Making the jeans owned by Brits produced CO2 equivalent to flying around the world more than 2,300 times

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Today, Oxfam is urging shoppers to buy clothes second hand rather than brand new as its new research reveals emissions produced manufacturing jeans owned by UK adults is comparable to flying a plane around the globe 2,372 times or a petrol car travelling more than 21 billion miles.

Buying one pair of second hand jeans a year instead of brand new would lead to a reduction in emissions comparable to travelling 3 billion fewer miles in a petrol car or 365 times less round the world in a plane.

The colossal figures reveal the carbon footprint of making new jeans and are reported by Oxfam to support its annual Second Hand September campaign.

The campaign encourages consumers to choose second hand fashion in September to fight the climate crisis and raise money for the charity’s work helping the world’s poorest communities.

In the UK, on average women own seven pairs of jeans and men six, proving the universal appeal of denim. But each pair carries a carbon footprint. And the research shows if all the jeans in the UK were purchased brand new, the carbon footprint is equivalent to the emissions produced by a coal-fired power station in 18 months.

Oxfam conducted the study to highlight the impact of fashion consumption on people and the planet ahead of its Second Hand September campaign. The campaign encourages fashion lovers to contribute to the circular economy by shopping second hand and donating good quality items to Oxfam shops.

Lorna Fallon, Oxfam Retail Director, said: “The figures are astonishing – who knew making a pair of brand new jeans is like driving 60 miles in terms of global warming? Continuing on this road is just not sustainable for the planet and everyone who lives on it.

“But there’s hope and lots of fun to be had! Shopping second hand is a small and enjoyable choice each of us can make. And together we can have a giant impact on the climate emergency. People who donate to Oxfam shops and buy from our shops both reduce emissions and raise money for Oxfam’s work helping the world’s poorest people access the basics in life like clean water, food, shelter, and the right to make a living. It’s time to practice fun, feel-good shopping with serious intent!’

Oxfam’s sustainable fashion raises crucial funds to help the world’s poorest people, like in East Africa where one person is dying from hunger every 48 seconds caused in large part by severe drought and flooding fuelled by climate change.


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Download an infographic on emissions produced by brand new jeans here:

Notes to Editor

Background data:

We have calculated manufacturing emissions of jeans i.e. emissions created across the stages of fibre, fabric assembly, cut, sew and finish, sundries and packaging.

Each pair of jeans carries a carbon footprint, which includes all stages of its lifecycle (from production through consumer use to disposal). According to the latest Levi’s estimates (2015, p. 1 of the Appendix), the lifecycle CO2e emissions associated to each pair of jeans amounts to 33.4 kg CO2e; of those, 16.2 kg CO2e are estimated by Levi’s to be manufacturing emissions (i.e. created across the stages of fibre, fabric assembly, cut, sew and finish, sundries and packaging).

The calculation of the total number of jeans in the UK assumes the jeans were all bought brand new.

Vehicle emissions of CO2 per car mile based on a Ford Fiesta. The carbon emissions of a Ford Fiesta is calculated to be equivalent to 94.24 kg CO2e for a 350 miles journey,107.7 kg CO2e for a 400 miles journey and 105.0 kg CO2e for a 390 miles journey.

According to the latest estimates, the total UK adult population amounts to 54.1 million.

The emissions equivalence to coal-fired power plants is computed assuming a conversion factor of 3.735 million tonnes CO2 emitted yearly per coal-fired power plant.

A one-way London-New York flight (~5,500 Km or 3,460 miles) produces around 1,0 tonne CO2e per passenger, so let us assume that this plane flies on average 333 passengers (based on 416 seats for the most common airplane Boeing 747-400 with an average occupancy of 80%).

About Oxfam

Oxfam is a global movement of people all working towards the same goal – an end to the injustice of poverty. Together we save and rebuild lives in disasters, help people earn a living, and speak out on the big issues, like inequality and climate change, that keep people poor.

Oxfam has more than 500 shops in the UK. By buying and donating through Oxfam shops, you can help to protect our planet, while helping the poorest people around the world to escape the injustice of poverty.

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