FASHION | Levi's Waste Less and Beyond


by Emma H.

My very own Levi's Sustainability Project
With the recent introduction of  Levi’s® Waste<Less™ for Spring 2013, a new line of denim partially made from post consumer waste, specifically recycled plastic bottles and food trays, Levi's really seem to be taking this sustainabilty thing seriously. 

PET plastics – including brown beer bottles, green soda bottles, clear water bottles and black food trays – are collected, sorted, crushed into flakes, and made into a polyester fiber. This is then blended with cotton fiber and woven with traditional cotton yarn to produce a high quality denim, a process adding what Levi's describe as a beautiful undertone and unique finish to the final product. Interesting, green-tinged denim seems quite appropriate.
Levi’s new collection will include 511 and 504 jeans and a trucker jacket for men and a boyfriend skinny jean for women, each product containing a minimum of 20 percent post consumer waste. At an average of 8 bottles per item Levi's is hoping to recycle over 3.5million bottles for this collection alone.

“With this collection, we’re doing our own small part by taking waste and making something new from it,” says James Curleigh, global president of the Levi’s brand. “We don’t just want to reduce our impact on the environment, we want to leave it better than we found it."

But reclycling plastic bottles is not all they've been up to. In 2009, Levi's introduced “A Care Tag for our Planet,” designed to educate consumers on how to wash clothes with less environmental impact as well as encourage donations of used jeans to Goodwill. Back in 2011 Levi's started branding exercise Made Here, a project headed by Jay Carroll seeking out all American artisanal product including quilts and leather slippers which were sold in selected stores, unfortunately a project which seems to have fizzled out*.  This year, the Levi’s® Water<Less™ collection saved over 360 million liters of water by using a finishing technique reducing the use of water by an average of 28 percent. And finally, Levi's is a member of the Better Cotton Initiative, which reduces water and pesticide use in cotton farming, as well as economically supporting hundreds of thousands of cotton farmers**.

Levi's is certainly an example of big business weaving sustainability issues into the core of their branding. How much of it is sincere and how much is merely a green-tinged exercise in CSR, and does it really matter? Denim is a wardrobe staple and I'd rather buy product from a brand making a concerted effort to improve production practices than one doing nothing at all. But hey, I'm still undecided. What do you think?

*correct me if I'm wrong, I can't find any information about this post summer 2012.
** I need to look further into the Better Cotton Initiative and will report back

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