Fashion is fast. Beautiful. And incredibly dirty.
That’s what we get told.
Today, MUD Jeans sells the world’s first circular jeans.
In this story, we will show you how MUD Jeans measured the impact of their different styles and washes, how they improved their own environmental performance – and how their products compare to their competitors.
How the wash and style of jeans influence the impact
One core concept behind MUD Jeans is that different styles get created through different washing techniques. MUD Jeans uses a very limited amount of different fabrics, which get used across many different styles. This helps to reduce waste in the production process. Comparing the different styles and washes helped a lot to understand which processes drive impact for MUD Jeans.
Our analysis showed: The Environmental Price of the “Dry Spirit” washing technique is less than 22% of the “Whale Blue” wash!
Which product has the overall lowest/highest Environmental Price?
By cross-referencing style and wash, we could identify which product has the highest Environmental Price.
The analysis revealed that the model “Irwin Dungaree” in the color “Whale Blue” accounted for the highest Environmental Price.
However, even that Environmental Price is extremely low compared to the competition.
In this article, we will show you how we calculated the impact of individual products – and how they compare to the industry and their competitors.
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Sustainable business models meet circular products
MUD Jeans isn’t only innovating their products. The business model behind fast fashion is incredibly wasteful, too.
That’s why they are constantly innovating – their program “Lease A Jeans” pioneered circular innovation in the fashion industry. And it was a big success.
Less than 1% of materials used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing. Let’s do this differently.MUD Jeans
You can only improve what you measure
Let’s do a little thought experiment:
You want to become a better runner. And by better… you mean that you want to run 10 km in one hour.
That’s ambitious if you’re running for the first time. But without a watch, it will be hard for you to ever know if you’ve reached your goal.
Or how far away it is.
The same applies to sustainability
Only that in sustainability, there doesn’t seem to be a clear goal. Especially in fashion it can be challenging: What do you want to focus on?
The social implications of your manufacturing? The chemicals used in the dyeing process? The harvesting of cotton?
For MUD Jeans, all these factors were critical.
But two factors stood out:
Another factor that MUD Jeans cares about is the water depletion that their products cause along the value chain.
Further factors were land occupation in m2a, Total Energy in MJ and Environmental Price in Euro. You can find the full data of this analysis in their report.
Most of the graphics in this story will depict the impact as Environmental Price. This is how it works: For an Environmental Price, different impacts like CO₂ and toxicity get translated into a monetary value that depicts the hidden costs to society.
Let’s get technical: How do we measure impact?
A ReCiPe for comparability
The standard methodology to measure the environmental impact of a product or service is a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).
In the analysis, MUD Jeans relied on ReCiPe – an impact assessment method that translates emissions and resource extractions into aggregated categories.
This makes the long list of life cycle impacts easier to measure and compare. In ReCiPe, there are 18 midpoint indicators and 3 endpoint indicators. Through this categorization, individual impacts can be set into a relationship with each other.
Cradle2Gate: From harvest to factory gate
Of course, jeans get washed by their users.
And washing requires energy.
But in this analysis, MUD Jeans focused solely on the impact of their products “from Cradle to Gate”, so until the product gets shipped to the retailer or customer.
Impact Assessment is no one-off thing
For MUD Jeans, sustainability is a mindset. Even though they are much smaller than the big denim brands, it was a matter of responsibility for them. They started calculating their first footprints in 2015 – back when they didn’t use recycled cotton.
In the meantime, many things changed: Suppliers, materials, and processes improved largely over the course of the years.
So it was time to recalibrate and calculate their current footprint. So, MUD Jeans reached out to Ecochain to calculate the environmental footprint of their value chain.
Let’s get specific
In the 2015 analysis, MUD Jeans had relied on averages.
In the new analysis with Ecochain’s tool Helix, the goal was to find out what style of jeans actually exhibited which impact.
Benchmarking the industry
Another important goal:
Compare MUD Jeans to their competitors.
How would their circular jeans compare to other products in the market?
Where does the impact come from?
The analysis showed that the production of the cotton represented by far the biggest share in overall impact of the jeans.
And the recycled cotton indeed had a significantly lower impact.
The reason of this is mainly that the use of diesel and water for cotton harvesting is significantly higher for the production of organic cotton and has to be taken less into account to make the calculations for recycled cotton.
Let’s dive into the impact of MUD Jeans in more detail
How does this distribution show in one product?
MUD Jeans only uses certified organic cotton and recycled cotton.
When zooming in on one pair of jeans, the “Skinny Hazen – Dip Dry” style of jeans showed a clear hotspot of environmental impact.
The transport only accounted for 1,6% of total impact, the production process – traditionally a very emission-heavy part of the value chain – for 13,8%, with the biggest share of impact in the ironing process.
The materials used accounted for the majority of impact – the use of organic cotton alone accounted for more than half of total impact! This is not surprising, as the jeans consist of more than 75% organic cotton.
The total impact of one Skinny Hazen jeans accounts for 6,3 kg CO₂ – that’s about 300 cups of coffee, or 1,2 steaks (according to our Carbon Translator). Not too bad for a product that will last you a long time, thanks to its quality!
MUD Jeans is leading the race in sustainable denim
The analysis paid off:
By measuring their impact, MUD Jeans can now compare it to the industry standard. And they’re doing pretty well – a jeans from MUD Jeans emits 66% less CO₂ than a comparable product from Levi’s; the water footprint is reduced by 80%, and land occupation by 48%!
Biodiversity at MUD Jeans: 57% better than the industry standard
Biodiversity considered one of the biggest threats to humanity. Since 1970, the planet has lost more than 52 percent of its biodiversity. 80% of its wetlands.
We need nature to survive. And MUD Jeans wanted to understand how they can contribute to a healthier ecosystem on our planet.
That’s why they measured it.
Within the calculation methods of ReCiPe it is possible to calculate the endpoint ‘Ecosystem’ in ‘species per year’.
MUD Jeans are leading the industry in biodiversity
MUD Jeans compared different models based on their biodiverse performance.
The Regular Dunn True Indigo model performed a staggering 57% better than the industry standard.
On average, MUD Jeans have a 46% lower biodiversity impact than the industry standard.
Now that they have set a benchmark, the sustainable frontrunner from the Netherlands wants to further improve their performance. Especially in biodiversity, MUD Jeans want to make a positive contribution to the environment.
Let’s follow them on their journey!