Levi’s: where progressive efforts just keep coming

Levi jeans has just announced the release of a new line of denim called the Waste < Less collection, which will use approximately 3.5 million recycled bottles and food trays in the fabric of their jeans. The recycled material will account for 20% of the garment, using about eight bottles each pair. They will be just as comfortable as your traditional jeans, so you might not feel or see the difference, but it is there. James Curleigh, global president of the Levi’s brand said, “This collection proves that you don’t have to sacrifice quality, comfort or style to give an end a new beginning.”

The company plans to collect brown beer bottles, clear water bottles, green soda bottles and black food trays from municipal recycling programs across the US. The bottles and trays are then sorted by color, crushed into flakes, and transformed into polyester fibers. The company mixes the polyester fiber into their traditional cotton fibers, and viola!

As the biggest maker of jeans in the world, with sales of $4.8 billion in 2011, Levi’s progressive efforts command attention. “We want to build sustainability into everything we do,” says Michael Kobori, the vice president of supply chain social and environmental sustainability.

And that is exactly what Levi’s has been doing since 2007 when they conducted a life-cycle assessment of some of their most popular products. The company explored products, like the 501 jeans, from the fields where they sourced their cotton to consumer’s closets. What they found was quite surprising. 49% of the water used throughout the jeans life-cycle was being used to grow cotton, with another 45% of water use coming from consumers washing the garment. And consumer washing was responsible for 60% of the garment’s energy consumption. So, it turned out Levi’s manufacturing process, the part they have the most control over, was only a small fraction of the water and energy use.

This life-cycle assessment has since spun several progressive campaigns into place. In 2009, Levi introduced the “Care For Our Planet” tag. A tag to inform consumers how to use minimal energy and water while they own the garment, and donate to Goodwill when they no longer need them.

The life-cycle assessment also lead to a marketing campaign in 2010, encouraging people to wash their jeans less often, in cold water, and dry them on a clothes-line.

“We don’t just want to reduce our impact on the environment, we want to leave it better than we found it. We are committed to making products in ways that are good for people and better for our planet” Curgleigh says.

The Waste<Less collection will be available in stores January 2013.



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