Jeans Review - How sustainable and ethical are Levi's?

Sustainable everyday living - made simple and stylish

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Capsule Wardrobe Denim

Buy good quality jeans and they will last a very long time. Reducing wardrobe waste is one big way you can help look after the planet.
Investing in key fashion essentials that will withstand the test of time helps you create a personal style that shines. Jeans need to be dependable, sturdy, ready to wear and feel comfortable and fabulous at the same time.
Recommended Denim: Levis for all blue, black or white jeans, skirts, and jackets.


Most women own some essential wardrobe items made from denim. Denim can be known for its long-wearing aesthetic. To get long wear from denim buying good quality denim is important. 
Jeans are an investment, make sure the denim you buy is sourced from sustainable origins. This is better for your bank account and better for the environment. The best jeans are the ones that get better with age, feel sensational against your body, looking equally impressive, and are made from reliable denim.

Make your clothing last, easily transform core fashion essentials in to effortless outfits you feel empowered wearing. All explained in 'The Ultimate Capsule Wardrobe Guide' (immediate digital download).
"When you buy and use less stuff, you are more satisfied with what you have." -

Denim Jeans Review: 

For 167 years, they have been cool, classic and iconic.
Designed to last withstanding daily use Levi's clothes are made from durable fabrics. Levi's jeans are made to last. 
With globally 85% of textiles ending up in landfill long lasting products is more important to consumers than ever. Getting more wear out of your clothes means you don't need to spend money replacing them.
Levi's reports: "Wearing jeans for 10 months longer will shrink its carbon footprint by 18% and water footprint by 23%. We're on a mission to minimize our environmental impact and make it easy for you to do the same."
Buy better and it will last longer.
Jeans Review - How sustainable and ethical are Levi's?SHOP Levi's WellThread Sustainable range

Levi's Environmental Impact

Levi's uses some eco-friendly materials including recycled materials. They have set targets to reduce emissions and sustainable economic growth improvements in workers conditions, operations and supply chain.
How sustainable are Levi's jeans?
Very sustainable, the long life of Levi's products and their commitment to programs such as their Levis second hand online store, reduce the overall cost per wear of Levi's is significantly.
Making them a highly sustainable denim jeans choice.
We recognize that the apparel industry is very resource-intensive. Way too many garments end up in landfills. One thing that's really beautiful about our jeans is that they stay around for generations. They become vintage treasures. - Una Murphy, Levi's Senior Innovation Designer


Making jeans with recycled water. Image from Levi'sMaking jeans with recycled water. Image from Levi's

Reducing water

"4.2 billion liters of water saved since introducing Water < Less® in 2011. 6 billion liters of water reused and recycled. 75% of our cotton now comes from more sustainable sources. 65% of our products are currently made in factories that run our Worker Well-being programs." - Statistics from
To help inform consumers on the environmental impact of their clothing, in October 2015 Levi’s partnered with scientists at the University of California, Irvine to create the app, "The Water Footprint".
The app helps consumers calculate the water footprint associated with making their clothing, in an attempt to ‘future proof’ their clothing choices. The app was awarded the Global Grand Prize in the New 7 Wonders of Nature (and People) and BBC Worldwide’s BBC Earth Challenge. The BBC article highlighted the importance of understanding the water footprint of clothing: “If we don’t pay attention to what we’re wearing and how we’re washing it we might end up with shortages and more polluted rivers and aquatic environments.”
Levi Strauss & Co. supports the sustainability of the communities in which its collaborators and suppliers operate. It acknowledges that its suppliers’ operations may have an impact on the communities in which they operate, and aims.
However, we found room for improvement. Levi’s did not provide data on the remainder of the environmental impacts we assessed (e.g. ocean acidification and occupational risks). While Levi’s has set a target date of 2020 to eliminate hazardous chemicals, there was no commitment to develop a chemical reduction target beyond its existing 2020 greenhouse gas and water reduction targets. We also believe that Levi’s could expand its partnerships with other brands and share more innovative ideas for reducing its impact to an even greater extent. 
levi-sustainable-materals-wellthreadSHOP Levi's WellThread Sustainable range

Levi's Materials

What are Levi's jeans made from?

