April 22nd is Earth Day. Maybe this means a lot to you, perhaps it doesn't. Maybe you want to help the environment but don't know where to start. Well, how about don't wash your jeans. Not on Earth Day, or the next day, or the next week or even the next month. You might be crunching up your face reading that or raising your eyebrows, but it's not gross and really there is nothing unusual about the fact that the lead singer from The View has 'had the same jeans on for four days now'. Jean aficionados, Levi Strauss & Co. advocates for this jean washing strike as not only is it better for the planet, but also for your jeans, and, if that means less money spent on energy bills and new jeans, then surely it's a win win situation. Levi Strauss & Co. contend that the average Briton wears their jeans 2.5 times before washing them, and the average American washes their denims after just two wears, which causes a huge environmental impact with regards to water waste, and also puts more wear and tear on the jeans themselves. You can take this quick quiz to find out your water waste impact with regards to your jean washing habits http://www.levi.com/GB/en_GB/madeofprogress and then take the pledge to wash less.
So now, though you know your impact I bet you're still wondering what to do about your jean pet peeves and their general cleanliness. I cannot stand baggy knees for example, and as a clean freak my jeans go straight into the wash if I've spilt something on them or if they are dappled with specks of dirt. Recently though, with the increasing seriousness of the Californian drought and the ongoing issues surrounding access to water in poor communities across the globe I've been thinking a lot about water management and sustainability and how I can help. A quick spin in the washing machine doesn't appear too controversial until you start thinking about the water you're unnecessarily wasting and comparing it to those in the world who don't have any water to waste. Why should my jeans get a good rinse in clean, pure water whenever a bit of muck has graced their presence when there are people dying from dehydration and illnesses caused by polluted water? Why are my clothes so important that they must be washed after just a couple of wears when people in developing countries can't provide water for their livestock, which for those living under $3 a day, is their biggest income generating asset? According to Levi Strauss & Co. condiment stains and spilt drinks can be removed by dabbing the affected areas with a damp cloth that has been dipped in soapy water, no need for an hour or so cycle in the machine, but what about the baggy knees? Well apparently by turning them inside out and tumble drying them on just a warm setting for 10-20 minutes your problem is solved and your saggies are once again skinnies, enjoying a bit of a stretch refresh.
So maybe you're just not that keen on waiting months before your denims are allowed into the drum, but even by reducing their washes to every ten wears from two for example, Levi Strauss & Co. have found that American consumers can reduce their water and climate change impact by 77%, and British consumers by 75%. When the time comes to wash your jeans, , wash them on a cold cycle. Though water will be used, the cooler the water, the more energy you'll save, and to save energy further and to increase the longevity of your jeans, don't tumble dry them, especially as the movement and heat will increase wear and tear.
Approximately 3,800 litres of water are used to make a pair of jeans. As already outlined, as consumers of jeans we can play our part in reducing our impact on the environment but what about jean manufacturers? Levi Strauss & Co. started working with the Better Cotton Initiative, (BCI) in 2009 which works with suppliers, i.e. the cotton farmers, training them in new techniques of growing cotton using less water. Over half of the water used in Levi's products stems from their supply chain, and in an ever-globalizing yet resource decreasing world, working at the supply chain level is key for achieving positive environmental impact and resource sustainability. According to 2013 data, using BCI initiatives, Chinese cotton farmers reduced their water use by 23% compared with farmers who were not employing BCI methods. Levi's Water