The best sustainable jeans: the eco-friendly wardrobe upgrade

The best sustainable jeans to snap up now for an eco-friendly denim upgrade

Four models wearing a selection of the best sustainable jeans
(Image credit: Outland / DL1961 / Everlane / E.L.V / LEVI'S)

There's nothing like adding a new pair of sustainable jeans for a quick wardrobe update.

If you’re looking to shop the best, then investing in a decent pair from one of many sustainable fashion brands is a good place to start.

Jeans are a solid staple in our capsule wardrobe, and although they may not be as throwaway as other fast fashion garms, it doesn’t mean they aren’t damaging to the planet. In fact, Denim brand Levi Strauss estimates a pair of its signature 501 jeans will produce the equivalent of 33.4 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq) across its entire lifespan—about the same as driving 69 miles in the average US car. These emissions are from a combination of production, packaging, transport, and consumer use.

The UN also estimates that a single pair of jeans requires one kilo of cotton and producing that one kilo uses around 10,000 liters of water—enough drinking water for one person over 10 years. And we’re all guilty of having more than one pair in our closets. Luckily, many brands—including the likes of Everlane, DL1961, and all your faves—have been making moves to make jeans more planet-friendly.

What makes jeans sustainable?

Everything from production to transport has its effect on the planet. “Sustainable fashion to me is a more considered approach to what I’m consuming—so really abiding by the principles of buying less, buying better, and sharing more,” says Eshita Kabra Davies, founder of By Rotation, a peer-to-peer rental app. So we, as consumers, can help by investing in high-quality jeans that last, holding on to them for longer, and wearing them more often. If we kept our clothes (and continued to wear them) for just nine months longer, it could reduce their environmental impact by 22 percent, according to a report by the recycling charity Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).



What to look for when shopping for sustainable jeans

Look for transparency from the brand about how each pair is produced—from the use of dyes and chemicals to shipping and factory conditions. Be wary of ‘greenwashing’ and anything too brief. Brands such as Reformation and DL1961 state the sustainability impact of each pair of jeans on its website so you know exactly what you’re in for. 

When it comes to fabrics, look for materials such as Tencel, Organic Cotton, and recycled or upcycled methods. “Buy clothes made from sustainable fibers. Our goal is to create clothes that reduce the environmental impact. That’s why we keep our supply chain short and build long-lasting relations with our suppliers based on trust and communication. Our clothes are designed to last and to be worn time after time. We use certified fabrics (Oeko-Tex, GOTS, Lenzing) and next year we will go even further,” explains Justyna Przygonska, Co-Founder of The Odder Side, a sustainable fashion brand based in Poland.

The best sustainable jeans to shop now

The Everlane 90s cheeky jeans are one of the best sustainable jeans

(Image credit: Everlane)

1. Everlane The 90s Cheeky Straight Jean

For an effortlessly cool look, go for this vintage style

Specifications
Sizes: 23-33, ankle and regular
Material: 100% cotton
Care: Machine wash cold. Tumble dry low.
Reasons to buy
+Flattering high waist+Cool retro aesthetic
Reasons to avoid
-Non-stretch fabric so harder to fit-Doesn’t use recycled materials

This retro-inspired denim is made in a factory that uses renewable energy and air drying to reduce CO2 emissions by 80%. They also recycle 98% of their water too. This straight-leg cut has a high waist and a butt-boosting rear for a flattering finish. Available in six colorways.

A pair of Levis jeans, one of the best sustainable jeans

(Image credit: Levi's)

2. Levi's WELLTHREAD RIBCAGE STRAIGHT JEANS

A super flattering fit that helps lengthens legs

Specifications
Sizes: Waist 23-32, Length 27-29
Material: 72% Cotton, 28% Hemp
Reasons to buy
+Flattering high waist+Long-lasting
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive-Can come up small

Levi’s WellThread range is the denim giants’ most sustainable collection. Crafted using cottonized hemp, which requires less water and fewer pesticides to grow, these are designed to be 100% recyclable too. The extra-high rise is flattering on the waist and the cropped finish works well for those that are petite.

A pair of Boyish jeans, one of the best sustainable jeans

(Image credit: Boyish)

3. Boyish The Zachary – Short Circuit

A sustainable skinny with a deconstructed edge

Specifications
Sizes: 22-32 waist
Material: 66% OCS Certified Organic Cotton, 33% Tencel Lyocell, 1% Recycled Elastane
Care: Machine wash cold. Do not tumble dry
Reasons to buy
+Upcycled materials+Long-lasting
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive-Limited sizing

Boyish jeans are super ethical and only use 1/3 the amount of water that regular denim uses—and recycles it. These upcycled jeans include organic cotton that is OCS certified and Tencel Lyocell—a natural raw material from eucalyptus trees that is responsibly produced so they tick all the planet-friendly boxes. A classic skinny cut with ripped detailing for an added edge, they have a slight stretch for added comfort.

