Why Levi’s is Giving Away its Trade Secrets

Levi Strauss & Co. is giving away its special sauce.

The bluejeans behemoth said Tuesday that it plans to reveal its strategies for reducing water use by 96 percent when making denim, so the tactics can be adopted by competitors across the industry. The announcement came on World Water Day, the holiday designated 23 years ago by the United Nations for celebrating the availability of fresh water.

“Water is a critical resource for our business, the planet and people around the globe, but usable supply is becoming increasingly scarce,” Michael Kobori, vice president of sustainability at Levi’s, said in a statement. “We’ve long been committed to being water stewards, but realize more needs to be done. We’re setting competition aside and encouraging others to utilize these open source tools.”

Levi’s introduced its suite of 21 water-saving methods in 2011, including strategies like buying only sustainable cotton and using less water when finishing and washing denim. Since then, the company has conserved more than 1 billion liters of water. If its techniques were to become industrystandard, Levi’s estimates they could save 50 billion liters by 2020.

“Making the jeans we wear is a very thirsty business,” Brooke Barton, water program director at the nonprofit sustainability group Ceres, told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. “Levi’s commitment to open source this technology means that others in the apparel sector have no excuse but to step up their game.”

Levi’s, whose CEO Chip Bergh famously eschews washing his jeans, said Tuesday that it plans to double-down on its sustainability efforts by 2020, the year many companies have set for overhauls in their supply chains and environmental policies.

Stephen Meddle/REX Shutterstock

By then, the company aims to source 100 percent of its cotton from farms certified by the nonprofit Better Cotton Initiative or from recycled material. Up to 80 percent of all Levi’s products will be made with water-saving techniques, trademarked under its WaterJoint Roadmap Towards Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals, it will eliminate all chemical pollution from its factories. And, as part of an initiative backed by the White House, all corporate employees at the company will complete Project WET water education training.

The idea of allowing competitors behind the curtain in hopes of fostering higher industry standards isn’t new.

As far back as the 1960s, Swedish automakerVolvo invented the three-point seat belt and promptly gave away the design to other manufacturers to make all cars safer — not just its own.

More recently, in 2010, Nike released a tool featuring many of its environmental design techniques, for free use by other clothing manufacturers. Three years later, the company folded the tool into a free app called Making that draws data from the Nike Materials Sustainability Index.

In June 2014, Tesla pledged not to sue anyone who used the electric carmaker’s patented technology “in good faith,” in hopes of cultivating a bigger industry for rechargeable vehicles. The argument was that copycat companies would expand the market, and the rising tide would raise all ships.

Levi’s move is less about increasing competition and more about sharing strategies it’s already developed. It’s a refreshing perspective in a time of water crises.

Written by Alexander C. Kaufman of The Huffington Post

(Source: The Huffington Post)

Those Days You Work From Home May End Up Wrecking the Planet

Kathy Ponce/Flickr

Next time your boss tries to convince you of the benefits of working from home, spare a thought for how that could contribute to wrecking the planet.

More businesses than ever are asking employees to work remotely in a bid to cut rental costs for office space and take advantage of the growth of super-fast broadband, teleconferencing and smart phones.

But working from your kitchen can actually increase the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming, since those who stay home usually turn up the thermostat. Home energy consumption increases 20 percent when people work where they live, according to a study by BT Group Plc, the U.K.’s biggest broadband provider.

“The general view is home working is always a good thing, but it’s never as simple as it appears,” said Paul Swift, a consultant for Carbon Trust, a London-based research group that advises companies on sustainability. “You can have a very efficient building in a city where people are walking or using public transport. If employees working from home are switching on the heating across the entire house, it will be a negative.”

Swift and his team confirmed that working at home during the winter can quickly lead to an increase in emissions. A single hour of extra heating for most households cancels out the emissions saved by avoiding a commute, the Carbon Trust concluded in a 2014 report.

Only those home workers who live far from the office or who would otherwise drive to work contribute to an overall reduction in pollution. Employees whose daily car commute is at least eight miles, who take a bus for 14 miles or travel at least 32 miles by train can cut emissions, the report said. Those who walk or take public transport would increase their emissions by working from home.

