (organic) cotton items on the premise that it is better.

The most sustainable way to go about your consumption is not always to buy the better choice. Sometimes it’s as simple as not making a purchase when you know you already have enough.

Can I Buy Second-Hand (Nonvegan) Jeans as a Vegan?

Here at Puratium, we always advocate for buying second-hand first (when applicable). But the naked truth is that vegan jeans have only just begun to get popular, and the jeans you find at your local thrift stores might not be vegan.

There’s a bit of debate on whether it’s acceptable to buy second-hand goods with leather if you’re a vegan. On the one hand, buying second-hand is cheaper and involves picking up something that would have otherwise gone to waste.

Nevertheless, some vegans simply don’t want to buy something that came from animals. It also stands to reason that wearing something with leather promotes the use of the material in the first place.

Therefore, we think, the decision is totally up to you. We are not about to police your decisions or act like we are on a moral high ground. In reality, there is no perfect vegan.

Final Thoughts

We hope our suggestions helped you find the right pair of eco friendly vegan jeans for you. Though we highly encourage you to purchase second-hand, these brands are still good places to get your denim from.

When choosing where to purchase your clothes, always remember to buy from companies that are transparent about their practices and actively engage in sustainability measures.

Resources:

  1. https://www.ecowatch.com/environmental-cost-jeans-2544519658.html
  2. https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/cotton#:~:text=Cotton’s%20most%20prominent%2 0environmental%20impacts,of%20habitat%20to%20agricultural%20use.
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780081020432000022
  4. https://textileexchange.org/quick-guide-to-organic-cotton/
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