Amidst Denimgate, Levi’s Breaks In New Green Jean Initiatives


Levi Strauss & Co. created the first blue jeans in 1873, back when the concept of sustainability didn’t exist. Now celebrating 141 years of its iconic 501 jeans, the brand continues to champion stylish, sustainable goodwill.

With just 15 percent of clothing and textiles being recycled in the US, Levi’s recently partnered with the Goodwill of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin Counties and San Francisco State University’s apparel design students to upcycle the brand’s jeans that are used in the design review process. The initiative, which was launched in celebration of Earth Day, helped the Goodwill reduce waste in local landfills, and helped San Francisco on its journey to becoming a “zero waste” city by 2020. 

The project was just the latest patch added to Levi’s worn in—and unwashed—pair of jeans.

Earlier this week, Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh unwittingly unleashed a Denimgate for the brand by encouraging the audience at the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference to stop washing their jeans, confessing (Anderson Cooper-style) that the pair he was wearing hadn’t seen a washer/dryer in the last year—a comment he’s now doubt regretting as it blew up on social and traditional media.[more]

If the thought of not washing your jeans for a year irritates your inner germaphobe, Levi’s has several lines of sustainable clothing that consumers can feel good about purchasing. 

Levi Strauss launched its Waste<Less line last year as part of a commitment to leaving a net positive legacy. By re-using polyethylene terephthalate (PET) materials like brown beer bottles, green soda bottles, clear water bottles and black food trays, Levi’s is making fabrics with at least 20 percent waste, equal to an average of eight recycled bottles. 

Add to that treatments in the denim-finishing process that reduce up to 96 percent of water required for some styles and Levi’s has produced more than 50 million Water<Less garments with a savings of around 154 million gallons of water.

In keeping with Levi’s sustainability ethos, Levi’s Stadium, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers, is the first newly constructed LEED Gold-certified NFL venue, making the stadium net-zero to the electric grid on gamedays.

“It’s a mandate for the area,” said 49ers team president Paraage Marathe. “Everywhere you go, up and down Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, you’ll see there’s a commitment to the environment. We either have no stadium, or we have a stadium the way it is currently constructed, one that is environmentally conscious. We’re in a position to be leaders and be advocating for the mission that’s important to a lot of teams and the league.”