American jean company Levi Strauss will be trying something different with their new line of jeans. They will be made of crushed brown and green plastic bottles. Each pair of Levi’s new Waste>Less jeans will contain a blend of eight plastic bottles. These new jeans will be unveiled on October 16 of next year and are part of Levi’s push to reduce the impact the jean making process has on the environment. Michael Kobori, the vice president of supply chain social and environmental sustainability, says Levi, “wants to build sustainability into everything they do.” He also goes on to say that the reason for this effort is because of resource scarcity and increasing volatility in cotton prices. Eric Olson, the senior vice president of BSR, an environmental group that works with businesses, comments on corporate social responsibility saying that, “we expect brands we trust to take care of us, to keep us honest. We don’t want to hear that we’re ruining someone’s life or destroying the planet. We don’t want to pay more, but we want companies to take care of it.”
Levi is the biggest maker of jeans in the world, with sales of $4.8 billion in 2011. A company of this size attracts attention and therefore helps to influence sustainability programs among other companies as well. That is why there is so much attention around their sustainability program. In 2007, Levi’s conducted a life-cycle assessment of some of its major products and found that 49 percent of the water use during the lifetime of a pair of 501 jeans occurred at the very beginning, with cotton farmers and another 45 percent. That’s when Levi created their Water<Less Jeans that significantly reduced the amount of water it takes to produce a pair of jeans from about 45 liters to 4. Soon after, Kirby began thinking about plastic. Cone Denim is the company that produces fabric for Levi’s 501s. They began to study plastic their director of product development had been testing fibers from recycled colored plastic bottles. These bottles were the brown beer bottles, green soda bottles, and the blue five-gallon jugs of water. Plastic bottles are recycled, sorted by color, cleaned, and turned into polyester flakes. These flakes can be stretched into fiber that can be spun into yarn and eventually woven into cotton fabric. There is a downside though because recycled fibers aren’t as strong or consistent as “virgin” fibers. Eventually, they devised proprietary processes that allowed them to strengthen the fiber.
The first Waste‹Less collection will include about 400,000 items include men’s jeans, women’s jeans and jean jackets. The price for a pair of jeans will range from $69 to $128. All together, about 3.5 million bottles were used in the first batch of Waste‹Less jeans. That’s a big accomplishment for Levi’s but the reality is that an estimated 33 billion bottles of soda are consumed in America every year and of those, only 29 percent are recycled.
So obviously Levi’s is doing a great thing by trying to reduce waste and save resources but they cannot change the world by themselves. That’s why their program is more about making a point and influencing others rather than making a purpose. If they can influence other companies and consumers to be more self-conscience about their effect on the environment, it would have a much greater impact than anything they could do themselves. Do you agree that their efforts are worth doing considering it doesn’t have a phenomenal impact?