Nike has released its Environmental Apparel Design Tool, which is supposed to facilitate collaboration among companies, speed up sustainable innovation and decrease the use of natural resources such as oil and water. The software-based tool helps designers make choices that lessen the environmental impact of their work.

Based on Nike’s Considered Design Index, the new tool took the company seven years and an investment of $6 million to devise. It is a practical way to rate how apparel designs score in reducing waste and increasing the use of environmentally preferred materials, while allowing the designers to make real-time adjustments.

Nike says that in the four years that the company has used the tool itself, it has helped it create products with a higher sustainability standard. Now that it has released the tool for other companies, Nike welcomes additional innovations to build on and improve the Environmental Apparel Design Tool.

One product that was developed using the tool was the football jersey worn by the South African team in this year’s World Cup. They were made from 100 percent recycled polyester, and kept 13 million plastic bottles out of landfills.

In the last year in total, Nike has kept 82 million bottles from reaching landfills as it has doubled its use of recycled polyester. Nike says that if all apparel companies committed to converting one-third of their polyester garments to recycled polyester, the demand for that material would be greater than the annual production of plastic bottles.

In 2011, Nike plans to release its Footwear Design Tool, Material Assessment Tool and Water Assessment Tool. The Environmental Apparel Design Tool can be found at www.nikebiz.com/responsibility/nikeenvironmentaldesigntool.