I know, I know, I'm an idealist, and it gets in the way of my optimism such that every step in the right direction only serves to highlight everything else that isn't being done. It's hard for me to sit idly by while the general public applauds small efforts like this but remains ignorant of other issues that remain unaddressed. What can I say, calling this new line of jeans Water<Less reminds me of greenwashing. Growing cotton, producing denim, and manufacturing jeans is hugely water-intensive even if you don't bother to stone-wash the pants! Hiding this fact by tricking consumers into believing the jeans were made using waterless manufacturing techniques is... well, I guess it's the norm these days.
So what's all the fuss about?
- Growing cotton involves a great deal of water, fertilizer, and pesticides: just ask the people living around the Aral Sea how the cotton industry, using unsustainable agricultural practices, has caused an environmental, economic, and human health disaster that is not going away any time soon.
- Processing cotton to make denim requires more water, but also paraffin and synthetic indigo, which present a double whammy of environmental degradation because (1) they are petroleum products and (2) they're probably dumped directly into surface water adjacent to the plant.
- Weathering the denim to give it that worn look (I've never understood this), while often still called stone-washing, is more likely to make use of water and toxic chemicals than good, old-fashioned rocks. It's funny how the energy that goes into stone-washing, fabric softening, and sandblasting the jeans actually serves to shorten their lifespan and increase consumer demand. No, wait... that's not funny.
See what I mean, about how slightly reducing the amount of water used to soften the jeans is only great if you remain ignorant of the rest of the steps involved from field to closet? Well, I'm still trying to be a more optimistic person, so I'll work on feeling grateful that Levi's has taken a step in the right direction. Meanwhile, I'll buy my next pair in a thrift shop, donate them or find an alternate use for them once I'm done with them, and keep you apprised of any other environmentally friendly solutions that Levi's and their competitors come up with!
How about you? What's your closet filled with? Have you discovered brands or local artisans that are trying to do good by the environment when they make clothing?
Photo credits: close-up of jeans; cotton field.