China Gets The Blues, Literally


Guess what? Jeans aren’t really green. The most sustainable pair you’ll slip on are the blue jeans that feel like cardboard boxes on your legs or the pair you find at the thrift shop; otherwise it’s a crapshoot as to how they get distressed like you want them to be.

Sustainable? To a degree, depending on what the company wants to tout as “eco,” with initiatives ranging from the use of natural reactants vs. toxic indigo baths to planting trees or giving back to countries that have suffered at the hands of the denim industry.

On that note, we turn our eyes to images like these released recently from Greenpeace on Ecotextile News. The site claims that “Two Chinese textile factory towns in Guangdong province, that together make millions of pairs of jeans and underwear, are now heavily polluted with chemicals released from textile production.”

Situated on a tributary of the Pearl River Delta, Xintang is a huge denim producer. Its jeans and apparel business began in the eighties, but thanks to our unquenchable thirst to look like rugged Americans, the last thirty years has enabled an entire economy to become completely dependent on the denim production chain in Xintang. According to Greenpeace, the town produces over 260 million pairs of jeans a year, equivalent to 60 percent of China’s total jeans production, and 40 percent of the jeans sold in the USA.

This is a satellite image of what Greenpeace caught flowing out of Xintang.

Denim pollution flows from Xintang into the Dong River, then on to the Pearl Delta

Apparently, in Xintang, the “jeans capital of the world” and Gurao, heavy metals in 17 of the 21 soil and water samples tested, indicated extensive heavy metal contamination throughout both cities, says EcoTextile News.

Greenpeace even cited that “In one sample, cadmium exceeded China’s national limits by 128 times.” 128 times?! Come on!

Will China get wise to stricter monitoring of discharged chemicals in their water and soil? Do they even care?

Greenpeace hopes so (as do we) and has called on not only the Chinese textile industry and government to shape up but for society as a whole to take a closer look at what fast fashion is doing to China’s environment and beyond, to you.

Amy DuFault

Amy DuFault is a conscious lifestyle writer, consultant and fashion instigator. She resides in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.