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Yarmouth student helps save the world 1 pair of jeans at a time

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Yarmouth student helps save the world 1 pair of jeans at a time

YARMOUTH — As fifth-grader Emma Flanders read through National Geographic Kids this spring, an article jumped out at her: "Donate Jeans and Help us Set a Guinness World Record," the headline said.

Flanders decided it was time to make a difference.

"I love recycling and helping the earth," she said. "I said to myself, this is something that would be good for a school project."

The Cotton. From Blue to Green and National Geographic Kids denim project is trying to set a world record for the largest collection of clothes to recycle. The used jeans will be counted at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., then shipped to Cotton. From Green to Blue, a company that recycles used jeans and transforms the fibers into UltraTouch Natural Fiber Insulation. The insulation is composed of 85 percent recycled cotton fibers and is environmentally safe.

The denim drive was created in 2006 as a grassroots student-run campaign to educate college students about the natural, recyclable and renewable properties of denim. Twelve homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina were insulated using UltraTouch the first year, and by 2007 more than 36,000 pairs of jeans were collected for the organization. In 2008, 38,000 pairs of jeans were collected and 75 Habitat Homes were insulated with the recycled fibers.

It takes 500 pairs of jeans to create enough insulation for an average U.S. house.

Flanders wanted to start collecting jeans at school to meet the June 30 deadline, but another donation project was going on, so she approached the principal at the elementary school with her idea.

Betsy Lane, Yarmouth Elementary School principal, said Flanders was very genuine in her request to support the project.

"She gave such an earnest, sincere presentation about helping others, and showed a genuine altruistic quality," Lane said. "Her presence was impressive, and she was very mature for her age."

Lane and Rowe School Principal Catherine Gloude supported the denim drive, and within a few weeks, Flanders had collected nearly 200 pairs of jeans.

Cindy Flanders, Emma's mother, said she is very proud of her daughter. She said it was good project for everyone – donors get to clean out their closets,students get to participate in a service project, the company gets to produce insulation, and homes in need of repair get recycled, environmentally friendly insulation.

"This was a big undertaking for her," Cindy Flanders said. "Most kids send a couple of pairs, Emma sent 188."

"The jeans filled our house," Emma said.

Cindy said Emma chose to do the drive in the Rowe School and Elementary Schools to help show the younger kids that "it doesn't matter how old you are, kids can change the world by doing simple things, like donating clothing that you have outgrown."

"She took on a mentoring role with the younger students," she said. "It is great that she wants to make such a difference at 11 years old."

Emma said she would like to do something like this next year too.

"Next year, I'll try to tell more people about projects like this," she said. "I was surprised so many people wanted to help this time. It gave me a really great feeling."

As of June 26, National Geographic had received about 23,100 pairs of jeans to be recycled into insulation.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net