The January 17 issue of Time has an article on “Green Jeans,” recounting Levi’s attempt to make its jeans more sustainable, especially in terms of water use. A 2007 assessment showed that each pair of jeans used more than 800 gallons of water, the equivalent of running a garden hose for an hour and forty minutes. Using new techniques of stonewashing (to soften the fabric for consumers consumed by comfort), Levi’s reduced their water usage by 28 percent. Cool! And a good example of what’s already happening in business every day.
Near the end of the article, a professor of fashion design and sustainability suggests that “The waste can’t be more important than the aesthetics. It should still be about designing beautiful things.” But another possibility, mentioned in The Nature of College, is that sustainability might become an element of aesthetics. In the long run, it might be possible to create a culture in which pants wouldn’t be considered beautiful if they weren’t sustainable. As a character in the movie Gandhi says, “There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger or unhappiness.” Or environmental degradation.