A pair of Outland jeans, one of the best sustainable jeans

(Image credit: Outland)

4. Outland Abigail Jeans

A relaxed pair that delivers in comfort

Specifications
Sizes: 24-34
Material: Organic Cotton, 100% Vegan
Reasons to buy
+Super soft and comfy+Organic cotton
Reasons to avoid
-Can come up small-More expensive

Outland jeans get Meghan Markle’s stamp of approval and she has been spotted wearing a black pair from the brand. This relaxed girlfriend pair are made from organic cotton and washed organically too. The high-rise fit is flattering on the waist whilst the looser leg keeps them as comfy as a pair of joggers.

A pair of Gap jeans, one of the best sustainable jeans

(Image credit: Gap)

5. Gap Sky High Rise True skinny Jeans

Budget-friendly buy for the eco-conscious

Specifications
Sizes: 24-35, short, petite, regular, tall and long
Material: 94% Cotton, 4% Elasterrell, 2% Spandex
Care: Machine wash
Reasons to buy
+Super flattering+Budget-friendly
Reasons to avoid
-Not as eco-conscious as other brands-Can come up big

These jeans are part of Gap’s Washwell program which uses 20 percent less water than a conventional wash, saving over 289 million liters of water since its launch in 2016. This super-stretch pair is super flattering, hugging your curves in all the right places. Good if you’re after something more budget-friendly that still does its bit for the environment.

A pair of Able jeans, one of the best sustainable jeans

(Image credit: Able)

6. Able Whitney Boyfriend Jeans

Up your weekend game with this borrowed-from-the-boys look

Specifications
Sizes: 25-32
Material: 75% Cotton, 25% Lyocell
Reasons to buy
+Super soft denim+Good fit
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive-Limited sizing

Based in Nashville, Tennessee, Able’s denim uses less water, avoids harsh chemicals, and is mostly produced in Mexico to reduce the carbon footprint from shipping. The brand also pays its workers (compromising of 95% women) fair living wages and publishes their wages too for full transparency. We love this super comfy relaxed boyfriend pair—the perfect weekend pair of sustainable jeans.

A pair of Reformation jeans, one of the best sustainable jeans

(Image credit: Reformation)

7. Reformation Eloise High Rise Wide Leg Jeans

Switch up your shades with off-white

Specifications
Size: 22-31
Material: 60% Organically Grown Cotton, 40% TENCEL Lyocell
Care: Wash cold, line dry
Reasons to buy
+Flattering high rise+On-trend style
Reasons to avoid
-Can come up small – size up-More expensive

This LA-based brand is big on sustainability and details every product’s environmental impact on its website. This wide-leg cropped pair will help elongate your legs for a flattering fit. We love the ecru hue for a fresh take. Wear with tees in the summer and chunky knits in the winter.

A pair of DL1961 jeans, one of the best sustainable jeans

(Image credit: DL1961)

8. DL1961 Bridget Boot: High Rise Instasculpt 33” Hail

Smarten up your denim with some beautiful bootcuts

Specifications
Size: 23-34
Material: 62% Lyocell, 23% Cotton, 14% Polyester, 1% Lycra
Reasons to buy
+Super ethical+Flattering fit
Reasons to avoid
-More expensive-Can come up big

Promising to smooth, sculpt and conform to your body, these bootcut sustainable jeans fit like a glove. Made with botanic, water-efficient fibers the fabric is breathable and moisture-wicking for a seriously comfy fit. The brand’s factory is powered by solar energy and denim effects are created using waterless processes such as laser machines, eliminating any harsh chemicals.

A pair of E.L.V Denim jeans, one of the best sustainable jeans

(Image credit: E.L.V Denim)

9. E.L.V Denim Dark Blue/Mid Blue Contrast Straight Leg Jean

Distinctive denim that’ll last a lifetime

Specifications
Size: 25-30
Reasons to buy
+‘Zero-waste’ jeans+Unique style
Reasons to avoid
-More high-end-Limited sizing

Although at the higher end of the price range, this really pays off when it comes to sustainability. With a ‘no waste’ operation, all jeans are created using discarded denim that would be destined for landfill. These vintage jeans are made from two contrasting colors with a straight leg fit and eco-finish hardware for a truly unique pair.

Sezane the perfect slim jeans eco friendly are some of the best sustainable jeans

(Image credit: Sezane)

10. Sezane The Perfect Slim Eco Friendly

Parisian chic for ultimate style points

Specifications
Size: 23-36
Material: 99% Organic Cotton, 1% Elastane
Care: Wash as little as possible
Reasons to buy
+Seriously stylish+Hugs your curves
Reasons to avoid
-Can come up long-No stretch

Naturally, this Parisian brand manages to captures that effortlessly-cool-French-girl-aesthetic, now, they can add sustainability to their forte. Their eco-friendly denim range uses 100 GOTS-certified organic cotton and recycled packaging. Opt for this gorgeous slim pair for a snug fit that flatters.

Charlie Bell
Charlie Bell

Charlie is a freelance fashion, beauty, and lifestyle editor with a pretty extensive dress collection. She bagged her first magazine job back in 2009 working for a woman’s weekly title (which mainly involved making lots of coffee) and has worked her way up, embracing anything that was thrown at her, from styling celebrities to writing about must-have beauty buys. On the weekend you can usually find Charlie running around southeast London (literally), baking cookies, or re-watching films from the nineties.