Blue Jeans Go Green
It now takes less water than ever to make and care for your jeans
Your favorite jeans may be blue, but chances are they aren’t very green! The average pair of blue jeans goes through 919 gallons of water—from the time they’re made till the time they’re too worn out to wear. That’s enough water to fill 18 bathtubs. To make jeans more Earth-friendly, jeans maker Levi Strauss is working to reduce the amount of water it takes to make and care for jeans.
The life cycle of a pair of jeans begins on cotton farms. Farmers grow the cotton used to make denim, the fabric jeans are made of. Cotton plants require a lot of water to grow. Levi’s is helping cotton farmers around the world develop new ways to irrigate, or water, their crops.
In the past, farmers sprayed water onto cotton plants. The new method—called drip irrigation—uses a network of plastic tubes that send water directly to the plants’ roots. The system puts water only where it is needed. It cuts down on the amount of water wasted through evaporation.
After the cotton is grown and harvested, it’s spun into yarn at a textile mill. The yarn is dyed blue in vats of chemicals. Then it’s woven into fabric. The fabric is washed to get a worn-in look. Levi’s is working to reduce water consumption at this stage too. The company has created a line of jeans that get broken in by tumbling with rocks instead of water.
“We’ve produced 12 million pairs of jeans that, combined, have saved 156 million liters [41 million gallons] of water,” says Brianna Wolf of Levi’s.”
Nearly half of jeans’ water usage happens after they are made. At this stage, the people who buy them wash them over and over in water-guzzling washing machines. To help cut down on home water use, Levi’s is sewing tags into its jeans that suggest customers wash them less often.
Jeans are a type of clothing that doesn’t need as much scrubbing as other attire. In a recent study, 30 volunteers in Australia wore jeans five days a week for three months without washing them. At the end of the study, researchers put the jeans to the smell test. The result: They actually didn’t smell too bad.
Still worried about your jeans getting stinky between washes? Levi’s advice: Put them in the freezer! A quick blast of cold will kill the germs that cause them to smell, Levi’s says. Just remember to let the jeans warm up before you put them back on!