Growing up in a city rich in history and culture and blessed with innumerable sights of different hues and moods, one particular image troubled Nirvaan Somany — the destitute sleeping on the pavements, with only thin blankets to fight off Delhi’s brutal winters. The 16-year-old found it unacceptable.
While his family distributed blankets, Nirvaan felt it was not enough in the long run. “People do not have a place to sleep.”
Another topic which caught Nirvaan’s interest was sustainable fashion. , Nirvaan started researching the subject. “I was startled to learn that the fashion industry causes more carbon emissions than the entire aviation and transport industry and that denim could be used as an excellent insulator.”
“Denim is used in the United States to make insulation panels for houses. I thought that it would be perfect to replace the flimsy blankets for street dwellers with sleeping bags made of thick and durable material like denim.”
And that was how Project Jeans - Blue to Green, came to be. Nirvaan began collecting old jeans from friends and family and converting them into sleeping bags. The first consignment of denim sleeping bags was distributed in November 2022. With Project Jeans, Nirvaan says, he is also contributing to saving water and reducing carbon emissions on a large scale.
The COVID-19 lockdown period helped the young environmentalist use his time to make a prototype of the denim sleeping bag. Last year he launched a campaign on social media with the simple message: ‘Donate your jeans to help people on the street have a better winter’.
As part of the drive, so far, 450 sleeping bags have been distributed. “I feel happy that I have contributed towards saving at least an average of 30,870,000 litres of water,” says Nirvaan, who has employed five women to produce the sleeping bags.
According to Nirvaan, it takes seven pairs of jeans to make one sleeping bag. Apart from sewing together pieces of denim, there is a lining inside made from recycled fabric and the bag is filled with cotton to make it more comfortable and warm. “The total cost of producing one sleeping bag is approximately ₹800.”
Nirvaan has devised different ways for people to support the cause. “They can either buy the sleeping bags in bulk from us and distribute it themselves or donate money so that we make and distribute the sleeping bags on their behalf.”
So far, Nivaan has collected more than 3,000 pairs of jeans from collection centres put up across the country with the help of colleges and corporates. Besides in locations such as Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Ahmedabad, cities where Nirvaan’s relatives stay, their houses are also used as temporary drop-off locations for old jeans by people.
The sleeping bags made by his team, says the Class XI student at Sree Ram School, Molsari, are distributed in Delhi and in the vicinity of NCR and sometimes with external help such as the Robin Hood Army, a volunteer-based, zero-funds organisation that works to get surplus food from restaurants and the community, to serve the less fortunate people. “Since the organisation knows the locations where help is required, we have joined with them to work in tandem. The distribution drive is undertaken at night as that is when we find more people sleeping on the roads.”
Nirvaan was presented the ‘Excellence in Innovation’ award last month by the Environment Conservation Association in Pune.