A nice pair of denim jeans are as much a must for most people as a t-shirt. But when Levi's found that making one pair of 501s was equivalent to running a garden hose for 106 minutes, driving 78 miles and powering a computer for 556 hours, even they balked.
And a pair of 501's is certainly not worse than any other kind of jeans. Levi Strauss & Co have, however, shared their Life Cycle Assessement. Examining their 2006 production year for jeans headed for the US market, they found that one pair of 501s required almost 3500 litres of water, 400 megajoules of energy and expelled 32 kg CO². Using organic cotton does relatively little in changing these numbers.
But there is some good news. Spanish denim research and development company Jeanologia has launched two products aimed at reducing energy and water usage. Its most recent product, an industrial washing machine called the G2 uses a process based on air rather than water and chemicals, which not only eliminates the use of two problems, the G2 also rids the finishing process of toxic emissions and dumping, reducing overall energy usage. The company has estimated that the the G2 cuts production time, energy consumption and cost per garment by more than 50 %, which makes good economic sense. Jeanologia estimates that 600 billion gallons of water and 1,3 million tons of chemicals are used each year in denim finishing process. Add that to the water in the growing of cotton if it comes from irrigated land and the washing by costumers and the numbers become staggering... According to Jeanologia, if the industry invested in the G2, the amount of water saved would supply Spain with enough drinking water for 8 months!
No chemicals are entered into the wastewater eliminating further damage to the planet
In 2001 they introduced a textile laser that achieves distressed and vintage looks by scanning a pair of vintage jeans and reproduce the exact look, down to holes and abrasions, in less than a minute - and eliminates the use of chemical abrasives. Textile dying company Dystar is also cleaning up its act by creating a of low-impact indigo dye. Meanwhile, biotech company Novozymes has introduced eco-friendly denim abrasion without energy consuming stones, and grey-shade bleaching using their enzymatic solutions Denimax® and Denilite®, respectively.
Lenzing Fibers has been working with mills to blend cotton with up to 25 % Tencel, which enhances the eco-profile of the material. And Spain's Tejidos Royo combines organic cotton with Tencel for a fabric they call HybriDenim. According to Lenzig this reduces the water and acerage required for cotton cultivation with 25 %.
Santana Textiles has introduced a new collection of two way stretch denim with creora eco to meet the market demand for eco friendly fabrics that are also comfortable and easy to wear. The Bi-Elastic Movement collection is made with a unique finishing process that gives the fabric a softer, more luxurious feel, adding to its comfort and versatility. As the fabrics from Santana are softer before any garment finishing, less chemicals are required in the garment wash & finishing processes which have additional environmental benefits. Denim continues to be one of the best selling fabrics in the world as it continually is being renewed and reinvented.
Two-way stretch denim is the most desirable as it provides the ultimate in comfort but historically has been costly and limited to the higher end denim manufacturers. Santana’s new collection is more affordable and therefore more marketable given current consumer’s demand for value. Iorrana Aguiar, Marketing Director of Santana Textiles, believes “Bi Elastic Movement (BEM) fabrics, combined with the creativity of denim designers, will allow for the innovation of garments that provide a unique experience for every different consumer according to their own needs. Examples can range from simply a greater movement range to better blood circulation.”
Replay has launched a jeans collection called Just Add Water, which offers consumers a higher quality product, with as little environmental impact as possible. The collection will be produced using a system aimed at saving energy and water, and at the same time improving the final product. With a new dye technique not only is the color improved but so are the savings of water and energy by two thirds. In addition, no chemicals are entered into the wastewater eliminating further damage to the planet.
(Source: WWD and examiner.com, Novozymes knittingindustry.com)