Lee has been crafting iconic denim with purpose for more than a century. Today, we’re committed to finding more innovative design solutions to deliver better products that uphold our values for social and environmental impact.
Join us in celebrating Earth Week as we shine a light on several sustainability experts who are calling attention to the importance of this topic.
DANIELLE NKOJO | GLOBAL SUSTAINABLE PROJECT MANAGER, KONTOOR BRANDS | CIRCULAR ECONOMY STRATEGIST
What’s your role at Lee?My name is Danielle Nkojo and I’m the Global Sustainable Project Manager at Lee.
Tell us about an exciting project you’re working on.One of the most exciting projects that I’m working on right now is in response to consumer demand for more sustainable products. MY project will support our teams of designers, material sourcing specialists and product developers making it easier for them to our select combinations of product components and processes that are better for our planet.
What’s the difference between sustainability and circularity for Lee?You will often see sustainability and circularity used interchangeably. However, I do believe that there is a distinction. To keep it clear in my head, I think it helps to think about sustainability as a characteristic and circularity as a system. You can build products with sustainable characteristics like organic cotton or recyclable accessories, but to achieve true circularity those sustainable products should be collected by a system and entered into a process where the existing material can become new raw material for production.
How are you honoring Earth Day?This year I’ll be honoring earth day by starting a garden. I thinking gardening is a great way to remind ourselves that when we nurture the earth, the earth will take care of us by providing nourishing food and other useful resources.
TELL US SOMETHING YOU’D LIKE PEOPLE TO LEARN OR KNOW.In addition to shopping at Lee.com I hope visitors to our site take a look at our denim care guide. It’s a great resource for extending the life of your favorite jeans. The helpful hints you’ll find there include washing tips, storage suggestions, as well as tailoring and repair advice.
MELISSA HENKLE | DIRECTOR OF BRAND SALES, UNIFI INC.
What’s your role at Unifi?I am the Director of Brand Sales at Unifi, Inc. headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina. Our team works with brands globally to achieve their sustainability goals by sourcing our REPREVE® recycled fibers made from post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, for the good of tomorrow.
How does Unifi think about sustainability – what are your goals?At Unifi, we look at sustainability as a core strategic pillar that permeates through all aspects of our organization. This includes the technology investments we make, the products we create and the empowerment of the growth and continuing education of our employees. Each choice is designed to create positive impact for our people, our business and our planet, while supporting our partner brands. Our goal is to recycle 30 billion plastic bottles by 2022 and reduce our footprint. Manufacturing REPREVE recycled polyester instead of commodity virgin polyester leads to a 44% reduction in energy consumption, 16% reduction in water usage, and 29% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. We continue to focus on sustainability in efficient transportation, using solar farms to power our plants, utilize LED to converse energy, recycle water in manufacturing, while focusing on a circular economy.
How does Unifi collaborate with brands and other partners to achieve sustainable outcomes?REPREVE is the earth-friendly solution to making brands’ favorite products more environmentally responsible, like Lee’s denim. We work with brands to source REPREVE globally and drive sustainable innovation. At Unifi, we help brands achieve what they thought was impossible by making their favorite garments from REPREVE recycled materials while not giving up durability or quality. The only thing they’re giving up is their carbon footprint!
How are you honoring Earth Day?We at Unifi are celebrating Earth Day this year by recycling over 25 billion bottles. This means more bottles kept out of our landfills and oceans as well as more savings in energy, water and greenhouse gas emissions. This is equivalent to carbon absorbed by 750 thousand acres of US forest in a year and over 2 billion liters of water saved. Did you know…Each year over 35 billion bottles are thrown away- that’s about 5 bottles for every human on earth. What if we could do something to keep plastic bottles out of our landfills? We do. When you make the choice to recycle your plastic bottles, you’re playing a part in fighting climate change.
TELL US SOMETHING YOU’D LIKE PEOPLE TO LEARN OR KNOW.To all consumers: You can help! Buy products made from recycled material. This process starts and end with you. And all of us can work together for the good of tomorrow. Look for the REPREVE green bottle tag on your favorite Lee garments. Together for Tomorrow.
JONATHAN WEBB | APPHARVEST FOUNDER & CEO
How does indoor farming, like what you do at AppHarvest, and traditional, outdoor farming differ? How are they similar?By farming indoors, we have complete control of the growing process. Our sophisticated systems use 300 strategically placed sensors to ensure each non-GMO tomato plant receives the exact amount of nutrients and water needed. All of our water needs are met using recycled rainwater. Our rainwater retention pond holds the equivalent of nearly 70 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water, all which is aerated with nanobubble technology before being filtered back into our system. With this approach, we can produce up to 30 times higher yields per acre than traditional, outdoor farming.
Between the pandemic and the continued extreme weather events that have disrupted our food supply—especially of fresh food sensitive to spoiling—it’s clearer than ever that the climate-resilient solution AppHarvest provides is critical to ensuring a reliable domestic food system.
