In keeping with the holiday spirit, bottled water manufacturer Aquafina, along with retail chain Sam's Club has handed out 25,000 fleece jackets to 100 schools.
At first glance, the news is just another instance of corporate philanthropy – laudable but nothing to really bat an eyelid at. What's interesting about the effort: the jackets are actually made out of 189 million recycled bottles.
The endeavor began as part of a "Return the Warmth" program started by Sam's Club and Aquafina in support of Keep America Beautiful's Great American Cleanup. This is the third year the two have partnered on this program. The program challenged communities and schools to recycle 80 million plastic between March 1st and May 31st. The goal was far surpassed, and the top 50 schools that collected the most bottles received fleeces as well as a $1,000 Sam's Club gift card.
Last year, Fast Company ran a story on America's bottled water craze. The nation spends about $16 billion every year on bottled water - much of it coming from nations in which chunks of the population do not have access to safe, reliable drinking water. The impacts of production, transportation and consumption - for the environment and beyond - are startling. Recycling is only one step in the right direction.
That being said, it's far better than doing nothing at all. And turnining PET bottles into a warmly useful product - that's undeniably cool in our books.