Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Levi's Come Clean On Water Use

Clothes production is a thirsty business, and thirstiest of all is denim. The staple of casual clothing for the last hundred years, denim has always had a reputation when it comes to the amount of precious H2O used in its manufacture and aftercare.
Levi Strauss has more interest than most in the figures pertaining to this not-so-dry subject. In 2007, they launched a first of it's kind life-cycle assessment (LCA) on water use in the denim industry. Last week, it published a follow-up. It's a worrying read.
One pair of jeans is responsible for the emission of 33.4 kilograms of carbon dioxide, and uses nearly 3,800 litres of water. This takes into account all the processes involved in the life cycle of that sweet pair of 501CT's, from cotton production to post-purchase care. It's important to factor in what happens to clothing when it comes off the racks: fully 25% of that CO2 emission figure comes from washing.
And that's an interesting statistic, because it varies from country to country. In China, for example, you're more likely to wear your jeans for four times longer than in the US before throwing them in the washing basket. If Americans followed that model, they could save 50% of water currently flushed down the flue of their washing machines. In the run-up to Earth Day on April 22nd, Levi's are pushing an educational programme to help teach its customers how to use water more wisely, and to think about their consumption. The company can change its processes, but getting consumers on board is an important part of the challenge.
It's a task that Levi's is taking seriously. They're working hard to clean up their act on conspicuous water usage, saving almost a billion gallons of the stuff since 2011 through initiatives like teaching cotton farmers to grow crops using less of the wet stuff. By 2020, they aim to reduce their water use by 80%. Levi CEO Chip Burgh credits the LCA as a major incentive to change the way the company views and uses water, but acknowleges there's still more to do. He says:
"Our LCA findings have pushed us as a company to rethink how we make our jeans, and we’re proud that our water stewardship actions to date have saved 1 billion liters of water. By engaging and educating consumers, we can fundamentally change the environmental impact of apparel and, ideally, how consumers think about the clothes they wear every day."
Why not take the challenge yourself? Check out the "Are You Ready To Come Clean?" quiz on Levi's US website, and find out how you can do a little more to save water by washing your jeans a little less.

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