Shredded jeans keep you warmer


While helping out at the Rawlins thrift store, Janice White saw a lot of denim that had served its last tour of duty pass through the doors. Would-be donors approached White holding blue jeans with gaping unpatchable holes or fabric so exhausted and threadbare as to be useless even for crafts projects or as rags.

In the past, that material would end up in a dumpster, then a landfill, but this waste bothered White. About three months ago, the Valley resident took to the internet to see if she could find some way to put that waste to work.

Online, White discovered Blue Jeans Go Green, a program run by Cotton Incorporated whose aim is to recycle (or "upcycle", in the program's lingo) old denim products. "They turn (old denim products) into its natural cotton fiber and then weave it into insulation," White explained.

According to a website run by Cotton Incorporated, the insulation is donated for use in houses constructed by Habitat for Humanity and is also sold commercially as a hypo-allergenic, mold-resistant sound-proofing material. Over a million pieces of old clothing have been repurposed through the program thus far, with over two million square feet of insulation manufactured. "It's pretty cool stuff," White said.

"We had a whole bunch of denim over (at the thrift shop) we didn't know what to do with," White continued. When collected in White's first drive three months ago, she said that otherwise unusable material amounted to about 800 pairs of jeans, or enough denim to insulate an entire home.

White is looking for more. In her efforts to get more of the old material, White has set up a collection station for retired jeans in front of the Church of Christ at 201 McAffrey Street in Encampment. Donors can also have their old jeans recycled through the Blue Jeans Go Green Program at the Rawlins thrift store.

"We box it, we ship it out and then it goes to this company in Arizona and they take all the metal out of it and recycle the metal–which is fantastic," White said of the process. After shipping some material through the mail, White found that a cheaper option was to drive the old jeans to a collection spot in Boulder, Colo., where a semitruck makes regular pick-ups for the program.

"The worse shape, the better. This is stuff that's totally not resellable second-hand, can't be turned into crafts–nothing," White said. She is taking all callers, and eager to give more old clothes second lives.

"We're each doing our little part when we donate denim to the program," she concluded.


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