Waste Not
Southwest Airlines Upcycles 80,000 Old Seat Coverings in U.S. and Kenya

Southwest Airlines has announced the distribution of products made in Kenya and the U.S. as part of its global upcycling initiative LUV Seat: Repurpose with Purpose. The distribution in Kenya completes the second phase of the multi-year environmental program, which will upcycle around 80,000 former airline seat coverings into new leather products to provide training and jobs in several communities in addition to keeping these materials out of a landfill.

In Nairobi, nonprofit organizations SOS Children’s Villages Kenya, Alive & Kicking, Maasai Treads, and Life Beads Kenya have provided vocational and skills training for young adults and community members by making shoes, soccer balls, backpacks, wallets and makeup bags from the used leather. This week, Southwest Airlines donated a majority of the products to youth across a number of villages and organizations across Kenya.

Young adults, ranging in age from 17 to 22, from SOS Children’s Villages Kenya apprenticed in leather works and produced 2,100 pairs of shoes with the local sustainable shoe company Maasai Treads. The shoes are being donated to SOS villages and Ahadi Trust as part of an anti-jigger campaign, and to Cura Orphanage, a residence for children who have lost their parents to AIDS. In addition to making shoes, the young adults learned how to hand-stitch 1,000 soccer balls with Alive & Kicking, which uses sports education campaigns to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and Malaria prevention. Kenya-based GoodMakers Films and theGina Din Foundation are at the helm of managing the project in Kenya and were instrumental in bringing the diverse organizations together. Additionally, Creative Visions Foundation was invaluable in getting the LUV Seat program off the ground.

In the U.S., Southwest Airlines joined with LooptWorks, a domestic upcycling company, to create high-quality duffle and tote bags, called LUV Seat bags. Through the LUV Seat bags project, LooptWorks provided skills training and jobs for disabled adults. The bags are currently being gifted by Southwest to celebrate the end of the Wright Amendment and will be available for sale to the public starting this month.

On the renewable energy front, Southwest Airlines recently signed an agreement with Red Rocks Biofuels (RRB) to purchase approximately three million gallons of low carbon renewable jet fuel per year. The biofuels are made using forest residues that will help reduce the risk of destructive wildfires in the Western United States. RRB’s first plant will convert approximately 140,000 dry tons of woody biomass feedstock into at least 12 million gallons per year of renewable jet, diesel and naphtha fuels. The blended product will be used in Southwest’s San Francisco Bay Area operations with first delivery expected in 2016.

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