10-year-old ‘EcoErek’ recycles jeans, shoesWritten by Kathryn Milstein | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Erek “EcoErek” Hansen has kept 5,838 pairs of jeans out of landfills, helped insulate more than 11 homes rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina and helped set a Guinness World Record.
EcoErek is 10 years old.
He said he started recycling in 2009 due to a contest in the National Geographic Kids magazine, which called for pairs of jeans to recycle with the “Cotton. From Blue to Green” organization. The group shreds donated jeans, which become insulation for homes built by Habitat for Humanity across the United States.
EcoErek and his mother, Amy Hansen, hosted a denim drive in their driveway, where they collected about 1,000 pairs of jeans. Combined with a local alternative energy company’s donation of 600 jeans, he shipped 1,684 pairs of jeans to National Geographic.
As the largest donor to the project, EcoErek received a ticket to the Guinness World Records Ceremony in Washington, D.C. At the ceremony, National Geographic Kids magazine was listed as the “Largest Collection of Clothing to Recycle” for 33,088 pairs of jeans.
Amy said after the drive, her son wanted to continue collecting for the organization.
“I think it’s fantastic that your son or daughter can come to you with an idea, something they’re passionate about,” she said. “We always told him he could make a difference.”
Amy reached the organization and made a drive schedule with her son. With five denim drives in three months and several dropbox locations, EcoErek collected 4,154 pairs of jeans — and his nickname — in 2010.
The jeans, which weighed about 9,100 pounds, created enough insulation for eight homes.
“I think that as we get more people who hear about the program, we get more of a response,” Amy said.
This year, EcoErek included shoes in his drive to donate to USAgain, a for-profit organization that collects used clothes and resells them.
Amy said USAgain will pay EcoErek 2 cents per pair of shoes collected. He said he was not sure what charity to donate the money to.
EcoErek set a goal of 5,000 pairs of jeans collected this year. There was no goal for the shoes. With his drives completed — the last was June 11 — he sits on 2,262 pairs of jeans and 1,585 pairs of shoes. Dropboxes in Perrysburg and Oregon will collect jeans and shoes until August.
“The drive has just had a phenomenal response,” Amy said. “I’m not worried about reaching the goal. We were at this place last year with this number of jeans collected, too.”
With more than 2,000 pairs of jeans, EcoErek could provide enough insulation for four homes.
“I’m glad we got four houses worth,” he said. “And we still have the rest of the summer.”
For the rest of the season, EcoErek and Amy will collect items from dropboxes and fetch donations from anyone unable to get to a box who contacts them. The two will visit garage sales at the end of June to drop off cards and offer a place for unwanted jeans.
In August, Amy and EcoErek, who is “kinda known as the jean guy now,” Amy said, will gather the jeans and shoes for a final total before shipping them to the respective organizations.
Until totaling time, the jeans and shoes will be stored in warehouse space provided by First Solar.
The local company has collaborated with EcoErek since 2009. EcoErek and Amy gather the collection goods and haul them to storage. They also put the jeans and shoes into the 4-foot-square shipping containers. First Solar provides the shipping for the jeans.
“We’re taken up about as much space storing the shoes as we have the jeans,” Amy said.
The shoes are about the same volume as the jeans once they’re collected in the bags Amy and EcoErek use to store them until August.
Next year, EcoErek said he will continue the jean collection as long as he is passionate about recycling.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s really fun, and I love keeping the jeans out of the landfill and saving the planet.”
- Future Wave salon, 3324 Navarre Ave., Oregon. Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Dr. Stephen Branam’s dentist office, 3140 Dustin Road, Oregon. Monday through Thursday 7:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.
- Once Upon a Child, 194 E. South Boundary St., Perrysburg. Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday noon to 5 p.m.