All of the products we use have environmental costs that we take for granted.
Consider the manufacture of a pair of blue jeans. The average pair uses 11 gallons of water in the finishing process, where it undergoes 3 to 10 cycles in the washing machine to get that perfect texture. When you consider that about 450 million pairs of jeans are purchased each year in the United States alone, the implications for fresh water use are astounding.
Levi’s brand is announcing a new line of jeans, called Water<less, that it says will reduce water consumption in the manufacturing process by an average of 28 percent and as much as 96 percent in some products.
It says the new products will look and cost the same as the old ones. The company says that small changes -– for example, taking water out of the stone wash cycle — made a big difference.
But as the company acknowledges, reducing the finishing cycle does not affect the biggest element of water use in making jeans, which actually occurs when growing the cotton. Irrigating this crop can require 900 to 1,800 gallons per pair of jeans (depending on lots of variables like the aridness of the region it is grown in).