Companies are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of integrated water management systems. And, now Levi Strauss & Co. is moving out into a leadership role with regard to water stewardship.
The company announced earlier this month that it has developed “WaterLess” jeans, which are manufactured using significantly less water.
Thanks to recent water footprint research, Levi’s knows that during the lifecycle of a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans, the largest water impact comes from the cotton growing process and through the laundry habits of consumers after they leave our stores. And, the company says it is making strides in these key areas – from supporting more sustainable ways to grow cotton to monitoring how suppliers use water in the manufacturing process.
However, Levi’s also evaluated its manufacturing processes and discovered areas to save water there, too.
For instance, the average pair of jeans uses 42 liters of water in the finishing process. During this process, the jeans are “finished” in large washing machines and dryers to create a unique look and feel. Using traditional garment washing methods, the average pair of jeans undergoes 3-10 washing cycles – adding up to approximately 42 liters of water per unit.
The WaterLess collection reduces the water consumption by an average of 28 percent –and by up to a whopping 96 percent for some new products in the line. Remarkably, Levi’s achieved these reductions by making relatively simple changes to the process:
- Reducing the number of washing machine cycles by combining multiple wet cycle processes into a single wet process.
- Incorporating ozone processing into the garment washing.
- Removing the water from the stone wash.
“What’s different about the WaterLess collection is that we’re still using the same materials and techniques to create finishes for our jeans but we’ve substantially reduced water’s role in the equation,” said Carl Chiara, Director of Brand Concepts and Special Projects of the Levi’s brand. “Sometimes, the way to achieve a more sustainable design is to rethink a traditional process and find a way to do it better.”
The Levi’s spring 2011 product lines will contain more than 1.5 million pairs of jeans with the WaterLess method, saving approximately 16 million liters of water. Levi’s says it will continue to introduce these finishing techniques to even more supplier factories around the world with the goal of increasing the numbers significantly in Fall 2011.