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Published: Thursday, 6/18/2009

It's all in the jeans: 8-year-old warms to drive for denim

Erek Hansen of Jerusalem Township read about the effort to recycle denim into insulation in National Geographic Kids magazine. Erek Hansen of Jerusalem Township read about the effort to recycle denim into insulation in National Geographic Kids magazine.

Erek Hansen wants your unwanted jeans, no matter how old, torn, or frayed they are.

Motivated by an effort the 8-year-old Jerusalem Township boy read about in National Geographic Kids magazine, Erek is collecting jeans that ultimately will be recycled into cotton insulation. That insulation, in turn, will help build houses in areas damaged by hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters.

"I just liked it because it was keeping the jeans out of the landfill," Erek said of the effort, called "Cotton. From Blue to Green."

Tomorrow and Saturday, Erek's family is holding a "Denim Drive in Our Driveway" to collect jeans during their garage sale at 315 North Teachout Rd., just south of Corduroy Road in Jerusalem Township.

At last count yesterday, 124 pairs of jeans had been collected, including about 50 pairs from a drive last month that Erek asked if he could hold at Jerusalem Elementary. Erek and his mother, Amy Hansen, hope to collect at least 500 pairs, which would be enough to insulate an average-sized U.S. house.

Jerusalem Elementary Principal Jennifer Conkle said she wasn't surprised by Erek's interest in the recycling program.

National Geographic Kids is collecting jeans for Cotton Inc., a cotton research and promotion organization, and has more than 20,000 pairs so far. Cotton Inc. started the recycling program in 2006, and drives in previous years have collected enough denim to provide insulation for 180 Habitat for Humanity houses in the Gulf Coast region.

"It didn't surprise me, because that's the kind of kid that Erek is," Mrs. Conkle said. "He's always looking for something extra to do."

Mrs. Hansen said: "He's very environmentally conscious. He doesn't like people to be wasteful."

Initially, Erek asked his mother if he could send in a couple of his worn-out jeans. But Mrs. Hansen figured they might as well collect additional jeans to send in for the National Geographic Kids drive, which ends June 30, and she has been telling relatives and friends about Erek's drive.

First Solar Inc. in Perrysburg Township was among those that heard about Erek's efforts, and employees decided to collect jeans for the recycling program, too. Plus, the company on Monday is shipping all of the jeans Erek collects to National Geographic Kids' collection site in Washington, Mrs. Hansen said.

Erek's drive starts at 9 a.m. both tomorrow and Saturday, and those donating the first 100 pairs of jeans will be rewarded with a cookie or brownie. "Food always helps," Mrs. Hansen said.

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