VOLCOM BRAND JEANS GET “WATER AWARE”
VOLCOM TURNS DOWN THE TAP WITH THE INTRODUCTION OF NEW WATER SAVING DENIM JEANS
Water Aware is a significant new milestone in Volcom’s journey to sustainability, a commitment to responsible manufacturing practices, better fiber sourcing, assessing our impacts and meaningful give backs that began 12 years ago. The release of the Volcom Fall 2019 collection is marked by the worldwide introduction our new Water Aware denim jeans across all men’s, women’s and youth styles. By introducing reformulated water-saving techniques in the finishing processes during the production of Volcom jeans, we have been able to achieve an average savings of 13 liters of water per jean. And we are not stopping there.
At Volcom we’re committed to addressing the environmental impacts associated with the production of our clothing, and are continually seeking ways to eliminate or reduce these impacts. After evaluating all the stages required to produce a pair of denim jeans, the impact we could most immediately address was the usage of water in the finishing processes of our jeans.
The Volcom production team worked with the factories that produce our denim to switch to enzyme wash and ozone finishing techniques and combine traditionally separate wet cycles into single processes. Inspired by the Water<Less™ techniques developed by Levi’s and using their ‘Open Source: Water Innovation’ guide, this is something we hope that other brands adopt as best practices too. To date Volcom has saved over 4.5 million liters* of water since the program's introduction in 2019.
Water Aware is the next chapter in Volcom’s journey to sustainability following our Fair Labor Association accreditation, and is in line with our ambition to make the largest impact by introducing more sustainable materials or processes across to the products that we produce in the greatest volume. It follows the similar strategy around our other high volume categories, like men’s Mod-Tech trunks, Frickin chinos and women’s swim, where we introduced REPREVE® and Econyl® recycled fibers, respectively. With pants being one Volcom’s largest categories and jeans representing a weighty portion of the category, being able to reduce our water usage by almost 40% in the production of all our denim, the realized savings is tremendous.
Looking to the future, Volcom will continue to increase the average water savings per jean by adding more denim washes with even higher efficiency gains to our line and exploring other stages in a jeans’ cradle to the grave lifecycle where we can reduce water usage.
“The largest amounts of water used in making jeans is associated with cotton growing, followed by the consumer’s care, which is why we’re really excited by the prospect of expanding our Farm To Yarn organic cotton program into future denim production and developing customer educational material that urges them to join us in reducing their impact once they take their jeans home.”
-Ryan Immegart, Volcom Chief Marketing Officer
*Water savings based on Levi’s ‘Open Source: Water Innovation” guide and average 34L water consumption (net freshwater taken from the environment minus water returned to the same watershed at the same quality or better) per jean during garment finishing which is the last step when making jeans after each pair has been sewn and can involve many wet processes.
How We Saved 35 Liters of Water When Making These Jeans
Today the average savings across all men’s, women’s and kids’ jeans is 13 liters, meaning that some colorways save less water, while others save more. For example our "Medium Blue Wash" & "Vintage Blue" colorways, which use 35 and 23 (respectively) Liters less water in their production when compared to traditional jeans finishing methods. These two colors are prime examples of what our reformulated garment finishing processes entail and the reduction in number of wet processes that is possible while still maintaining the integrity of Volcom’s wash library.
By combining the “desizing” (removing the starch added to the yarn that remains through weaving, cutting and sewing) step with the enzyme wash and forgoing the pumice stones, we eliminated 2 wetbaths, a desizing and rinse. Typically jeans in these early stage steps would require 4 wetbaths. Average Water Savings = 11.8L/jean
On select dark denim, we are able to eliminate 1 wetbath by spraying potassium permanganate on the raw denim jean at the beginning of the finish formula – before the jeans ever get wet after sewing – rather than at the typical midpoint. This allows a neutralization agent to be added to the first existing wet bath, removing the need for a standalone neutralization bath. Average Water Savings = 5.8L/jean
We are able to eliminate 2 wetbaths by using the the most advanced Ozone machine on the market from Jeanologia out of Spain. Traditionally to lighten jeans the wet bleaching agent used requires three wet baths: a bleach bath, a neutralize bath and a rinse bath. Using the Ozone process instead of bleach saves two baths, the bleach bath and a generic neutralization bath. Average Water Savings = 12L/jean
For all our Men’s denim we’ve removed 1 wetbath by skipping the softener bath at the end of the finishing process to achieve a more rigid feel. Traditionally, softener is applied to jeans in a wet bath to achieve a softer feel. Average Water Savings = 6L/jean
*Not every color of jeans uses these same 4 specific water-saving steps, processes for each color can vary depending on the desired outcome. Savings calculated using Levi’s ‘Open Source: Water Innovation” guide and Lifecycle Assessment.
Volcom Brand Jeans
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More Than Water
Stone Less, Lasers & Recycled Plastic Bottles
What does it mean to go ‘stone less’? By eliminating the use of pumice stone in the garment finishing process, and instead opting for water-saving enzyme wash and ozone techniques, not only is less water used as detailed above, but any waste water is cleaner. Also we are no longer using a non-renewable resource nor are we supporting the underwater mining of volcanic rock from the seabed.
Frickin’ Laser Beams! On select women’s jeans styles Volcom we are utilizing laser finishing techniques which allow us to design washed looks digitally, and then laser that look directly onto the jeans. In these cases, we bypass the need for additional chemical steps that would achieve a similar look. Two great opportunities to reduce our impacts on people and the planet.
REPREVE®, we’re putting it in everything! Volcom’s Fall ’19 denim collection also marks the introduction of REPREVE® recycled polyester fiber made from recycled plastic bottles in select colorways, specifically ‘Black on Black’, ‘Vintage Blue’ and ‘Whiskey Blue’. While the amount of polyester used in our jeans is minimal, typically 3-7%, it’s natural for us as part of our commitment to sustainability to introduce “better” fibers into our products, especially when they are produced in greater volumes.