The 7 Best Sustainable Jeans of 2021

Ditch dirty denims for these environmentally friendly wardrobe staples.

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Our classic closet companion, denim jeans, have a bad rap. Each year, approximately 2 billion pairs of jeans are churned out, with a single pair guzzling on an average 7,000 liters of water. What’s more, a staggering 1.7 million tonnes of chemicals are used in the dyeing process to get the much-loved indigo and other shades, adversely impacting the environment and people. Jeans are also adding to fashion’s problem of shedding microfibers with each wash.

The good news is that some brands are stepping up and rejigging jeans, one pair at a time. These labels are constructing jeans with green certified fibers, adopting eco-friendly technologies to reduce chemical and water usage, following ethical labor practices, and encouraging recycling. Moreover, by making smart consumer choices, whether swathing your legs in natural materials or jumping on to the No Wash Club, you can lengthen the life of your favorite denims by a long stretch.

So, have first dibs on the best sustainable jeans with a green heart.

The Rundown
Taking trash and converting it into well made, durable jeans, DL1961 is committed to the planet and people.
Levi’s offers the widest selection of denims at the best prices, while pushing the envelope when it comes to reducing resources.
Amendi champions thoughtful earth-friendly design and clean industry practices, with a strong sense of social responsibility.
Best Fair Trade:
People Tree at Co.uk
People Tree dresses women from top-to-toe in Fair Trade fashion that promotes traditional craftsmanship and responsible materials.
Best Black Denim:
Boyish Jeans at Boyish.com
Boyish nails the smoky silhouette with its sustainable black and charcoal shade jeans.
The company currently serves 75 different body sizes, shapes, and heights, and is even pushing to embrace more.
Nudie makes responsible, seasonless, sustainable and genderless denims primarily from organic, Fairtrade, or recycled cotton.

Best Overall: DL1961 Premium Denim

DL1961 Bridget Bootcut

Meghan Markle, Gigi Hadid, and Jessica Alba have all shimmied into denims from the sustainable and playful family-owned premium brand, DL1961. Taking trash and converting it into well made, durable jeans, it is committed to the planet and people. DL1961 shreds denim discards and post-consumer waste, weaving them into new yarn with eco-friendly fibers such as Tencel and Modal (both are produced from wood pulp).

Energy efficient, the closed-loop manufacturing process is powered by a solar plant. Using hi-tech waterless technology, each pair requires less than 10 gallons of water to make, and 98% of the water used is treated and reused. Kind to your skin, the comfy jeans are made using DyStar Liquid Indigo dyes that spout out lesser effluents.

DL1961 is also a member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s The Jeans Redesign. Following the guidelines, they are crafting circular, recyclable jeans for tomorrow that are made from safe, renewable materials and are built to endure. 

Best Budget: Levi's Jeans

Levi's Stretch Skinny Jeans

By cleverly affixing copper rivets on denim work wear way back in 1873, Levi’s introduced the classic 501 Original blue jeans to the world, unleashing a fashion trend we have never quite recovered from. Levi’s offers the widest selection of denims at the best prices, while pushing the envelope when it comes to reducing resources used and waste generated.

Levi’s works with softer and cleaner materials such as Tencel and cottonized hemp (hemp that’s soft like cotton). It has implemented its proprietary "Water<Less" technique that has saved around 4.2 billion liters of water and reused and recycled approximately 9.6 billion liters. Working with the world’s largest cotton sustainability program, Better Cotton Initiative, Levi’s is finding more productive and water efficient cultivation methods for cotton, with a goal to source 100% sustainable cotton by 2025.

You can always revisit old classics through its SecondHand selection of vintage, thrifted jeans, jackets, and more, all patched up with loads of TLC. We also love that Chip Bergh, Levi’s CEO is a vocal proponent of the No Wash Jeans movement. He spot cleans grime and hand washes his jeans only when necessary, letting them drip dry.

Best Luxury: Amendi Denim

Amendi Karolina Jeans

Founded by Corey Spencer and Andreas and Julia Åhrman, the Swedish-American Amendi (inspired by amendments) strives to improve fashion’s ethos with their low impact, high quality clothing label. Amendi champions thoughtful earth-friendly design and clean industry practices, with a strong sense of social responsibility.

It works with fabrics such as GOTS and OCS 100 organic certified cotton (both which ensure the organic status of the fabric) and GRS certified recycled materials (it verifies the contents of the recycled products). Amendi has fostered deep relationships with suppliers, listing in detail each on its website, and has embedded transparency in its supply chain so you can track the journey of these jeans from cradle to grave.

