Cotton Incorporated’s Blue Jeans Go Green Program Supplies NOAHH With Volunteer-Friendly Insulation

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Since Hurricane Katrina, the program Blue Jeans Go Green has diverted over 600 tons of denim from landfills, recycled over 1 million pieces of the fabric, and created over 2 million square feet of UltraTouch Denim Insulation, which is used in Habitat homes around the nation.

It all began eight years ago when the storm caused a cancellation in the planned promotional/educational tour for Cotton Incorporated. At the time, they were touring college campuses, illuminating students about cotton fabrics of all kinds and the many uses and requirements for them. Because of the storm, they had to reschedule their appearance at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, LA, but the team at Cotton knew they wanted to be involved in the New Orleans area. They knew they wanted to give back.

Of the many uses of cotton, the one that stuck out to them was that denim, obviously more commonly found in blue jeans, could be recycled as insulation for buildings. It was affordable, non-pruritic, and environmentally sound. The program was born, originally called Cotton From Blue to Green. Cotton collected blue jeans from around the country and turned them into insulation, preventing it from going to landfills, and providing organizations like Habitat for Humanity affiliates with insulation safe for volunteers to install.

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Initially, Cotton sought to partner with educational systems in the affected area, but the infrastructure at the time was not in place. They found a ready and willing partner in local Habitat affiliates, however. The first year, they partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Baton Rouge, then expanded to other affiliates, including NOAHH in 2006. Since then, their project, recently renamed Blue Jeans Go Green, has expanded to include other disaster-affected areas like New York after Hurricane Sandy and Tuscaloosa, AL, after the tornadoes, and non-disaster affected areas as well. Every year, colleges across the nation hold denim drives to support the program.

Since 2008, Cotton has donated 340,000 square feet of insulation to NOAHH. Since it does not cause itching, the denim insulation is perfect for volunteer installers. Because of the ingenuity and generosity of the Blue Jeans Go Green program, NOAHH has saved time, money, and resources in the construction of our homes, while still providing safe, effective insulation for our homeowners.

Though they volunteer every year (and then some), they do not just install insulation. Volunteers from Cotton have worked on every phase of home construction during their partnership with Habitat. Since they began volunteering, they have been to New Orleans five times, including being part of the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project in 2008, often bringing partners such as American Eagle–who have run denim recycling programs in their stores–to help build homes.

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When asked why they keep returning, Andrea Samber, Director of Consumer Marketing and Strategic Alliances for Cotton Incorporated, said, “It’s where it started. We have an affinity for New Orleans, and the affiliate is a great partner in promoting the program. It’s a worthwhile area to help.”

Samber, who helped create the program, has been to most of the builds, even attending builds while seven months pregnant–twice. Her dedication to the program is matched by her enthusiasm.

“It’s incredible that this is my job. I work in fashion, and I get to build houses.”