While many denim companies have been shifting to utilizing organic cotton and fair trade practices, it appears that these practices may not be as environmentally friendly as once thought. Manufacturing denim draws on water, electric resources, while using harsh chemicals for dyes and treatments. It wasn’t until Levi’s examined their production process, which revealed that “making one pair of 501’s required almost 920 gallons of water, 400 megajoules of energy and expelled 32 kilograms of carbon dioxide. Levi’s said this was equivalent to running a garden hose for 106 minutes, driving 78 miles and powering a computer for 556 hours”
Given these high statistics and the economy, it seems that everyone is looking for a change, “Everyone is trying to uncover ways to save money and energy,” said Andrew Olah, chief executive officer of Olah Inc., a U.S. agent for foreign contract manufacturers and textile and hardware vendors targeting denim designers. “The chemical companies who supply dyestuff are making it more and more irresistible. Change is happening, step by step, mill by mill.”
One of the first denim brands to start making changes is Jeanologia, a Spanish company. They have released two products with the aims of lowering water usage and energy. They released a new washer, the G2, which uses a combination of water and air, rather than chemicals and water to achieve desired denim color. The G2 washer will reduce chemical, water, and energy usage. It also cuts production time and energy consumption almost in half. This is significant because the brand has estimated that 158 billion gallons of water and 1.3 million tons of chemicals are used to make produce jeans. By adoption of the G2, Jeanologia estimates that it can conserve enough water to provide drinking water for up to 8 months in Spain.
Image of the G2 washing machine
The company has also perfected a technique to achieve the distressed denim look, in under a minute, which eliminates the need for chemical abrasives, which pollute the environment. Other companies such as DyStar, Novozymes, and Lenzing fibers have pioneered the way for environmentally friendly dyes that are less harsh and use less chemicals.
Jeans from Replay, a collection that uses environmentally friendly dyes.
Despite these advances, the change towards more eco-friendly dyes and practices has been slow. Some feel that this could be contributed to the primary focus of aesthetics when it comes to fashion. These new technologies have not been perfected and can result in inconsistent dying and fit, as Leah Eckelberger, owner of Boston’s Jean Therapy, expressed. She also stated that while, “We do have customers that come in and ask for it, but what trumps the eco-friendly aspect is the fit, wash and style,” it is really the lack of both that leaves her skeptical.
However, these advances of technology are a step in the right direction towards eco friendly measures and will continue to be perfected. After all, Levi’s wasn’t built in a day!
Article and photos from WWD.com