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Levi's Goes Green With Waste

The apparel company tries to make its cotton—and customers—more eco-friendly
Eight recycled plastic bottles go into each pair of WasteLess jeans. Levi’s expects to sell 29 million WaterLess denim products this year
Eight recycled plastic bottles go into each pair of WasteLess jeans. Levi’s expects to sell 29 million WaterLess denim products this yearPhoto illustration by 731

Most apparel companies work hard to give their clothes the sheen of sophistication or whimsy. Levi Strauss is trying hard not to. When its latest line of jeans arrives in stores early next year, the pitch will be: “These jeans are made of garbage.” Crushed brown and green plastic bottles will be on display nearby. Eight of those are blended into each pair of Levi’s new Waste‹Less jeans, which are composed of at least 20 percent recycled plastic.

The Waste‹Less denim collection, unveiled on Oct. 16, is part of a bigger push to reduce Levi’s environmental impact throughout the entire process of making jeans. “We want to build sustainability into everything we do,” says Michael Kobori, the vice president of supply chain social and environmental sustainability. Resource scarcity and increasingly volatile prices for cotton make this a necessity more than a choice. Plus outside groups are putting pressure on big consumer companies such as Levi’s to be stewards of the environment. “We expect brands we trust to take care of us, to keep us honest,” says Eric Olson, the senior vice president of BSR, an environmental group that works with businesses. “We don’t want to hear that we’re ruining someone’s life or destroying the planet. We don’t want to pay more, but we want companies to take care of it.”