More Than an Old Pair of Jeans

At last, denim is returned to its natural cotton fiber state and upcycled into denim insulation. Photo courtesy of Stacey Gorman.

or many, those old, worn out denim favorites mean nothing. Shoving them in the back of your dresser drawer, throwing them in the back of your closet, or putting them in an old trash bag full of clothes is what you might do. However, thanks to a program sponsored by Cotton Incorporated, the worn denim favorite means sending a portion of your closet to a community in need. 

Blue Jeans Go Green is a program that Cotton Incorporated uses as an innovative research and promotion effort. The program helps to work across the country to collect denim and recycle it into UltraTouch denim insulation.

 According to Bonded Logic, UltraTouch Denim Insulation is the grouping of 35 years of insulation experience and a revolutionary patented manufacturing process, which creates a superior and safe productfrom high-quality natural fibers. Once it is recycled, the program then provides a portion of the denim insulation to communities in need each year. 

“The program started in 2006, and it has since then diverted more than 2 million pieces of old worn jeans that have been repurposed into a usable product,” said Stacey Gorman, director of communications for the Cotton Board.

According to Cotton Incorporated Blue Jeans Go Green website, with the help of people like you and I, the program has recycled over 1 million tons of denim, 2 million pieces of denim have been diverted from landfills, and 4 million square feet of denim insulation have been manufactured over the past 13 years. By recycling worn denim into insulation, Blue Jeans Go Green keeps textile waste out of landfills and helps with building homes in communities in need around the country. 

Gorman said the program has given Cotton Incorporated ways to show they are sustainable and make a positive impact on the communities around them. As awareness continues to grow and new opportunities become available to recipients, Blue Jeans Go Green expects to see continued growth over the next few years. 

There are opportunities to participate in the Blue Jeans Go Green denim recycling process. Some of the many ways to do this is to mail your denim, take it to a local retailer, school or event, or sign up online to start your own drive for recycling old denim. 

Gorman said Cotton Incorporated started this program by collecting money from a check off program from cotton growers and investing it in research and promotion to help improve the profitability and the marketability of their costs. Gorman said Blue Jeans Go Green came from their consumer marketing division and it’s just a way to really associate cotton and fiber with a feel-good message to consumers.

“It’s really inspiring to get to work and be a part of something that is so unique,” Gorman said, “but also beneficial to the environment.”

Gorman said communicating about a program like this is an effort for consumers to think about their blue jeans and what they are doing to recycle them, while feeling good about how they can impact the environment.

“Finding ways to show that we’re sustainable and really make a positive impact on the communities around us is super important,” Gorman said. 

Through the program, Gorman said Cotton Incorporated has coordinated denim drives on 82 college campuses and there are various brands and retailers that like to get on board with the program as well. Anyone can apply to host a denim drive, whether big or small, any effort can make a big impact in your community. 

PhytoGen, a U.S. cottonseed brand, is partnering with Cotton Incorporated’s Blue Jeans Go Green denim recycling program to help spread cotton’s sustainability message. PhytoGen and the National FFA Foundation and local FFA chapters will be collecting old denim at various events throughout 2019 located in Anaheim, California, Memphis, Tennessee, Lubbock, Texas, Chandler, Arizona, and Tifton, Georgia. 

Derek Racca is the brand manager for PhytoGen and is the spokesperson for the partnership. He graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in agricultural education and communications from Texas Tech University and is excited about moving forward with this program.

“We are thrilled to partner with Cotton Incorporated and Blue Jeans Go Green to essentially bring cotton full-circle,” Racca said. “This program helps the communities in which our customers live and work by keeping denim out of landfills, as well as playing a role in donating insulation to charities, such as Habitat for Humanity.” 

Participating FFA chapters will have from the date the invitation is received from their sponsor until their designated event time. This process gives each FFA chapter approximately four weeks to begin collecting as much denim as they can. During each FFA chapter’s designated event, a representative of each chapter must deliver the collected denim to the designated location where it will be weighed. 

Racca said all of the denim collected for this contest will be donated to Cotton Incorporated for their Blue Jeans Go Green program. The FFA chapter that collects the most denim, based on the weight of the denim collected and weighed by the representatives of Cotton Incorporated, will receive a $1,500 donation toward their chapter. 

Through this partnership, communities are working together to get FFA students involved in the program. It is important in the programs efforts to grow and continue to change communities one piece of denim at a time. 

“PhytoGen is proud to partner with the Blue Jeans Go Green program in the continuing effort to help communities and FFA chapters thrive,” Racca said. “Whether its denim jeans, jackets, shirts or skirts, every piece of denim makes a difference.”