Recycling Jeans a Hot Project for Businesses, Students

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Approximately 23.8 billion pounds of clothing end up in U.S. landfills each year, according to Goodwill.

Levi Strauss & Co., Goodwill and students at the University of Memphis have taken on the charge of reducing that number with two separate projects.

A partnership between Levi Strauss & Co. and Goodwill is attempting to divert more clothing from landfills by promoting donation of unwanted clothing, as well as encouraging sustainable washing practices. The program, called “A Care Tag for Our Planet,” will replace the care tags on all Levi’s clothing beginning in January 2010 with tags that read, “Machine wash cold, line dry when possible and donate to Goodwill.”

Photo: Flickr/jmb1977

Levi Strauss & Co. has been dedicated to environmental issues for more than two decades. By studying the life cycle of one pair of Levi’s jeans they found that their biggest environmental impact was consumer care. Photo: Flickr/jmb1977

According to the TerraPass Footprint, between 85 and 90 percent of the energy used by a washing machine goes to power the water heater. A switch of all U.S. washers to cold water would mean a savings of about 30 million tons of CO2 per year.

“As a company built on values, we have long worked to promote sustainability in how we make our products and run our operations,” John Anderson, president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., told Ad Age. “This initiative uses our global voice to empower hundreds of millions of consumers around the world to join us by providing simple and actionable ways to help care for our planet,” he said.

But Goodwill and Levi Strauss & Co. are not the only ones taking action to keep clothing out of landfills. Students at the University of Memphis are partnering with Habitat for Humanity to collect old jeans to be used as insulation for homes. The project is called “Cotton: From Blue to Green.” A collection drive is aiming to recycle between 500 and 1,000 pairs of jeans. The used cotton will then be recycled into insulation for a new home.

Brad Robb, vice president of communications for the Cotton Board told My Eyewitness News.com that recycled cotton is environmentally friendly. “Not only is it just as good as regular insulation, you don’t have to use gloves. It’s not itchy, so that’s a plus,” he said.

Both of these projects are attempting to change the way Americans view clothing. Instead of being a disposable good, the programs prove that nearly all items can be reused or recycled and made into a usable, new product.

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