Ambitions to reduce environmental impact by slashing water use are driving brands in industries of all kinds to rethink their manufacturing processes. This week, both Wrangler and Toyota announced they have risen to the challenge and have plenty to show for their efforts.
Having recently reached a milestone of three billion liters of water saved since 2007, denim and casual apparel brand Wrangler announced on Wednesday that it plans to reduce water usage at its facilities by 20 percent by 2020.
Water plays a significant role in the manufacturing of denim, and three billion liters roughly equates to the annual household water needs of more than 21,000 Americans, which makes this a sizeable achievement for Wrangler. The finishing steps in producing a pair of jeans typically require multiple water baths. By merging steps, Wrangler reduced water use without compromising quality. This improved wash down process, combined with increased water recycling, yielded this significant resource conservation.
“Wrangler has always had a strong connection to the land, and a commitment to protecting our natural resources for future generations,” said Wrangler president Tom Waldron. “Now, we are expanding our water stewardship program goals to further help reduce our impact and conserve the water resources of the communities where we operate.”
Investment in advanced wastewater treatment systems to improve effluent water quality set Wrangler’s water recycling program up for success, allowing treated water to cycle back through the system. For example, the company’s Torreon facility in northern Mexico has achieved a 45 percent water-recycling rate through a combination of disc filtration and biological treatment processes. The company plans to invest in additional technology at the site to achieve a 75 percent recycling rate by 2018.
Wrangler first pioneered a major water conservation effort with its water miser program a decade ago. The finishing process applied detergent more strategically, reducing the water used in company’s wash formulas by up to 28 percent, a technique that was then applied globally across internal manufacturing. It’s one of many initiatives that Wrangler has been doing for years, which the company is now sharing.
“Our company has a responsibility to play a leading role in moving our industry toward sustainable practices,” said Roian Atwood, director of sustainability for Wrangler. “Reducing billions of liters of water usage represents one small part of our efforts to minimize our environmental impact. Our responsible chemistry strategy also safeguards water quality while our sustainable fiber program promotes responsible cotton-growing practices concerning the use of water, pesticides and fertilizers.”
While Wrangler’s efforts to save water in house are commendable, a 2015 life cycle assessment done by Levi Strauss found that consumer use accounts for 23 percent of the water footprint for a pair of jeans. Both Levi’s and Gap have released campaigns asking consumers to wash less to save water and energy, and extend the life of their jeans.
Meanwhile, Toyota has released its 2016 North American Environmental Report, which highlights the automaker’s achievements over the past year in reducing its impact on the environment, with significant strides being taken in the realm of water reduction.
The report details Toyota’s efforts to address ever-better cars, ever-better manufacturing, and enriching lives within communities as a core part of Toyota’s Global Environmental Challenge 2050, an ambitious set of six challenges that ultimately will create a net positive impact on the planet.
Key efficiencies outlined in the report include:
- North American operations reduced water usage by nearly 100 million gallons over the past year, the equivalent to the annual water use of more than 900 average American families.
- The announcement of plans for a 7.75-MW solar array at Toyota’s new headquarters campus in Plano, Texas, which will reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 7,122 metric tons, or the equivalent of the electricity used by almost 1,000 homes in a year.
- The introduction of its second-generation plug-in hybrid vehicle, Prius Prime, with an EPA-estimated 133 MPGs, making it the most fuel-efficient vehicle on the road today.
- North American facilities reduced, reused or recycled 96 percent of non-regulated waste during calendar year 2015.
- With 54 and counting, Toyota and Lexus have more dealership facilities certified to LEED standards in the U.S. and Canada than any other auto manufacturer.
- Sites collected 267,818 pounds of household waste and donations from team members and local residents, equal to the weight of 20 full-size male African elephants.
Specific developments in the six areas outlined as part of the Global Environmental Challenge 2050 can be found in the full report.
Toyota isn’t the only auto manufacturer stepping up to the plate to reduce water consumption. Between 2000 and 2015, Ford saved 10 billion gallons of water — enough to fill over 15,000 competition-sized swimming pools — beating its own water reduction target by two years. In October, the company also announced that it plans to reduce its use of water by nearly 75 percent as it takes its next step toward using zero potable water for vehicle production.