If that’s not enough, the Fabrication Facts tag dangling off each item reveals the complete story. It breaks down every nitty-gritty, right from each certification received and every dollar spent, to how much the company gave back and the number of people involved in the entire process.

Best Fair Trade: People Tree

People Tree Rochelle Wide Leg Trousers In Black

When it comes to Fair Trade fashion, no one does it better than People Tree, founded by social entrepreneur Safia Minney in 1991. This affordable label dresses women from top-to-toe in Fair Trade fashion that promotes traditional craftsmanship and responsible materials.

All its products, including the denim collection is Fair Trade certified, which means workers and farmers in developing countries are given fair wages, have decent working conditions, and receive an equitable deal. People Tree is also a member of a global network, the World Fair Trade Organization that’s transformed the lives of over a million people in local communities, with a majority of them women.

Whether you’re sliding into the ‘80s inspired tapered jeans or the wide flared 70’s number, you know this choice has put people and the planet first.

Best Black Denim: Boyish Jeans

Boyish Jeans The Casey Jean

Second only to Indigo colored jeans are black denims. Boyish nails the smoky silhouette with its sustainable black and charcoal shade jeans. These timeless, vintage-inspired togs are super versatile, perfect for a casual meeting or a night out.

OEKO-TEX STANDARD 100 approved (free from toxic chemicals and safe for human use), Boyish’s upcycled jeans are run through a black eco wash and use natural plant-based dyes. A durable blend of OCS 100 certified organic cotton, GRS-certified recycled cotton and Tencel, they’re PETA-approved vegan and don’t sag on the derrière after a few washes. Boyish is also a part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s The Jeans Redesign that’s taking fashion towards a circular economy.

Best Inclusive: Warp + Weft

Warp + Weft High Rise Jeans

Sara Ahmed (she is also the chief creative officer of DL1961 that’s owned by her family) is behind this accessible denim and essential wear label that “creates sustainable products for everybody and every body.” The company currently serves 75 different body sizes, shapes, and heights, and is even pushing to embrace more.

Women can pick from sizes 00-24, while men’s sizes go up to a 48 waist. These mindfully manufactured jeans fit perfectly right out of the box, without any uncomfortable wedgies or weird bunching. Most importantly, the manufacturing process is vertically integrated, meaning the company has complete control from processing the cotton to the final wash treatment in its ethically run and ecologically managed factory.

What’s more, it produce its own denim fabric from scratch, creating unique blends from materials like cotton, lycra, and Tencel. The jeans flatter every body type, while letting you breathe.

Best Unisex: Nudie Jeans Co.

Nudie Jeans Co. Tuff Tony Snake Eyes Selvage

Jeans are a wardrobe staple that have blurred the blurred the gender binary for decades. Nudie Jeans, a GOTS-certified company, makes responsible, seasonless, sustainable and genderless denims primarily from organic, Fairtrade, or recycled cotton. Nudie Jeans are known for their unisex fits (though the label points out that Hightop Tilde, Breezy Britt, Straight Sally and Clean Eileen are specifically designed for women, men can work the look too).

In 2020, the company produced 98.6% of its products sustainably, containing at least 70% sustainable fibers. It also encourages shoppers to trade in their old Nudie Jeans and also repair them through their facilities. Old denim is resold or recycled in to new items. Each year, Nudie Jeans brings out a comprehensive sustainability report that you can download and peruse in detail to uncover the naked truth behind its sustainability efforts.

Final Verdict

Our pick of sustainable denims is the upcycled DL1961 that’s sustainable and stylish at the same time (view at DL1961). When it comes to hunting for a wide variety of styles, great fits, and affordable prices, look no further than classic Levi’s, a label which has been around for over a century and is making rapid strides towards sustainability (view at Levi's).

Why Trust Treehugger?

From cradle-to-grave, denims have had a dirty past, but the future looks bright.

For our shortlist, we have picked brands that are creating quality jeans in a responsible manner. We’ve considered denims made from third-party certified sustainable fabrics, using cutting-edge technology. The companies follow eco-friendly production processes that are transparent and follow set labor standards. So, whether you’re looking for a sustainable slouchy pair for yourself, skinnies for the spouse, boyfriend jeans for the kids, or matching jackets for the pooch, we’ve got you covered.

Author Neeti Mehra is a luxury-industry veteran who’s also committed to sustainable, slow, and mindful living. Her all-time favorite jeans were a preloved pair that she wore for nearly a decade, till they fell apart.