Levis: Don’t wash your jeans — freeze them

The jeans maker and some of its customers don’t seem to know that water is the most abundant substance on Earth.

From the front-page of today’s New York Times:

From the cotton field in rural India to the local rag bin, a typical pair of blue jeans consumes 919 gallons of water during its life cycle, Levi Strauss & Company says, or enough to fill about 15 spa-size bathtubs. That includes the water that goes into irrigating the cotton crop, stitching the jeans together and washing them scores of times at home.

The company wants to reduce that number any way it can, and not just to project environmental responsibility. It fears that water shortages caused by climate change may jeopardize the company’s very existence in the coming decades by making cotton too expensive or scarce.

So to protect its bottom line, Levi Strauss has helped underwrite and champion a nonprofit program that teaches farmers in India, Pakistan, Brazil and West and Central Africa the latest irrigation and rainwater-capture techniques. It has introduced a brand featuring stone-washed denim smoothed with rocks but no water. It is sewing tags into all of its jeans urging customers to wash less and use only cold water.

To customers seeking further advice, Levi Strauss suggests washing jeans rarely, if at all — the theory being that putting them in the freezer will kill germs that cause them to smell. [Emphasis added]

So remember: clean clothes aren’t green.

To Levis customers seeking further advice, as we suggested to the woman who asked whether she should wash and reuse zip-lock bags:

Put your brain back in your head first, give the blood a chance to flow back and then, if necessary, ask someone other than Levis.

Flashback: Read JunkScience.com’s “Levis. Original jeans. Original hypocrisy“.

Read the New York Times story.

19 thoughts on “Levis: Don’t wash your jeans — freeze them”

  1. The whole idea of water consumption is silly. It’s a continously reusable and renewable resource

  2. I don’t really understand the thought process on “using” water. The water used to wash your jeans isn’t exactly a “one time use” resource. Anyone with a firm understanding of the hydrologic cycle understands that water is essentially an infinitely renewable resource, so long as we take care to not pollute its sources beyond our ability to clean it. The 919 gallons of water “used” by a pair of jeans doesn’t vanish or disintegrate or anything else – it flows througha treatment plant, down a river, into the ocean, where it will eventually be evaporated and carried back up into the mountains to repeat the cycle. Water conservation only really makes sense regionally, and specifically only in regions that have low water resources. I live in the Pacific Northwest. Does anyone really believe that we need to ‘conserve” water up here? Really?

  3. Somebody ask Levi-Strauss how much water is used and/or carbon dioxide produced as a by-product of generating the energy that runs the laundry freezer.
    Then tell them that heat accelerates the ecological water cycle -speeding up evaporation, raising humidity, increasing monsoonal rainfall, and raising water tables while lowering sea levels by evaporation.

  4. Not Surprising that Levi-Strauss is a San Francisco company..Obviously infiltrated and hi-jacked by radical environmentalists..Environmentalists are the modern version of Socialists…In the name of “environmentalism” many things are acceptable …The “Greens” are the modern National Socialist Party….

  5. Uuum…the issue with water consumption has to do with fuel costs for delivery. It’s not a matter of ‘wasting water’ as much as a matter of having to move the water to where it’s needed (ie: houses, factories, etc…). It’s a miniscule cost compared to the stigma of smelling badly, so I don’t see giving up this “luxury” any time soon, but let’s be honest about the issue and admit that anywhere we can cut back is a good place to save right now.

  6. The Achilles Heal of the environmental movement is that they are never satisfied. Water is the ultimate renewable resoure. It can be recovered naturally by the environment and reused infinitely. If they are not happy with it’s use, then any renewable resource is insufficient. What these people want is a reduction in human numbers, flat and simple. They will not be happy with anything less. The hard core environmentalist is the enemy of the human race.

  7. but at what cost? water purification has a cost, money, chemical, environmental. if you can prevent a problem, why wouldnt you? just because you have a lot of something doesnt mean its appropriate to be wasteful. the most sound advice of all this is to wash laundry in cold water. it uses less energy & the color of your items lasts longer.

  8. Fresh water is one of our most precious resources. In 2004, only 42 percent of people in rural areas had access to clean water. The real question is why are we even growing cotton? Hemp is an extremely versatile plant with hundreds if not thousands of uses. Growing hemp requires much less water and much less less pesticides than growing cotton. If we are concerned about the availability of fresh water and the contamination of pesticides and herbicides, we should be growing hemp for textiles instead of cotton.

  9. You are right about the cost. The problem with water is that it is not priced properly for what is available in regions because politicians who control the water, do not want to :”hurt the poor, anger the masses, etc” so we end up with shortages of water and then stupid programs to counter that – like Vegas having paid lawn watering monitors, or toilets which only use two gallons a flush. If water were priced based on the true value in various markets, the government wouldn’t have to force us to save and conserve, we would do it automatically. In places where water is plentiful, like Iowa, costs would be lower and there would be less conservation.

    Also note, that now that most washers are HE and only use about 10 gallons a wash, I highly doubt the 919 gallons of water per life of jean. I only get about 50 washes before they need to be tossed and can probably fit at least 5 pair in the wash – that is more like 100 gallons if I am being generous.

  10. The problem is that we have large cities in arid areas and do not charge enough for the water available for use. Water is infinite in that it tends to come back every year in the form of rain. But if you only have 100 gallons of water a year, and charge a penny a gallon, and there are 1000 people who have moved into your town demanding the water, you can see where there is a problem.

    Places like Phoenix, Vegas, Reno, Salt Lake City are getting about all the water they are going to get, and their populations are ever increasing. The solution is to have market prices for water and not subsidize the stuff. If costs were high enough folks would come up with clever ideas to use less, or recycle what is already used.

  11. @Market prices, in AZ for instance, I wouldn’t be surprised if all the lettuce farms around Yuba, AZ dried up and the water was re-purposed to Phoenix and Tuscon needs.

    Growing lettuce in AZ? Only because of super subsidized water rates.

  12. There is more cost in certain parts of the country. Example, how much does an Iowa farmer pay to transport water? Almost nothing since it rains all the time. How much does it cost in CA, or AZ, tons because they are shipping the water from distance sources and pumping it over mountain ranges.

    But the CA water is grossly subsidized for the farmers. It doesn’t make sense to raise much cattle or rice in CA, if the correct water costs were applied.

    Again – I have posted several times now, the whole water crisis, if we really have one is that the government got involved and for political patronage is undercharging for water.

  13. “Fresh water is one of our most precious resources.”

    Nope, sewage is. My water bill last month:

    Usage 2280 Water Billed $17.32
    2280 Sewer Billed $18.97

  14. The idea of not washing disgusts me. I live in one of the most hot, humid regions in the US. The idea of letting sweat build up on my clothes and “freeziing’ it away is not acceptable. GROSS!

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