How Our Jeans Are Damaging the Rivers Around Us

Do you think your favorite pair of designer jeans was overpriced? Think again. It should be impossible to put a price tag on a product that poisons the most important lifelines of our planet, but unfortunately it’s not.

Fashion is killing the worlds rivers. They are becoming more polluted every single year as textile manufacturers dump wastewater and residual chemicals directly into nearby waterways. The denim industry is particularly destructive, using a mix of toxic chemicals such as cadmium, mercury, and lead to create the jeans that we all wear and love.

This kind of production has a catastrophic effect on water quality and on the lives of the many people who depend on these rivers for survival. At a time when close to 1 billion people don’t have direct access to clean water, it’s absurd that our rivers should be pumped full of toxins on a daily basis. Countries such as China and India, which reap the economic benefits of producing vast amounts of textiles cheaply and quickly, now find themselves in the awful position of having to live with the ecological side effects.

If water pollution at this level continues, Greenpeace executive director Kumi Naidoo’s tragic prophecy will come true: “The wars of the future will not be fought over oil. The wars of the future will be fought over water.

A new documentary called RiverBlue hopes to raise awareness among consumers about the declining health of our river systems and how the textile industry is responsible for much of it. The film’s team, headed by Canadian river activist and avid canoeist/kayaker Mark Angelo, includes director David McIlvride (National Geographic, Discovery Channel, History Channel) and producer Roger Williams (Discovery Channel), both of whom are Gemini Award winners.

RiverBlue documentary/Promo image

The rough-cut version of the film has been made, but now the RiverBlue team has launched a crowd-funding campaign in order to raise money to complete the post-production phase, which includes animation, music, and voice-over talent.

Why is this film worth supporting? Because it’s the most ambitious, in-depth, and extensive river documentary made in many years, and the team hopes to be an ‘agent for positive change.’ The denim industry is largely under-reported, despite the fact that the most serious polluters are linked to the world’s biggest and most popular denim brands. RiverBlue hopes to galvanize consumers into action; to turn them off conventional production and inspire them to seek out ethically-produced jeans instead; and to add their voices to the demand for better, more ecologically-friendly production practices.

You can contribute to the project here. Follow on Twitter @RiverBlueMovie

Written by Katherine Martinko, originally on TreeHugger.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

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Melissa DogLover
Melissa DogLover6 months ago

I'm glad that I prefer to wear just elastic waistband pants rather than jeans, because they feel so much more comfortable on me. =]]

Dt Nc
Dt Nc6 months ago

Thanks for the thoughtful article. The future is already here, many of the skirmishes and hostilities in this world is really about battling for resources. If you look deep enough you will find the real reason for conflicts is about basic resources like fresh water. The problem will get worse as we keep on polluting. Technology can help, but the price tag may force conflicts as well.

Magdalena J.
Magdalena C.7 months ago

Thank you!

Mary Donnelly
Mary Donnellyabout a year ago


Elena P.
Elena Poensgenabout a year ago

Thank you :)

Hemkant Beedkar
Hemkant Beedkarabout a year ago

Fashion is killing the world rivers is true, but many of the household stuff also adding poison in the river streams. Just think of detergents of only and you will go on counting.

Mahalia W.
Mahalia W.about a year ago

Thank you for sharing.

Joanne Hofstetter
Joanne Hofstetterabout a year ago

Didn't know that..I wear mine until they fall off

Dimitris Dallis
Dimitris Dallisabout a year ago

Our consumerism damage the rivers - and not only :)

june t.
june t.about a year ago

we don't need as much stuff as we think we do.