Upcycling – turning used products that would have ended up in the landfill into new products – is becoming more mainstream. Now it’s Southwest Airlines that’s jumped onboard. It’s new LUV Seat: Repurpose with Purpose sustainability program will turn 43 acres of used leather seat coverings into useful new products.
After going more eco-friendly by replacing many of its fleet’s interior leather products with more lightweight materials- which reduced each plane’s weight by 600 pounds – the airline was stuck with 80,000 leather seat covers. No worries. It partnered with upcycler Looptworks in Portland, Oregon to turn part of its leather seats into tote bags, duffle bags and backpacks that the airline will buy back to to use as gifts at events.
Southwest also partnered with several other organizations to help repurpose their leather waste. They partnered with SOS Children’s Villages in Kenya to teach youth leatherworks using the discarded leather covers. They also partnered with Kenyan social enterprise Alive and Kicking to make footballs from the seat covers, and with local footwear company Masai Treats to make more than 2,000 pairs of shoes. The airline is helping to fund a school in Malawi that will teach its pupils leatherworks
Smart thinking on the airline’s part. It’s great PR and makes a difference by both giving waste a second life and giving kids a livelihood to help improve their quality of life. A real win all around!