A leader in sustainability for decades, Levi Strauss & Co. has taken the next step to reduce water consumption in its manufacturing. The label “waterless” may be a little misleading, as there it still quite a bit of water going in to the garment production – beginning in the cotton fields. Levi is working on that too, as a member of the Better Cotton Initiative, a coalition of textile firms and retailers that seeks to reduce the environmental impacts of cotton and better support farmers. The initiative is testing out new methods of irrigation in cotton farming. In a 3-year study of farms in India, farmers’ profits were 20% higher using the new sustainable methods.
The new stonewashed jeans are still stone-washed, just without water. In the video below, you can see them actually being put in a big spinning machine full of stones.
There are many stops along the lifecycle of a jean where waste can be reduced, and not all of the responsibility lies with the apparel company.
Cotton production consumes a lot of water, but also uses pesticides that are harmful both to the environment and the health of the farm workers. A conventional pair of jeans takes 2/3 of a pound of pesticides to make. Cotton production accounts for 11% of the world’s pesticides, and in some countries like Nicaragua, the cotton industry crumbled as a result of the high cost of the chemicals.
After the cotton is grown, mills turn it into fabric and factories turn the fabric into jeans. Twenty years ago, Levi Strauss introduced its “Terms of Engagement,“ a code of conduct to establish labor, health, safety and environmental standards among its suppliers worldwide. Though this move was greeted with skepticism from the industry, the company persisted and remains a leader in sustainability today. In a speech in May of this year, CEO John Anderson proposed radical new standards for the apparel industry, and the waterless jeans are a testament to his own company’s efforts.
Oh, and remember not to wash them too often. 58% of the energy consumed during the life cycle of your jeans comes during the time you’ve got them at home, washing and drying. Levi’s actually suggests putting them in the freezer to kill the smelly germs. Hmm, gotta try that…
Born and raised in Woodstock, Ariel Azoff is an adventurer and aspiring writer who spent the past year working for a human rights organization in the Middle East. She is a contributing writer to The SNSPost & Midthoughtblog.com, and now that she is back in the U.S. is delving into the world of sustainable fashion and blogging as she goes at Heartsleevesblog.com.