By Jeff Marshall
Special contributor to Green Right Now
They’re kept for a year or so and then they go out of style. They are outgrown. They get stained.
Some people throw them away while others collect them in ever-bigger piles in the back corners of their closets.
They’re blue jeans, and Terri Daniels of Prescott, Ariz., has a unique use for them. She cuts them up and sews them together with king-sized bed blankets, recycling them into reminders of home for deployed American soldiers.
Daniels has been making jean blankets for the troops for three years. With more than 150 blankets made — each using nine to 10 pairs of jeans per blanket — she’s warmed a lot of soldiers.
She’s also making a “dent at the landfill.”
“I can take two large lawn-and-leaf bags of jeans, and when I am done cutting them for my purposes, I throw away one kitchen garbage bag of scraps,” Daniels said.
Daniels made her first blanket for her son Nick Seaman before he deployed to Afghanistan in April 2010. When he got to his Army post, he told his mom that his squad members thought it was cool. Daniels immediately went to work creating five more blankets for her son’s comrades. She hasn’t stopped since.
The jean blanket is not just environmentally friendly and, as Seaman calls it, “warm and comfy”; it has also helped him get through some difficult times.
“While on a patrol in Afghanistan, Nick’s squad suddenly had to hide in a sewage culvert to avoid being spotted by insurgents,” Daniels said. “When he got back to base, there was nothing he could do to get rid of the smell.”
“His blanket still had the smell of fabric softener,” Daniels said, “so he just curled himself up in it.”
Cpl. Seaman, 23, who serves with the Army’s 101st Airborne Air Assault Division and is now back home at Fort Campbell, said he would use the blanket after every patrol in Afghanistan.
“Once I laid my head down, I would smell the fabric softener and detergent and it would just make everything better,” Seaman said.
Nick and his squad call it “the smell of home.”
One might wonder where Daniels, 56, gets the hundreds of jeans she needs. At first she used her own and those of her friend Sharon Miller, who has a son in the Marines.
“I have given Terri some of my jeans to use in her blankets,” Miller said. “I feel the blankets let these men and women in our armed forces know that we all care here at home and we support them. If this is what we can do to help our planet and our troops, I’m all for it.”
After word got out about Terri’s blankets, the Prescott Daily Courier wrote a story about them, which was picked up by newspapers across the country. Now people will drop jeans off at her work or send them by mail from as far away as Virginia.
Recycling jeans is certainly a small percentage of the roughly $200 billion recycling industry, according to the Bureau of International Recycling. Still, Daniels hopes that her story might inspire others to follow her lead.
“I would love to hear of it becoming a coast-to-coast movement,” Daniels said. “Think of how many happy soldiers there would be!”
(Jeff Marshall is a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.)