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Levi's CEO: Save the world, don't wash your jeans

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Chip Bergh, CEO of Levi Strauss, speaks about ways to sustain the environment during the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference. (Source: Fortune Magazine/YouTube) Chip Bergh, CEO of Levi Strauss, speaks about ways to sustain the environment during the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference. (Source: Fortune Magazine/YouTube)

(RNN) - Crotch funk isn't cool, but neither is destroying the environment, so the lesser of the two evils is obviously refusing to wash your blue jeans.

That's the advice that came from Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh. After 2 1/2 years as head of the world-famous apparel company, he believes in the product.

At a Fortune conference on environmental sustainability, Bergh said he had not washed the jeans he was wearing in more than a year.

As a way to use less water and live more sustainably - and save yourself the torturous 90 seconds it takes to load and unload jeans from the washer and dryer - Bergh said it's best to just refrain from putting them in the washer. Ever.

"I know that sounds totally disgusting, I know it does; but believe me, it can be done," Bergh said. "You can spot clean it, you can air dry it and it's fine. I have yet to get a skin disease or anything else. It works."

So, a little soap and water and sunlight is all you need for that occasional spaghetti sauce that slips off the fork? Check.

But what about the inside of jeans, the area where sweat, dead skin and who knows what else builds up and clings to denim?

There is a dearth of medical research on diseases specifically related to unwashed jeans, however, the National Institutes of Health advises it is vital to keep your skin clean.

But Levi's had an answer for that, as well. In a brilliant stroke of ingenuity, the company has previously advised people to freeze their jeans to kill bacteria.

Not so much, according to experts who spoke to The Smithsonian in 2011.

In order to kill the most bacteria possible, there are really two effective options. You can either expose the jeans to a high temperature for at least 10 minutes - think dryer or steam cleaner - which negates the environmentally friendly avoidance of water.

Or you can wash them.

According to Julie Segre of the National Human Genome Research Institute, removing dead skin is more important than removing bacteria. That's difficult to accomplish without a washing machine.

"Detaching the sloughed skin could reduce the microbial load of your jeans," said Segre.

Copyright 2014 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.

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