Going forward, we need to continue to emphasize an efficient use of natural resources in all types of agriculture, as the United Nations notes we’ll need up to 70% more food by 2050 to feed the rising population. We need high-tech indoor farms like ours, as well as traditional outdoor farming, warehouse farms and, of course, backyard gardens. Most importantly, we all aim to grow delicious food and feed the planet, which is crucial right now.
What does sustainability mean at AppHarvest?People talk about “the bottom line” that drives most companies. For us, sustainability is the bottom line. If we aren’t meeting our own high expectations that include using 90% less water than traditional agriculture eliminating chemical pesticides, then we’re not accomplishing what we set out to do in the first place. Any time we make a decision, we ask ourselves if the outcome will positively impact our planet and people. If the answer is no, we start over.
What special practices or technology do you use to save resources?Natural resources are precious, and conservation is crucial. That’s why all our water needs are met with 100% recycled rainwater. An elaborate gutter system collects rainwater on our 2.76-million-square-foot farm’s roof and directs it to a retention pond the size of nearly 70 Olympic swimming pools. From there, it enters our farm following filtration by sand and UV light. This cutting-edge system reduces our water use by 90%.
We also use a hybrid lighting system that substantially increases how many tomatoes we can grow. We combine three sources of light — sunlight, efficient LEDs, and high-pressure sodium growing lights, which double as a heat source during cooler months.
Our high-tech indoor farms are composed of diffused glass and oriented East to West, which allows the maximum amount of sunlight to cover all rows evenly. At night or when the sun is obscured, we supplement with sophisticated LEDs, which are 40% more efficient than typical lighting. Designed for growth, the LED system uses mixtures of blue and red light, which are essential to photosynthesis with red light inspiring flowering and blue stimulating growth. Our growing team develops lighting recipes to boost our harvests.
How are you honoring Earth Day?At AppHarvest, we think of every day as Earth Day. We see the annual holiday as a great opportunity to raise awareness of that mindset and all the actions that come with it. That’s why we’re proud to partner with like-minded companies such as Lee, which has made a crucial commitment to source all cotton sustainably by 2025 and has long been a leader in reducing water usage in the fashion industry. Those kinds of deadlines and accountability are just what the earth needs, today and every day.
TELL US SOMETHING YOU’D LIKE PEOPLE TO LEARN OR KNOW.The issues our food supply chain is facing right now are not far-off, distant problems our grandchildren or great-grandchildren will need to solve. These are realities that will have serious consequences within the next 30 years. If you come away from this conversation with anything, let it be that we all need to be part of the change. For AppHarvest, that means farming smarter on a large scale. For Lee’s fans and followers, it can mean starting your own home garden or supporting clean farming practices with your purchases. I encourage you all to take action today, whatever that might look like for you personally.
ISAIAS HERNANDEZ | ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATOR | CREATOR, QUEERBROWNVEGAN
What led you to become an environmental educator?Growing up, I always had so many questions regarding climate change and never really knew how it connected to my community. Even though I had an array of emotions, I never had the right words to describe my feelings. As someone who grew up low-income, I recognized the injustices in my community. I wondered why certain communities across Los Angeles were designed this way and what systems allowed these extractive industries to continue polluting. From asking questions to the classroom, I was invested in becoming an environmentalist and that led me to study Environmental Science at the University of California, Berkeley. Environmental education can often be inaccessible, especially for those trying to understand the interconnections of injustices. Environmental education is a human right and during my undergraduate career, I realized how information was privatized, which is unfair. Upon graduating, I was a bit lost in what I wanted to do until I realized that my passion for environmentalism has always existed. I wanted to give back to others around me which is why I entered digital spaces. Creating a series of environmental topics that broke down each topic allowed me to instill my own cultural-based experiences and lived experiences to that terminology.
Tell us about your “5 R’s” to being eco-friendly.My 5R's of being eco-friendly is a holistic approach for people to approach their consumer and lifestyle behaviors before saying yes! For many of us, we think we are not eco-conscious and need to invest in having eco-friendly products without considering our own environmental values that were instilled into us growing up. Reconnecting is the first step for those because it gives you time to look back at your lived memories of what your loved ones did to be eco-friendly. Researching is essential because we invest in products that will hopefully allow us to achieve a more conscious lifestyle. Still, it is also important to note where it is actually being produced. Reevaluating is an important phase in the between because we often try to remove all of our products from our home when they can literally be reused multiple times. From redesigning, I want people to dig deeper than their lifestyle choices, asking themselves how to advocate for human and non-human animal rights. Reestablishing is the action stage to educate those around you and then take action once you understand the topic. It costs zero dollars to advocate for people's wellbeing and we should actively be fighting for rights!
1. Reconnecting: Connect back to your cultural roots, personal lived memories of what your family, siblings, or loved ones did that made them sustainable.
2. Researching: What is the product made out of/ sources / are they transparent.
3. Reevaluating: Asking yourself if you need to try that product or continue purchasing the exact product you always have, even if it's plastic.
4. Redesigning: Don't stop your advocacy at purchasing products. What are other issues you can get involved in?
5. Reestablishing: Now that you want to create local change, educate yourself and others around you to do more than buying products!