Fashion is probably the last thing you think about when you see a leather airplane seat – yet through a partnership between Southwest Airlines and textile and accessories upcycler Looptworks, 43 acres of leather collected from 80,000 discarded Southwest airplane seats were turned into LUV Seat weekender duffle bags, shoes, soccer balls and more that embody how creative partnerships can help companies close loops and benefit the environment.
By repurposing the leather, the Southwest-Looptworks partnership helped to conserve over 4,000 gallons of water and avoids 72 percent of CO2 emissions.
Looptworks also partnered with a local nonprofit to provide career training for adults with disabilities; those adults deconstruct the airplane seats and ready them for upcycling.
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Southwest partnered with Looptworks as an extension of its environmental sustainability work. In addition to partnering with the Portland, Oregon-based company, Southwest also partnered with nonprofits in Kenya to provide training and jobs in several Kenyan communities to develop leather products and donate them to local communities.
“We were trying to figure out how to close the loop in our supply chain, and we’ve learned a lot from this partnership on how to create a product from waste,” said Casey Dunn, Operational Communications Senior Specialist at Southwest Airlines. “It’s helping us think differently about the waste that we produce as a company and look further back into our supply chain and think about how to create it differently or retire it differently.”