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Trending: Brad Pitt and Sheryl Crow Want to Insulate Homes for the Needy with Your Old Jeans

Image credit: Cotton Incorporated

In honor of Earth Day this week, both Brad Pitt and Sheryl Crow are using their star power to back initiatives aimed at helping responsibly build affordable housing for those in need, while bringing awareness to the importance of textile recycling.

First, Pitt’s non-profit, Make It Right — which builds sustainable, affordable homes, buildings and communities for people in need — kicked off a partnership with American Eagle Outfitters to recycle used and unwanted denim into building materials for affordable homes.

Starting April 11, customers that bring their old denim into any of AEO’s 823 stores across the United States and Canada will receive a 20 percent discount on a new pair of jeans. Any collected unwearable denim will be shredded and recycled into UltraTouch™ Denim Insulation and other building materials for use in Make It Right’s affordable homes around the country. Manufactured by Bonded Logic, UltraTouch Denim Insulation provides both energy-saving thermal performance as well as class-leading sound absorption, creating efficient, quiet and healthy living spaces wherever it is installed.

Make It Right is committed to meeting the highest standards of sustainable building and using Cradle to Cradle Certified products — building materials that can be recycled into new products at the end of their use — for their LEED Platinum, affordable homes. Already leading the charge with regard to recycling textiles, American Eagle Outfitters has been collecting clothing and shoes for reuse and recycling in partnership with I:Collect USA (I:CO), a global, closed-loop textile recycling solutions provider, since January of last year.

“American Eagle Outfitters and its customers’ commitment to recycling denim is a great example of how we can all work together to conserve resources,” said Cesar Rodriguez, Make It Right’s products director. “These jeans will provide safe, sustainable insulation — an important part of Make It Right’s high-performance, solar-powered homes. Better insulation increases energy-efficiency, leading to lower power bills for working families. We’re grateful to American Eagle Outfitters and I:CO for supporting Make It Right and providing consumers with the opportunity to be a part of sustainable solutions on Earth Day.”

“This partnership underscores our commitment to eliminate waste and preserve vital resources, while enabling our customers to become involved in our sustainability efforts and to truly close the loop on the textile waste cycle,” said Helga Ying, AEO’s VP of External Engagement & Social Responsibility. “The more we engage our customers, the more denim we will collect, ultimately reducing textile waste and increasing our ability to build low-cost, sustainable homes in our communities.

Meanwhile, on behalf of Cotton Incorporated’s Blue Jeans Go Green™ (BJGG) denim-recycling program, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow is asking consumers to recycle their unwanted denim to help rebuild New Orleans, an area still feeling the repercussions of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. 

BJGG has set a collection goal of 10,000 pieces of denim, which will be transformed into UltraTouch™ Denim Insulation and provided to a 10-day, 10-home Build-a-Thon being conducted by New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity, May 20–30.

Over the past 40 years, U.S. cotton growers have reduced pesticide applications by 50 percent, reduced irrigation water applications by 40 percent, and have grown twice as much cotton on 30 percent less acreage. Crow, who was born and raised in the Cotton Belt state of Missouri, supports the BJGG initiative, which brings the environmental gains cotton growers have made in the field full-circle by diverting textiles from landfills and helping to rebuild communities. 

"I hope to influence as many people as possible to recycle their denim through the Blue Jeans Go Green program," Crow said. "It's a really simple way to help the environment, help communities in need and complete an environmental cycle that begins on the farm and ends with us. To think that my old jeans could help insulate a house is just an incredible idea. I'm excited to work with Cotton Incorporated on this initiative."

Since 2006, the Blue Jeans Go Green program has helped rebuild communities by providing hundreds of thousands of square feet of UltraTouch™ Denim Insulation to Habitat for Humanity affiliates around the country. During that time, the program has diverted more than one million pieces of denim — roughly 600 tons — from landfills, and created approximately two million square feet of insulation for communities in need.

"The average consumer owns seven pairs of jeans," says Andrea Samber, co-director of Strategic Alliances at Cotton Incorporated. "Giving just one of them to the recycling drive can make a big difference in a family's life."

The program has a long history in the New Orleans area.

"Participating in a Habitat for Humanity build there in 2007 was one of the first activities of Blue Jeans Go Green,” Samber explains. “Since then we have given just over half a million square feet to the Gulf South, alone. We're happy to still be involved, and to be collaborating with New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity on this ambitious 10-home, 10-day Build-a-Thon."

More than 600 volunteers will come together in New Orleans to participate in the 10-day build on America Street. Included will be 500 active service AmeriCorps volunteers, as well as alumni and other volunteer groups from around the country that will all will be reuniting in New Orleans for the Build-a-Thon.

Speaking of recycling denim to help those in need, in November Levi’s partnered with Goodwill and the San Francisco 49ers on a “Field of Jeans” campaign, to highlight progress on both waste diversion and job training.

In the weeks leading up to the November 2 49ers-Rams game, both Levi’s and the 49ers ran a campaign asking fans to donate their used jeans to Bay Area Goodwill stores or at the game. The goal of the drive was to round up 13,000 pairs of jeans, enough to cover a football field. At last count according to Levi’s, around 15,500 pairs of jeans were donated to Goodwill — preventing approximately 10 tons of cotton denim from final disposal in landfills.


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