The majority of Levi's materials are made from 75% sustainably sourced cotton. -
Levi pledge for 100% sustainably sourced cotton by 2025. -


Does Levi's use hemp?

Yes, Levis is using sustainably sourced hemp which is specially designed for Levi's, hemp yarn technologies are an innovative material, soft like cotton, easily woven and highly durable. 
Levi's Cottonized Hemp uses less resources and makes less waste than tradition cotton. Hemp goes quicker, needing less water and leaves behind healthier soil than cotton.
Levi's sustainable collection Wellthread uses hemp.
levis-WellThread-sustainable-denim-jeansSHOP Levi's WellThread range

Levi's Wellthread Sustainable Collection

The Levi's Wellthread Collection is the first-ever to feature Levi's Water < Less fabric.
100% recyclable, natural and earth friendly hemp. The Wellthread collection saves more than 65% less water in the dye process than conventional dyeing. 


Does Levi's use sandblasting

Sandblasting is the most un-sustainable part of jeans manufacturing, which gives jeans the distressed and worn out appearance. Sandblasting uses silica dust particles and is harmful to human lungs, making for harmful conditions.
The Guardian reported: "Levi Strauss - Leading a worldwide ban on sandblasting".
However, in recent years the company has recognized a significant increase in the number of workers with silicosis coming from contracted factories.
Levi's had safely used sandblasting in the past with proper controls in place to protect workers in its supplier factories.
However since 2010, Levis has completely eliminate this practice from its product supply chain. 

Do Levi's use sustainable packaging?

Yes, Levi's retail stories provide purchases in recycled and recyclable paper bags, swing tag labels are printed on 100% recycled paper.


levis-innovation-lab-San Francisco .jpgLevi's innovation lab San Francisco

Levi's Ethics

How ethical is Levi’s?

Workers - Fair Pay, Conditions and Community Support.
How is Levi's socially responsible?
Levis investments in the lives of their workers. Having partnered "with suppliers and local nonprofits in 12 countries to provide health education, family welfare programs and financial empowerment. Nearly 100,000 workers, most of whom are women, currently benefit from Worker Wellbeing." 
Pay a living wage Levi’s rates ‘Very Good’ for its use of supplier factories with good labour conditions, sourcing from worker-friendly manufacturers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Romania, and Turkey.
Levi's workers in India
Levi's Workers India.
Levi’s also adopted the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh set up following the infamous factory collapse in 2013. Levi’s has made some good steps towards ensuring workers are paid a living wage. The company is participating in the San Francisco Living Wage Coalition which works to raise wages to a minimum of $15 an hour for all workers in San Francisco, including contract workers. 
The Levi Strauss Foundation supports working families by promoting financial opportunity. It focuses on increasing the number of Americans with access to affordable housing, creating opportunities for advancement in the workplace, and strengthening communities that are economically disadvantaged. Levi Strauss Foundation has matched donations of up to $3 Million to the American Red Cross to assist in charitable relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey. Levi Strauss Europe works with non-profit partners to ensure there is a triple benefit to Levi’s factories workers with additional incentives for the local economy, Levi Strauss brand values, and factory productivity. 
Whilst here are gaps in its supply chains, Levi's has clear brand transparency, offering substantial ethical growth future goals.
 levi-vegan-labels to replace leatherLeather-like paper label Levi's uses on some jeans - though leather is still used as well.

Is Levi's vegan?

Levi's does use leather-like patches (pictured) on some jeans and leather is still used on others.
However not all jeans are vegan, some still use leather patch labels. As long as Levi's patch labels are leather their jeans are not vegan. Hopefully this changes soon.
Levi's denim fabric is vegan, in-fact most jeans if not all are vegan friendly, they do not use animal by-products or harm animals during manufacturing and processing. 
Whilst Levi’s do not use fur, angora, or other exotic animal skin or hair.
Its current Animal Welfare Policy insists that the supply chains for the sourcing of all animal products must be traceable where practicable to ensure humane practices. 
Levi's do use leather, down feather, and wool and at this time. Due to this Levi's are not vegan as a company.