Vodafone Libertel BV, a mobile phone provider, has acknowledged similar findings. Home working increases energy and heating use, offsetting the carbon savings from less commuting and smaller office space, according to its latest Environmental Profit and Loss Account.

More people than ever are working from home, and advocates say the practice can cut pollution. About 3.7 million employees in the U.S. do so for half their time on the job or more, double the level of 2005, according to the consultant Global Workplace Analytics.

That may contribute a reduction of 51 million metric tons of carbon emissions a year, the equivalent of taking all of New York’s commuters off the road, according to the research group that works to help businesses and communities understand the advantages of working from home.

“Barring a national disaster, we see the growth of half- time-plus telework staying at about 5 to 7 percent for the next few years,” said Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics. “The bigger growth will be among less frequent telecommuters. There we predict growth of 10 percent a year for the next few years.”

There isn’t much data on global trends. A poll of more than 18,600 people in 26 countries published by Ipsos in 2012 named India, Indonesia and Mexico as the top countries for telecommuting, followed by South Africa, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Ten percent to 35 percent of the world’s workforce worked remotely at least once or twice per week, the report found.

Among environmentalists, there’s some suspicion that companies have their own finances in mind when they push employees out of the office.

“Companies are interested in reducing office space for financial reasons,” said Swift of the Carbon Trust. “The environmental side is not the highest priority.”

Written by Jessica Shankleman of Bloomberg

(Source: MSN)

U.S. Approves 2016 BMW Diesel X5 SUV After EPA Review

File photo of a BMW emblem at the 2015 New York International Auto Show
REUTERS/Eric Thayer/Files

The Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board approved the sale of the new 2016 BMW diesel X5 after government testing found no evidence of software to evade emissions standards, the government said Thursday.

In September, U.S. environmental regulators and Transport Canada announced they would review all current diesel passenger cars, trucks and SUVs for sale to ensure that they did not have “defeat devices.”

EPA spokeswoman Laura Allen said Thursday that the agency – along with California and Canada – was doing additional testing before approving new diesel vehicles. “Our screening tests found no evidence of a defeat device in the 2016 BMW X5,” she said.

BMW said late Thursday it had delayed the start of production of the diesel X5 – known as the X5 xDrive35d – until EPA testing and certification were completed.

“The vehicle will be going into production shortly at our manufacturing plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina,” BMW said. It expects the vehicle will go on sale in January.

The EPA diesel review came weeks after Volkswagen AG admitted it installed software in 482,000 U.S. vehicles that allowed vehicles to emit up to 40 times allowable pollution in real world driving. VW says the issue involved up to 11 million vehicles worldwide.

Last month the EPA approved the sale of two new General Motors diesel pickup trucks – the 2016 GMC Canyon and 2016 Chevrolet Colorado – after finding no improper emissions.

The BMW SUV and GM pickups were the only non-VW 2016 diesel vehicles awaiting certification.

BMW says diesels accounted for 5.9 percent, or 20,178, of 2014 U.S. vehicle sales.

In November, VW and its Audi and Porsche units acknowledged it has other emissions issues in larger luxury vehicles that extend to an additional 85,000 vehicles dating back to 2009.

The EPA and California on Nov. 2 accused VW of evading emissions in at least 10,000 Audi, Porsche and VW sport utility vehicles and cars with 3.0-liter V-6 diesel engines. VW initially denied the findings.

Last month, VW and Audi officials acknowledged emissions issues in all vehicles with 3.0-liter diesel engines from model years 2009 through 2016.

VW, Porsche and Audi have issued stop sales for 2015 and 2016 diesel models in showrooms and certified used diesel vehicles. The EPA declined to approve the sale of 2016 diesel vehicles, and VW withdrew its certification request for the cars in October pending further talks with regulators.

Written by David Shepardson of Reuters

(Source: MSN)

When Is It Worth Buying Organic?

