Levi Sets Clean Water Example with WaterLess Jeans

Levi WaterLess

Everyone wants the latest styles and trends in their wardrobe, but we’re also learning that fashion has a price. Take, for example, the fashion industry’s impact on our clean water supplies. The World Economic Forum rates water issues as the top financial risk to the global economy, affecting both people and the planet. In South Africa, water pollution is one of the biggest environmental challenges we face and many brands and corporations are taking responsibility for their role in the problem, and the solution.

This World Water Day observed on 22 March 2021, Levi Strauss & Co is one of the growing numbers of corporate citizens actively changing the status quo. In addition to the water-saving techniques used in the Water<Less jeans line, Levi South Africa also makes sole use of black and grey water in its manufacturing processes at its factory in Epping, Cape Town, and prevents further pollution to South Africa’s water systems.

In South Africa, the treatment of wastewater generated in rural and peri-urban areas is non-existent or scarce. Chemicals used in the manufacturing process of textiles either don’t decompose or decompose very slowly, adding to pollution of our groundwater and the ecosystem’s degradation.

Levi WaterLess

“Dam levels in South Africa are currently high. However, the safety of our drinking water is concerning. A healthy water supply contributes to a strong economy and reduces poverty,” says Candace Gilowey, Head of Marketing at Levi Strauss & Co. in South Africa.  “At Levi’s, we aim to do more to remove hazardous chemicals from the apparel supply chain,” she adds.

Levi Strauss & Co.’s ‘Recycle and Reuse Standard’ supports improved water treatment. This guideline applies to all finishing facilities in compliance with the Global Effluent Requirement (GER) to recycle or reuse effluent water as a full or partial replacement of freshwater in the facility. The Recycle and Reuse standard states that facilities must adhere to the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDCH) wastewater guidelines and recycle over 20% of the manufacturing water, leaving drinking water unaffected.

Same style and finish, a lot less water

Anyone can create a pair of jeans using less water but, the real challenge facing Levi’s product designers today was to find innovative techniques to create the same styles and finishes the Levi’s brand is known and loved for while using a lot less water. By making simple changes to the finishing process the company was able to come up with Water<Less jeans, reducing water consumption by an average of 28% and up to 96%.

Levi WaterLess

Typically, a pair of jeans is finished in large washing machines and dryers to create a unique look and feel. The average pair uses 42 litres of water in the finishing process. Using traditional methods the average pair of jeans also goes through between three and 10 washing cycles.

A new finishing process uses the same materials and techniques but finds new ways to apply them. Changes include using dry stones in place of wet ones to create certain finishes and reducing the number of wash cycles by combining multiple wet-process cycles into a single one. The company found the results to be just as effective but far more efficient.

Launched in the United States in January 2011, Levi has systematically been introducing Water<Less finishing techniques worldwide with a goal of 80 percent of their key factories becoming Water<Less by 2025.

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Hands-on with Water<Less jeans

I popped into my local Levi store to get my hands on a pair of Levi’s Water<Less jeans. Levi’s in-store service remains second-to-none with consumers being made to feel like they’re in a luxury clothing boutique when shopping in-store. After a personal fitting with Levi’s brilliant floor staff I found the perfect fit and was super impressed to find that the finishes on the Water<Less jeans are the same quality we’ve come to expect from Levi over the years. I tried on more pairs of jeans than I’d care to admit and every pair was beyond comfortable and looked ultra-cool.

Levi water

If you haven’t been to a Levi’s store in a while and are in need of a new pair of jeans, then do yourself a favour and pop into your nearest Levi’s stand-alone store asap. Visiting a Levi store is a great reminder of what excellent customer service should be and you’ll leave the store feeling like you were well taken care of.

What’s more, there’s a surprise waiting for you in-store. To raise awareness of the importance of clean and sustainable drinking water and celebrate the success of implementing its clean water-saving techniques, Levi’s is giving South African consumers ice-cold clean drinking water in eco-friendly cartons. You can collect yours at their following Levi’s stores: Canal Walk; Cavendish; Clearwater; Eastgate; Gateway; Mall of Africa; Menlyn; Sandton; Tyger Valley, and the V&A Waterfront.

For more information on Levi’s and its Water<Less finishing techniques click here.

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