Operation #LUVSeat

Southwest Airlines has recently launched a new initiative to upcycle its old leather seat covers following a large-scale interior redesign programme on all of its Boeing 737-700 and a portion of its 737-300 aircraft fleet. New materials have been carefully selected to create an ‘eco airplane interior’ including E-Leather upholstery which will result in a weight saving of 635 pounds per aircraft in comparison to traditional leather – creating a significant saving of about $10 Million per year in reduced fuel costs.

The basis of the upcycling project is focused around developing a more efficient, environmentally friendly and culturally beneficial way of managing waste products. Upcycling turns an otherwise waste product into something of higher value; in the case of Southwest, 80,000 used traditional leather seat covers are being used to teach communities in Kenya valuable skills in how to upholster such materials. The 6000 pieces donated for the initial pilot trial have been upcycled into items such as footballs to support health education, or to create more than 2000 pairs of shoes to protect local people from incapacitating foot illnesses.

“When I was talking to CEO Gary Kelly, he asked what else we can upcycle.  We are focused on the leather right now but it does give us a way to look at other products. When you look with new eyes you see the potential for upcycling everywhere.” Marilee McInnis, Senior Manager of Culture and Communications – Southwest Airlines.

E-Leather itself could be considered an upcycled product; the process of taking waste leather that would ordinarily end up in landfill, and combining it with a high performance core to produce an innovative material, represents the benefit that upcycling can have. The manufacturing process of E-Leather is also environmentally-friendly, as it is made with carbon free electricity and water that is recycled in a closed loop. Together, the partnership of Southwest and E-Leather continues to provide a necessary, cleaner process.

Now Southwest Airlines want to hear from you; if you have an innovative idea on how their old leather seat covers can be upcycled, get in touch via Twitter by using the hashtag #LUVSeat.

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