© PathDoc/shutterstock
© PathDoc/shutterstock

Unlike food labels such as “natural” and “free range,” use of the word “organic” is strictly regulated. The U.S. Department of Agriculture certifies products as organic if they meet a set of standards, including, but not limited to, using 100 percent organic feed for animals and zero use of synthetic fertilizers, certain pesticides, and genetically modified organisms for fruits and vegetables. Organic proponents generally tout benefits such as higher nutritional value and better taste; less contamination from toxins, chemicals, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria; and less damage to the environment. These claims are hard to verify and are subject to much debate. One factor about which there is no doubt: Organic products typically cost more. Is organic worth it?


The Environmental Working Group lists a “Dirty Dozen” of fruits and vegetables for which organic really matters in terms of pesticide exposure. Apples are usually named as the No. 1 food to buy organic, followed by peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, bell peppers, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, imported snap peas, and potatoes. These 12 fruits and vegetables test consistently — and alarmingly — high for pesticide residue. If you want to only buy a few organic items, choose from this list. The “Clean Fifteen,” on the other hand, are fruits and vegetables that test lowest for pesticide residue, and include avocados, onions, pineapples, eggplant, grapefruit, mangos, and sweet potatoes. There’s little benefit to spending more on organic versions of these.


The organic label on baby food matters because the condensed ingredients can mean higher concentrations of pesticide residue. Organic farming reduces those risks significantly. Earth’s Best, Gerber’s Organics, and Plum Organics are three moderately priced brands; stock up during sales to stretch the food budget. Alternatively, use a blender or food processor to make DIY baby food with organic ingredients. Organic produce is available at many farmers markets and increasingly at local supermarkets, big-box stores, and discount clubs.


Growing olives doesn’t require many synthetic inputs (chemicals, pesticides), so buying organic olive oil doesn’t make financial sense. Moreover, the organic version is far more expensive than regular (e.g., a 25.5-ounce bottle of the Walmart store brand is 28 cents cheaper than 17 ounces of Filippo Berio organic olive oil) and any health or safety benefits are unproven.


Rodale’s Organic Life lists bread and cereal among the processed foods to always buy organic — and for good reason. Grains attract a lot of insects, so millers regularly use pesticides, which leave residues in the finished product. And conventional cereals often contain genetically modified organisms. In general, organic breads and cereals contain fewer chemicals and preservatives.


Sugar maples grow well on their own, almost always in forests, without help from pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The production process is just as basic: Farmers tap the trees, collect the xylem sap, boil it, and bottle it. Although you can’t be 100 percent sure without the organic label, chances are very high that a non-organic buy is pure.


Non-organic coffee beans are washed in chemicals, such as ammonia, that you probably don’t want to consume. And the crop is grown using ample pesticides. Figure on paying about $3 more for a pound of organic coffee, but it’s probably worth the tab.


Many health professionals recommend choosing organic meat products whenever possible despite the extra cost. The primary concern about conventional meats is antibiotic use in livestock, which some research has linked to the development of drug-resistant bacteria in humans. Moreover, organic meat comes from animals that have been fed diets free of pesticides, fertilizers, and animal by-products.


American consumers have gone quinoa crazy in recent years. The grain crop is highly nutritious, gluten-free, and a complete protein. There’s no need to buy organic quinoa because farmers don’t use pesticides to grow it. Quinoa plants naturally produce saponins, which help defend against pests. They also leave a bitter coating on the seeds, so be sure to rinse before cooking. Save your pennies for other products that are best in their organic state.


The anatomy of the peanut is what makes organic peanut butter a worthy buy even though the cost is about double the regular variety. Peanut shells are permeable and peanuts grow underground, absorbing pesticides and chemical fertilizers from the soil. The nuts, due to their high fat content, retain these inputs. The USDA has found pesticide residue in traditional peanut butters.


Pesticides are commonly used when growing corn, and residue remains on the kernels. The microwave variety piles on with preservatives as well as chemicals used to coat the bag. Instead, opt for packs of organic microwave popcorn despite the substantial price difference: at least 30 cents an ounce for a variety of Newman’s Own Organics compared with less than 18 cents an ounce for Orville Redenbacher’s. Cheaper (and safer) still, buy organic kernels and pop them yourself; scoop into a brown paper bag and microwave until they stop popping.
Written by Gina Martinez of Cheapism
(Source: Cheapism)