PETA talks with Levi's

PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is in discussion with Levi's to become vegan in all their materials.
"PETA’s campaign for leather alternatives underscores the impact leather production has on animal welfare and climate change. Turning animal skins into leather, PETA claims, can require the use of 130 different chemicals including cyanide, and leather production produces “massive amounts” of the greenhouse-gas emissions."
Levi’s responded at the time by pointing out that leather comprises “a small fraction” of raw materials it uses. “Nevertheless, Levi Strauss & Co. strives to source all materials responsibly,” a Levi’s spokesperson said. “Our goal is to ensure that wherever materials derived from animals are used in our products, their health and welfare are protected, in line with international animal welfare standards.” -

Levi's sizes to fit all body shapes

Brand Inclusivity Ethics

Inclusivity is the practice equal access to a product range for all shapes and sizes of people who might other wise be excluded.
What sizes do Levi's jeans come in?

Levi's Size Range

Levi's are available in a large range of sizes to encourage an inclusive brand identity. 
Petite and Regular sizes waist 23 - 34
Leg length 26 - 34
Plus sizes 14 - 26M

SHOP - Levi's

Levi's online Second-hand store SHOP Levi's Second Store

Levi's online Second-hand store 

So confident of the lasting quality of their denim jeans, jackets, skirts and shorts, Levi's offers an online second-hand store. 
Keeping the life of well made denim going and out of landfills, giving garments the respect of a longer life.
" If everybody bought one used item this year, instead of buying new, it would save 449 million pounds of waste. With Levi’s SecondHand, we’re inviting you to join us in a more sustainable future." - Levi's SecondHand Online Store
“Buying mostly secondhand clothing reduces a personal CO2 footprint by 527 pounds.* That's the equivalent of charging your smartphone 30,486 times.*” Sources: ThredUp, EPA

Levi's online Second-hand store  

Denim is a fashion staple in women's wardrobes across the globe. It’s simple, versatile, and when you buy well is made to last the test of time. For these reasons jeans are a wardrobe essential in your capsule wardrobe.


imogene + willie - Capsule wardrobe jeans: Denim made to last

Q&A Denim Jeans
How do I take care my jeans?

How do I wash denim jeans?

Denim jeans are made from cotton and should be washed according with other natural materials care and laundering. That is with care, natural detergent and water. You can use a specific denim wash detergent, make sure it is made from natural oils and is made to deodorise.
Method One: The Tub (Hand washing)
NB: When jeans are new blue and black jeans will leave reside colour on the inside of your tub. This can be removed with baking soda, vinegar and a scrubbing brush.
1. Fill your tub with mildly warm water, add natural washing detergent and swirl around to mix contents.
2. Submerge your jeans (inside out) in the tub and swirl around.
3. Leave for 10-15 minutes to soak
4. Rinse well and wring out excess water. Hang to dry in a well ventilated area out of direct sunlight. The jeans will leave a puddle, you can hang over the shower for a little while until they drain excess water.
Method Two: The Machine 
1. Turn your jeans inside out. The seams will protect the shape and this also helps protect the colour in your blue and black denim jeans.
2. Cold wash is best, use a delicate or denim machine cycle.
3. Add natural detergent, you can use a denim specific detergent make sure its all natural, chemicals destroy cotton fibres and cause wear and tear.
4. It is best to remove jeans as soon as washed the longer they are left creases set in. When creases a created on denim it can result in white streaks across blue and black jeans - not ideal. 
5. Hand to dry or tumble dry - a low or no heat is the best setting.

Should I use a fabric softener to wash my jeans?

No, do not use standard fabric softeners to wash your jeans. If you do want softer jeans use washing soda, yes your grandmother would have used this! Ordinary fabric softeners destroy the natural fibres of natural materials like cotton, creating holes and thinning the denim.

