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Undisciplined: Devil With The Blue Jeans


About 150 years ago, Jacob Davis went into business with Levi Strauss, and the era of blue jeans was underway. Today, at any given moment, about half of the world’s population is wearing jeans and other denim garments. But nothing that successful comes without an environmental consequence, and a new study puts those costs into context.

Researchers from the University of Toronto reported finding lots of fibers from blue jeans in the Arctic Ocean – suggesting these fibers got there through atmospheric and oceanic processes. 

And that’s not great news for the environment, because even though denim is made from cotton, it’s not cotton — it’s a modified cellulose with lots of chemical additives.   

Sam Athey was the lead author on this report, and she’s joining us from her home in Toronto, where she researches plastic marine debris as a vector for toxic compounds in marine and freshwater environments.