BLUE JEANS GO GREEN
Denim brands implement water conservation initiatives
As young people are apt to essentially enact the change they wish to see by voting with their wallets and purchasing eco-friendly products, brands have been evolving both their products and development processes to meet young people’s eco-expectations. In the fashion industry specifically, denim production traditionally uses exorbitant amounts of water; but now, leading denim brands are rethinking wasteful water usage and challenging themselves (and each other) to cut out billions of liters of water, one wash at a time.
This past Earth Day, heritage workwear and jean brand Wrangler announced that it has saved over 7 billion liters of water in its denim production process since 2008. Wrangler’s original goal for 2020 was to reach 5.5 billion liters saved, but now that this number has been surpassed, the brand will announce an even loftier water-saving goal before 2021. Wrangler notes that it has been able to hit this goal via increased water efficiency and water recycling practices, the latter of which returns water to local communities in cleaner condition than when it was taken. Not only is Wrangler adept at conserving water; it was also the first company to implement a foam-dyed denim process back in 2019, which uses 100% less water than the traditional denim dying process.
All-American denim brand Levi Strauss & Co. is leading the way in water reduction practices used in the denim production process. Just last fall, the brand set a goal of reducing its water use by 50% by 2025. The goal will be met with the help of Levi’s new water strategy, which focuses on action items like reducing water use in cotton farming, as well as creating water-use targets for suppliers. The springboard for such initiatives comes from the brand’s open-source Water<Less program, which has also helped Levi’s save 3 billion liters of water in the final stage of denim production alone from 2011 to 2018. Levi’s doesn’t want these practices to remain a company secret: the brand invited 20 competitors to its Eureka Innovation Lab to share its water-saving practices, encouraging others to take up the water conservation mantle.
Volcom has prioritized sustainable practices with its “Water Aware” denim collection. The brand’s water-saving techniques allowed it to save 13 (but up to 35) liters of water per pair of jeans produced. Volcom was heavily inspired by Levi’s Open Source: Water Innovation Guide, applying many of the conservation techniques shared in the guide to Volcom’s own practices. The brand plans on continuing its trajectory toward increasing water savings by creating more denim washes with higher efficiency gains and finding even more steps along the denim creation process where water usage can be reduced.