February 13, 2009

University of Kentucky students in the Merchandising, Apparel and Textiles Club are helping to rebuild the hurricane ravaged Gulf of Mexico coast, one pair of blue jeans at a time.

The club, which is part of the UK School of Human Environmental Sciences, collected more than 900 pairs of jeans in one month last semester as part of the group's first Denim Drive. The jeans will be recycled and converted into natural cotton fiber insulation for use in homes. Once the jeans are converted into insulation, they will be sent to either New Orleans or Galveston, Texas to build Habitat for Humanity homes for hurricane victims. The amount of denim the UK club collected will produce about 3,000 square feet of insulation, which can completely furnish three Habitat for Humanity homes.

"I think it's very important to expose students not only to recycling but to sustainable ways to produce, manufacture and create projects in the retail industry," said Elizabeth Easter, UK merchandising, apparel and textiles professor. "We're teaching students about sustainability from beginning to end and beyond."

UK's Denim Drive was done in conjunction with a campaign organized by Cotton, Incorporated, an organization funded by U.S. cotton growers and importers. Cotton, Incorporated began its COTTON. FROM BLUE TO GREEN. denim recycling program in 2006.

This past fall was the first year UK students participated. Members of the Merchandising, Apparel and Textiles Club learned of the project and petitioned Cotton, Incorporated to join the program. In future years, Easter hopes the school becomes one of the organization's designated schools. Students at designated schools work with retailers in their community to promote the project to the public, and it provides an opportunity for students to further learn about the retailing industry through hands-on experience.