I try to lower my travel footprint by reusing towels and putting out the little “Yes, I will help you in your selfless quest to save the Earth by not changing my sheets” card. But I had never given a thought to what happens to those sheets once they are worn, stained, or torn. Perhaps they were resold down the hotel-chain chain, until they simply evaporated into lint at a dodgy truck-stop motel near Lufkin, Texas.
The truth is even worse than Lufkin. Those sheets, towels, and restaurant napkins and literally every piece of “fast fashion” you’ve purchased in the past 30 years end up as part of an endless stream of “textile waste,” a 16-million-ton problem in the United States, annually. About 10.5 million tons go directly to landfills where they account for 5 percent of waste, and 3.1 tons are (reassuringly) burned to generate energy. Although nearly all textiles are recyclable, only 16 percent are actually recycled—and that includes donations to secondhand stores. Most are shredded and become fiber fill or industrial rags.
But thanks to an article by Anne Quito in Quartzy, we now know of a better way. Westin, the hotel company that built its identity around its Heavenly Bed program, is doing something special with its distressed sheets. In cooperation with Clean the World, it’s begun turning used linens into kids’ pajamas. Westin’s program, called Project Rise: ThreadForward, is an industry-first upcycling effort, in which 30,000 pounds of bed linen and terry cloth have been broken down and rewoven into new materials. As befits any great marketing campaign, the results are adorable: stretchy two-piece pajamas in Westin’s signature colors, with a graphic of a child holding a book and jumping over the moon.
The pajamas are for sale on the Westin website for $25, and a percentage of sales is donated to the nonprofit Delivering Good. Additionally, it’ll soon be gifting 1,500 pair to children in need—those for whom dedicated sleepwear might seem like a luxury item. Additional donations will continue as the program ramps up.
A pair of pajamas may seem like a small thing, but Westin—a company that is dedicated to a good night’s sleep—is sure that a bit of better sleep can make for a much better life.
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