Do Well: What Happens to Those Jeans You’ve Been Recycling in Our Stores?


Since August, we’ve been collecting your used denim in our stores, in partnership with our friends at Blue Jeans Go Green. Approximately 1,000 pairs are coming through our doors monthly (thank you!). What happens to this denim exactly, you may wonder? Two of our team members, Susan and Danielle, were on hand for the entire process, from collecting the jeans in our stores to installing the insulation with Habitat for Humanity.



Susan: The news seemed to get around quickly that we were recycling jeans at our stores. Women shopping asked us about it before we even had the chance to bring it up! Especially now that the holidays are approaching, people are feeling the urge to give back in some way.

Danielle: What stands out to me is how much people want to give back. Some women come in with bags and bags of jeans.

Susan: People have told us the stories behind the jeans they’re bringing in. One woman told us she had her first kiss in a pair of low-rise flares that she recycled through us.



Danielle: We sent all the used pairs we collected to Blue Jeans Go Green in Arizona. The unique thing about the process is that you can recycle any type of denim. It can be printed, dyed or bleached and have tons of hardware or even patches. We learned that the end result—thick panels composed of 80 percent recycled denim—is free of formaldehyde and other chemicals that show up in traditional insulation.

Susan: Insulation is one of the biggest costs of building a home in a green, environmentally friendly way. Because denim is a natural fiber, it keeps homes cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.



Danielle: New Orleans felt like the perfect place for us to help out on a build, so we went there with Habitat for Humanity. Even 10 years after Katrina, some of the homes are still boarded up. We were in charge of stuffing the insulation panels into the walls.

Susan: Sometimes you’d notice a strip of red running through the insulation panel, and you’d think, “Oh! Someone brought in a pair of red jeans to recycle.” Or you’d see an actual tag from an old pair. It took us an hour to outfit the whole interior with insulation, and we spent the rest of the day painting the outside.

Big thanks to those who have contributed, and a big get-thee-to-a-Madewell to those who haven’t had the chance to yet. Get $20 off a new pair when you recycle an old one.* Find your local Madewell store here.

*Terms and conditions: Offer valid on purchases made in Madewell stores from August 12, 2014, through December 31, 2015, when you contribute one pair of jeans to the Blue Jeans Go Green denim recycling program and purchase at least one new pair of full-price jeans. Limit one discount per customer per day. Offer not valid at or on phone orders. Offer cannot be applied to previous purchases or the purchase of gift cards and cannot be redeemed for cash or used in combination with any other offer. Offer not valid on third-party branded items. Terms of offer are subject to change. Blue Jeans Go Green is a trademark of Cotton Incorporated.

Photography by Angi Welsch and Marcie Matthew.