How often should I wash my jeans?

This is a personal one. Jeans get messy especially by no fault of your own if you are around children, outdoors or in a kitchen.
Washing your jeans as little as needed, is the best approach. If they have dirt that can't be wiped off or smell - wash them. Be careful and respectful of natural fibres. 
Machine setting - set to delicate wash cycle or use a denim setting if you have one
Detergents - use eco and natural washing liquid or powder, free from chemicals.
Water temperature - cold wash or warm, not hot
Inside out - turn denim inside out as this will help keep its form and retain colour. The stitching of the jeans is best on the outside during washing to keep jeans in shape. This also stops too much of the colour being washed away.

How can I stop my jeans wearing out?

Everyday wear and tear is normal, when jeans rub in places then they wear. You will notice you have a distinct place of wear on your jeans that is most likely different to your best friend. 
Stay on top of maintenance and repair any damage. Due to the natural cotton used to make jeans, it can rip easily, so to stopping it in its tracks will help your jeans to last longer.
Make sure to use the right detergents that is natural and check washing settings. Treat your jeans well and they will last longer.



Repair Service

Jeans only get better with time, so keep yours for as long as possible.
Think twice about throwing out damaged denim: Levi's® Tailor Shops, and our DIY content, can extend the life of your jeans by patching up rips, mending hems, replacing buttons and more.
Hold on to your Levi's® longer.
You're helping the environment -- and giving your denim a little soul.



All Levis is able to be repaired within a year of normal wear.
But what then? 
1. Repairs can still be serviced by Levis even after a year. Though for a small service fee, which I feel is fair enough.
Why don't more jeans brands offer a similar service? I would much prefer to have my jeans repaired by the same people who made them. 
2. DIY repairs - OwnMuse has a Pinterest - Repair and Mending board please have a look.
Not so handy with the needle and thread?
3. Google a local 'seamstress' and/or 'garment repairs'. There are experts who can fix just about any clothing item. It's important to reach out to your community and support peoples diverse skills.
Keep clothing out of landfills and repair and mend when ever possible.
Creating a sustainable life and style is not easy, it takes mindful conscious commitment to what we buy and who has made it.
Every little thing we do matters, together we make a big ecological difference.



ReCycle your Denim Jeans keep them out of Landfill

Levi's has a partnership with Cotton Inc.’s Blue Jeans Go Green Program, drop your jeans off in-store and recycle them. 
Alternatively donate good quality Levi's jeans that don't fit you or are not your stye to a second hand store, Levi's have a very high resell-able rate and are in damn.
Don't throw them out! There is somewhere for them that is not landfill.


ReImagine, ReFashion, ReMake, ReUse, RePurpose your Denim JeansXiye Bastida, a Mexican-Chilean climate activist - ReImagines her Levi's jacket

ReImagine, ReFashion, ReMake, ReUse, RePurpose your Denim Jeans

Ways to reinvent your favorite jeans into something new

Loved and worn, often ending up torn, everyone has had a favorite pair of jeans this. What next? If patches can rejuvenate your jeans then there are plenty of creative options on YouTube.
Torn and tattered jeans can still have life, transform for jeans in to shorts, a skirt and get creative with a denim inspired tote bag, wallet or cushion. It's the eco-friendly way.


Having owned many pairs of Levi's jeans, black denim, blue and grey. As well as Levi's denim jackets and many denim skirts since the 90s I feel confident in my review of this icon sustainable and ethical brand.
Levi's withstands the test of time, wear and rugged durability.
New or second hand you will have your Levi's to love and enjoy as long last they fit and the style suits.
When the time comes to move them on, please consider gifting or selling if in good condition, remaking them in to something else of recycling by giving them back to Levi's store near you!
Harper and The OwnMuse Team


Sources: - Ssustainability
The Guardian - Levi Strauss leading worldwide ban sandblasting
Financial Review - Levis is making denim you'll wear forever

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Post written by Harper Sinclair. Content creator for

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