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More Denim, Less Water: 3 Industry Leaders on Conserving Water

Download the New Wave report on the efforts taken by major denim players to deliver sustainable solutions across the supply chain and ultimately improve the health of the planet.

From irrigation to washing, a typical pair of blue jeans uses 919 gallons of water during its life cycle, according to Levi Strauss & Company.

Companies like Jeanologia, Archroma and Tonello are making moves to save water during denim production, and while doing so, are proving that these new measures do not need to stunt designers’ creativity.

Archroma is doing its part to save water during the dyeing process through its indigo-free Advanced Denim concept.

The concept, which was introduced in 2009, requires approximately 92 percent less water than the average dyeing process and offers a wider spectrum of blue shades. The process also cuts down cotton waste by 87 percent and saves 30 percent in energy.

By going indigo-free and eliminating hydrosulfite in the dyeing process, denim manufacturers have a more versatile choice of solid or ring denim and a wider range of blues, navies, blacks and grays.

Advanced Denim enables manufacturers to create new effects by using sustainable techniques at either the dyeing or wash-down stages. Instead of using chlorine and permanganates, the process allows the use of eco-friendly peroxide-based wash-downs.

“In general terms, Advanced Denim articles can be treated in the same way as conventional denim. The type of effect will depend on the specific treatment,” said Miguel Sanchez, Archroma head of global business and development.

Innovation hubs like Spanish technology company Jeanologia are working to ensure that a reduction in water doesn’t result in an increase in energy. Jeanologia’s G2 system allows significant water and energy usage reduction, and eliminates the need for toxic processes like bleaching and permanganate usage.

The washer takes air into the G2 generator, converts the air into ozone gas that is moved inside the tumbler. The gas washes the garment, breaks down the anchor of the fiber dyeing and is then transformed back into air and then released, making the jeans essentially washed by the atmosphere.

“This process does not require any additional chemicals or water,” said Jeanologia Project Manager Begoña Garcia. “Electric consumption of the full equipment, including air feeding system, ozone destruction, ozone generation and drum rotation are equal to the consumption of the energy needed to move a washing machine.”

Sustainable doesn’t have to be an added expense. Garment finishing technology company Tonello believes that using less water should actually minimize overall production costs. The company remains a trailblazer in the denim industry through their water conservation methods and machines, and  proudly calls Levi’s one of the brands they work with on water conservation.

With their latest innovation, Up, Tonello has been able to radically reduce the amount of water required and bring the liquor ratio down to new levels. A continuous, regular flow of water is injected into the machine, then recovered and recirculated. As a result, the process requires less energy consumption, while faster water filling and draining results in lower costs.

The Up program can be applied with other Tonello technologies like NoStone, which uses a stainless steel abrasive drum fastened to the washing machine instead of pumice stone, and Ecofree, which dissolves ozone into water to clean it from indigo during the enzyme wash, reducing both the number of baths and processing time.

“This process has a very short return on investment and is very flexible, as it can be combined with other technologies. Brands can install our technologies [older model] Tonello machines, giving them a new life and making each investment worth it,” said Alberto Lucchin, Tonello marketing executive.

“For consumers, it means buying a garment produced consciously, thinking about the planet and their health.”

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