But there’s a cool one-two punch headed for the market (part of it’s already there): This past November, Levi’s introduced blue jeans that require, on average, 28 percent less water to produce. British company Xeros is working on what it calls a “virtually waterless” washing machine that could annually save 17 million swimming pools worth of water in the U.S. alone.
These companies aren’t collaborating (to our knowledge), but the same underlying concept motivates their ideas: to save what fresh water we have left.
Steven Solomon, author of WATER: The Epic Struggle For Wealth, Power, and Civilization, during a keynote to the Water Environment Federation, put starkly why this is so important. “Fresh water is overtaking oil as human society’s scarcest critical natural resource,” he said. “Just as oil transformed the history of the 20th century, fresh water scarcity is starting to redefine the national security, the politics, the economics, the environment, and the quality of daily living conditions in the 21st.”
In making its new jeans line, Levi’s apparently took this notion to heart—without sacrificing style, of course. How? By cutting back on how many times a typical pair gets washed before being deemed “ready” to sell, and by incorporating other methods to get the same stone-washed look. “Sometimes, the way to achieve a more sustainable design,” said Carl Chiara, director of brand concepts and special projects for Levi’s, “is to rethink a traditional process and find a way to do it better.”
That’s exactly Xeros’ plan. Its in-the-works washing machine uses nylon beads in lieu of water. When tumbled with damp clothes, the reusable nylon bits essentially lift stains off of clothing and absorb the grime. Xeros doesn’t yet have products for sale, but it does have a prototype machine. It recently raised more than $5 million and is gearing up to launch a commercial washer by the end of this year.
Here’s to green jeans (and a process to wash them) that don’t make the Mother Nature blue.