Chip Bergh (best name), the CEO of Levi Strauss & Co, made major waves earlier this week when he implored people to stop washing their jeans. Bergh made the statements at a sustainability conference, and revealed that the jeans he was wearing at that moment were almost a year old — and had never seen the inside of a washing machine. The general reaction to Bergh’s words seemed to be a resounding “Eeeewwww!”, with a bit of “Huh?” mixed in. But pause your initial rush to judgment for one second, OK? Because the man has a damn good point.
It’s easy to blame the gigantic factories in China and Bangladesh for all the toxic pollution they spew out daily, and we should absolutely hold them accountable, but the truth is a huge part of the negative environmental effects of our clothing happens after we bring them home. Approximately 80 percent of a garment’s environmental impact is a direct result of the washing and drying process. For one pair of jeans, that means over 2,600 gallons of water. Not to mention that the more you wash and dry a garment, the faster it wears out, which speeds up its inevitable journey to a landfill. A well-made pair of jeans has the potential to last a lifetime, but frequent washings ensure they never reach that potential.
This is all very depressing, I know, but the flip side of knowing how damaging our actions are to the environment is that we can take control of them and make more eco-friendly choices. Wondering how to stop washing your jeans without looking and smelling like Pig-Pen? You can freeze your jeans to kill germs (yes, really!), spot clean them, or hand wash them with as little soap and water as possible and air dry. If your main complaint about unwashed jeans is that they get baggy and stretched out after a few wears (ugh, I know), just toss them in the dryer for a few minutes instead of going through the whole washing process. Problem solved!
Levi’s has made great strides towards becoming a more environmentally friendly company (you can see why they earned a spot in our Compassionate Fashion section!), and Bergh’s comments, though they might sound wacky at first, totally align with that goal. Make a spot next to the frozen peas for your jeans, and give the no-washing thing a chance. Your denim — and the environment — will thank you.
[Photo of jeans via Shutterstock]