You already know all the ways you should be conserving water, either because you're a Californian in the throes of one of the worst droughts in recent history or because you are a citizen of the world with general H2O waste concerns. If it's yellow, you perhaps consider letting it mellow, for example. But are you killing us all by washing your jeans way too often?
That's what the CEO of San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co implied yesterday, writing in Fortune that you should wash your jeans every 10 wears, not after every two the way most Americans apparently do.
Sure, the Fortune "commentary" piece by Levi's chief Charles V. Bergh is essentially a press release on Levi's conservation efforts, but if we look past the auto-back-patting there are some useful stats:
- According to a 2007 study conducted by Levi's and updated in 2015, a single pair of jeans (they based it on their 501s, but whatever) "consumes nearly 3,800 liters of water and produces 33 kg of carbon emissions throughout its lifetime."
- If you started washing your jeans after every 10 wearings instead of every two, "it would decrease their energy and climate change impact by 80%," a study Levi's did with Industrial Ecology Consultants found.
This isn't the first time Bergh has beat the "stop washing your jeans, dummies" drum: within the context, again, of pimping Levi's brands and efforts, last May he said that he has never washed the year-old jeans he was wearing at a panel event, and "I have yet to get a skin disease.”
Looking at this critically, sure, it helps the Levi's public image to be the "jeans company that cares about water." But given that the wear-and-tear put on clothing by washing it shortens its lifespan, the message to not wash your jeans (Levi's or otherwise) is counter to the clothing industry's need for you to buy more stuff. So good for them for pushing that message!
And, if you want to REALLY conserve water, stop buying new jeans, too. After all, as Fortune reported last May, "Only half of water usage happens in the jean production process, which means that the other half happens at home, when the customer washes his jeans repeatedly in order to end up with the right color and fit."
If we use that logic, if you're using 3,800 liters of water by washing your jeans every two wearings, and another 3,800 goes toward making those jeans in the first place, you could save as much as 6,840 liters of water with every pair of jeans you buy used (or, in a squishier concept, decide not to buy after all) and wash far less frequently.
The question is, can you let your jeans mellow? Will you?