Of course we will get the legitimate question: what is the environmental impact of the HNST jeans? A fair question, but a very tough one! How do we express in numbers how well we are doing? A widely used method is doing an LCA study (Life Cycle Assessment). This method tries to map out what the water footprint, the CO2 impact or the use of land is for a certain product. To be honest, I don’t really like running an LCA. Why? In an LCA we are often dealing with a lot of assumptions and industrial averages, even though we try to make them as specific as possible. Next to this, the question always remains what you do include or not in the calculation. For example, certain LCA studies can handle a subsequent use of a product poorly. Our jeans are designed for recycling, but without a suitable tool, this is not being rewarded.
Since we can’t really stay behind and we sometimes need to do things we dislike, we have calculated an LCA together with the students of the Saxion and directed by Texperium. In order to do so, we used the Ecotool, developed by Modint and TU Delft.
In the LCA calculations we are strict and we don’t count ourselves rich, on the contrary. Where needed, we give ourselves the disadvantage of the doubt. The use of water for the new cotton used in our fabric has a big impact on our calculations. Next to the 56% recycled fibres and 21% Tencel ®, the blend of our jeans fabric consists of 23% virgin cotton (new cotton), coming from the warp yarn. This cotton unfortunately isn’t (yet) biological and a result of not wanting to sacrifice wear quality and long lasting jeans. Replacing this cotton is on top of our improvement list for a next collection.
The virgin cotton is being produced in Greece. The advantage is that in Greece, little or no genetically modified (GMO) cotton is being used (unlike India for example). An inconvenience is that we are probably dealing with irrigated cotton in this case. Since we are not sure, we use the figures for irrigated cotton from Turkey (13400 litres/kg of cotton) in our calculations instead of the world average for cotton (2120 litres/ kg of cotton). We then apply this on a 600 gram jeans consisting of 23% virgin cotton. This has a big impact on our water footprint: 98% (1930 litres) of the total amount of 1960 litres per jeans comes from the 23% of virgin cotton we use. Even though our jeans use approximately 6000 litres less water per jeans, thanks to the use of Tencel ® and recycled fibres, we will continue our effort to replace the virgin cotton by either organic or recycled cotton. This search however can’t be at the expense of the jeans’ quality, which remains key.
CO2 emission equivalents (in kilograms) are another very interesting topic. You see many companies trying to be CO2 neutral. We do not think that is good enough. Inspired by the Cradle to Cradle® philosophy, we aim to be carbon positive. We do this by first calculating our carbon footprint (in kg CO2 equivalents) and then compensating these emissions by planting trees that can extract CO2 from the air as nutrients and then store it as building substances. In order to do so, we work with WeForest.
Of course it remains better to keep our carbon footprint as small as possible. Currently we have calculated that our jeans emit 5.6 kg CO2 during production. That’s the equivalent of a 30 km drive with a small petrol car. We compensate the triple of CO2 equivalents while we continue working on reducing our emission.
We are proud of the solution we found to wash the jeans less frequently. We often tend to forget the impact of our washing behaviour on the product’s further footprint. By washing less frequently, you save some 12 to 17 litres of water each time. Next to this, your jeans remain of good quality and keep their fit.
And then there is an important aspect that you can help us with. In order to prevent that our carefully designed jeans ends up in the incinerator, together with more than 50% of our discarded textile, we would like to get them back in order to reuse them as new raw material for a new collection. Huge benefits can be made with this. For the environment, since these raw materials don’t have to be grown anywhere and are ready to use, and a benefit for you, because we will be happy to reward you with a discount on your new HNST jeans!