Keeping the Cold Out with…Blue Jeans?

Many people are unaware that the blue jeans worn by your favorite celebrities may end up in your walls.

No, not as trophies from an auction house, but as insulation to keep out the cold.

Buildings in increasing numbers, such as Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation in Menlo Park, California, are turning up with blue jean insulation instead of the traditional fiberglass batts or spray foam.

Arizona-based Bonded Logic has been promoting its UltraTouch natural fiber insulation which is made from 85% recycled and post-industrial denim — a mass-manufactured resource that otherwise would have been consigned to landfills.

Unlike fiberglass, which contains potentially harmful chemical formaldehyde, the cotton-based blue jean insulation is safe enough for children to play with. Hackensack Med Center gave the insulation high points for its ability to filter toxins and carcinogens from the air — elements that can induce asthma attacks and allergies — despite its costing 50% more than standard insulation materials.

Using the noncarcinogetic alternative “… really comes down to… providing holistic, healthy healing,” said Deirdre Imus, founder and president of the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center, part of Hackensack Med Center. Denim, which was first created in Nimes, France, has been in use in this country since the late 18th Century. The name derives from “serge de Nimes,” meaning a thick twill cloth “from, or of, Nimes.” The popular name jeans comes from the French word Genes, denoting Genoa, Italy, where the first denim trousers were manufactured.

UltraTouch by Bonded Logic

Denim is also thick enough to insulate as well as, if not better than, traditional insulators, and absorbs sound efficiently. According to Bonded Logic, its UltraTouch blue jean insulation is “a Class-A Building Product that meets the highest ASTM (American Society for Testing Materials) standards for fire and smoke ratings, fungi resistance and corrosiveness.” This is made possible by treating the material during manufacturing with a boron-based solution which is EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)-registered.

The insulation manufacturing process itself does not use as much energy as producing the alternatives does. It is LEED (Leadership and Energy and Environmental Design)-certified — the stamp of approval for green, sustainable buildings–and it is easy to install.

Inno-therm Recovery Insulation

Owing to these characteristics, designers and construction companies pursuing green projects are increasingly turning to blue jean insulation as an integral part of their designs.

Popular notice of this “green” insulation arose in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, when students from Iowa State University began collecting jeans to help insulate the homes of catastrophe victims. The denim collected was turned over to Bonded Logic and collaborator JBM Fibers, and re-processed into UltraTouch natural fiber insulation. An estimated dozen homes of hurricane victims benefited from the drive while some 70 homes in the Gulf Region were targeted to be fitted with the insulation material for that year.

You might not be able to mount celebrity denims on your walls, but many of the rich and famous did donate their blue jeans for insulation in a “Habitat for Humanity” project in 2006. So who’s to say whose designer jeans might be keeping your walls cozy at night?

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