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Repurpose with Purpose

Minimum environmental impact. Maximum social impact. From leather seat covers to engine parts and life vests, repurposing helps connect new opportunities to people and places.

woman showing prosthetic leg made out of leather from seats
Our Heart doesn’t just give back, it gives forward.
  • 1M+ since 2016
    Pounds of repurposed seat covers
  • 3K in 2018
    Tons of recycled cardboard, paper, plastic, and aluminum
  • 745 since 2014
    Tons of refurbished and recycled e-waste
LUV Seat: Arise
  • LUV Seat: Arise
  • LUV Seat: Dallas
  • LUV Seat: Mexico
  • LUV Seat: Rethreaded
  • More Repurposing
LUV Seat: Arise

In collaboration with Jennings, Missouri-based nonprofit Arise Veteran Foundation, Southwest Airlines is supporting art instruction and skills-based building programs for youth, veterans, seniors, and other disadvantaged groups. Arise is using leather from Southwest seats in veterans' rehabilitation programs to foster the development of entrepreneurial skills, generate income, and craft activities for therapeutic benefit.

LUV Seat: Dallas

In collaboration with Dallas, Texas-based nonprofit Dallas Designing Dreams (DDD), Southwest Airlines is supporting skills and training programs for youth, people with disabilities, senior citizens, and other disadvantaged populations in the community. DDD has produced a line of items such as golf club covers, jewelry, backpacks, and luggage tags from Southwest leather seat covers and old Southwest Employee uniforms. Dallas Designing Dreams provides employment, volunteer opportunities, and training in a creative space to individuals with “dreams or broken dreams.” Selling one-of-a-kind art and handmade products online and in the local marketplace, Dallas Designing Dreams offers alternatives to the mainstream shopping experience while connecting customers with local producers.

LUV Seat: Mexico

In collaboration with acclaimed México City-based fashion label Carla Fernández, Southwest Airlines created a line of affordable leather fashion accessories that will be sold online through Southwest: The Store. The leather products, made by women in indigenous communities in seven cities across Mexico, integrate textiles and handcrafts that preserve Mexico’s rich cultural heritage and sustain long-standing traditions.

LUV Seat: Rethreaded

Rethreaded gives career opportunities to women who have experienced exploitation and trauma coming out of human trafficking. The women begin with a three-month development program that includes on-the-job training as well as mental health counseling, crisis management, and case management. They are then fully integrated into the business through one of five departments and are pivotal in all aspects of the organization. For example, with the upcycled Southwest leather from seat covers, the women work on product development and design, marketing the accessories, and tracking the sales in finance.

More Repurposing

In addition to repurposing old leather seat covers, Southwest gives new life to other waste materials, including:

  • Aircraft & Aircraft Components: The life-cycle of a retired Southwest aircraft can be extended by selling it to another carrier for continued use as a passenger aircraft. Aircraft not sold are sent to Arizona where 85% of the aircraft is recycled. Engines, avionics, and fuselages are also donated to non-profit organizations to assist with education, historical, or health opportunities.

  • Billboards: Southwest has a limited number of billboards around the country. In years past, the billboard material has been repurposed into a variety of items such as handbags, backpacks, and carry-on bags.

  • Life Vests: Southwest partnered with a Florida Rotary Club to repurpose 5,000 surplus life vests. The Rotary Club works to send this important safety equipment to fishermen in Uganda, keeping nearly 5,500 pounds of waste out of landfills.

  • Lost Items: Many items are left onboard airplanes or in terminals, and while we do our best to reconnect owners with their lost items, some items go unclaimed. We partner with a national distributor to sell the lost items, and proceeds from the sales are donated to the Salvation Army.

  • Traditional Recycling: Southwest recycles traditional waste materials including paper, plastic, aluminium, and cardboard. We also recycle used carpet from our facilities by sending it to a recycling company where it is broken down for reuse in new carpet, yarn, trim, or other carpet byproducts. Altogether, Southwest recycled or repurposed 35 percent of their waste in 2016.
Southwest Citizenship

We are committed to consider the triple bottom line of Performance, People, and Planet when looking at our business. This commitment and our continued pledge to being a leader in global citizenship is what helps shape our Purpose to connect People to what's important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel. One of the best ways we celebrate the “Southwest Story” and share our Purpose is through the One Report.

Blog posts about Repurposing
Employee ‎02-21-2019 11:41 PM

Repurpose with Purpose is one of many ways Southwest gives back to communities all over. Through this initiative, we upcycle, down...

Employee ‎01-30-2019 03:39 PM

Sharing our Heart is a big part of Southwest Airlines and for years, we’ve been dedicated to living responsibly and respecting our...

Employee ‎09-17-2018 01:00 PM

In 2017, we announced our partnership with Mexican fashion designer Carla Fernández. To create these incredible products, Carla Fe...

Read more blog posts about Repurposing