500 Pair of Jeans Insulate a Habitat for Humanity House

Over the past five years, 662,000 used denim jeans (and denim shirts, hats) have been turned into insulation for over 1300 homes, thanks to a unique recycling initative from Cotton, Inc.

The trade association set up a nationwide collection effort to keep used denim out of landfills by donating it to Habitat for Humanity. The group, which builds low income green homes around the country, uses it for insulation in areas of the US hit by natural disasters. 

Cotton Inc’s "From Blue to Green" initiative collects denim from a network of American clothing retailers, college student organizations, community groups, and others. Insulation maker Bonded Logic turns them into Ultratouch insulation, 90% recycled from denim and then donates it to Habitat.

Ultratouch, which qualifies for 12 LEED credits, doesn’t have  formaldehyde like many kinds of bat insulation and isn’t itchy to touch. It has about the same R-value as fiberglass, but it’s more expensive.

It takes 500 jeans to insulate a house.

The BtG campaign has appealed to many of its business partners as a means to encourage sales of new product lines. A prominent example is Gap’s "Recycle Your Blues" campaign and promotion of their new "1969" collection during the 2010 campaign. Gap’s involvement in BtG is part of the reason the company’s stock price increased by 56.46 percent in 2010, after a sluggish 2009 fiscal year. Beyond the retailers mentioned in this article, Bloomingdales, Lands End, National Jean Company, Rock & Republic, Saks Fifth Avenue have all been involved in the program at some point.

Interested businesses can contact Cotton Incorporated to get involved or partner with a similar initiative that is currently accepting donations, such as USagain. Cotton Incorporated estimates that they will begin drives again in late 2011.

Read about how they got the extensive collection program off the ground and learn more:

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