Here’s How This Student Turns Chip Bags into Sleeping Bags for the Homeless

The Chip Bag Project is slowly but surely chipping away at poverty.

Eradajere Oleita thinks she may have a partial solution for two of our country’s persistent problems: garbage and poverty. It’s called the Chip Bag Project. The 26-year-old student and environmentalist from Detroit is asking a favor of local snack lovers: Rather than toss your empty chip bags into the trash, donate them so she can turn them into sleeping bags for the homeless.

Chip eaters drop off their empty bags from Doritos, Lay’s, and other favorites at two locations in Detroit: a print shop and a clothing store, where Oleita and her volunteer helpers collect them. After they sanitize the chip bags in soapy hot water, they slice them open, lay them flat, and iron them together. They use padding and liners from old coats to line the insides.

It takes about four hours to sew a sleeping bag, and each takes around 150 to 300 chip bags, depending on whether they’re single-serve or family size. The result is a sleeping bag that is “waterproof, lightweight, and easy to carry around,” Oleita told the Detroit News.

Since its start in 2020, the Chip Bag Project has collected more than 800,000 chip bags and, as of last December, created 110 sleeping bags.

Sure, it would be simpler to raise the money to buy new sleeping bags. But that’s only half the goal for Oleita—whose family moved to the United States from Nigeria a decade ago with the hope of attaining a better life—and her fellow volunteers. “We are dedicated to making an impact not only socially, but environmentally,” she says.

And, of course, there’s the symbolism of recycling bags that would otherwise land in the trash and using them to help the homeless. It’s a powerful reminder that environmental injustice and poverty often go hand in hand. As Oleita told “I think it’s time to show connections between all of these issues.”

Next, see how this veterinarian helps the pets of the homeless out of his own pocket.

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Andy Simmons
Andy Simmons is a features editor at Reader's Digest.