Ford's twist on hand-me-down clothes

Automaker will use cottons from recycled jeans and other recycled clothing in the 2012 Focus.

Remember that bag of clothing you would love to get out of your closet before Christmas brings more? Those jeans that you haven't fit in more than a year, even when you lie down and suck in your gut? Ford is proposing a new use for cotton clothing that is being donated or potentially recycled: as the carpet backing or sound-absorbing materials in its new 2012 Focus, due early next year in both Europe and North America.

The company says that it takes roughly two pairs of "average-sized" American blue jeans (whatever that means) for the uses described above. There are already other recycled and bio-based materials in Ford vehicles, according to the automaker. They include soy foam for seat cushions, recycled resin for auto underbodies, recycled yarns for seat covers and natural-fiber plastics for other interior components.

Says Carrie Majeske, Ford product sustainability manager, in the press release touting the initiative:

"The good news is that these jeans didn't end up in a landfill, nor did we use the water, fertilizer and land to grow virgin cotton. It's an alternative that our customers can appreciate, it's cost-effective and it's better for our planet. These are the kinds of sustainable solutions we are looking for in all our vehicles."

Now mind you, Ford doesn't disclose where it is getting these jeans, although it does make me wonder: Can non-profit organizations like Goodwill and others find a new fund-raising vehicle by selling what isn't actually passed on to companies for uses like this? The cynical part of me also wonders: Will this new profit-focused use for jeans and other cotton clothing negatively effect clothing drives intended for charitable purposes? Either way, it's a creative move on Ford's part.

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