Before you throw out that empty bag of chips you just finished, maybe reconsider. That bag can be used to make sleeping bags for folks around Detroit who are experiencing homelessness.
Environmental activist Eradajere Oleita, a Detroit-based, project manager, and social media manager, is accepting donations of empty, foil-lined chip bags of all brands and sizes. She’s using the materials to make sleeping bags to distribute to locals.
Nigerian-born Eradajere Oleita
Nigerian-born Eradajere Oleita explained that the idea came from an online video of a woman in England who fashioned sleeping bags from empty snack pouches. Inspired, Eradajere Oleita decided to use that method to make her own sleeping bags, and The Chip Bag Project was born in mid-December. The project, she says, combines her love for sustainability and her community.
Oleita started collecting chip bags a few months ago and set up a website to gather more. She points out how the bags’ foil lining reflects body heat. They’re durable, waterproof and extremely lightweight. It takes about 150 of them to make a single sleeping bag. Oleita wants to make 60 bags by early February.
“I’ve just been doing a lot of work around the city of Detroit, trying to get more people to talk about the connections between environmental justice and social justice, and really pushing on the topic of environmental racism,” Oleita says. “And that’s really why I wanted to do [The Chip Bag Project].”
Eradajere Oleita Making a difference in Detroit
The Nigerian-born activist moved to Michigan as a high school sophomore. For the past four years, she worked as a land and water works ambassador at Americorps.
Snow is here in southeast Michigan and temperatures have barely passed 30 degrees over the past week. That’s bad news for a lot of reasons, especially for the homeless, as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on and keeps many shelters closed or at a limited capacity.
Eradajere Oleita recognized a need and wants to fill it.
“It’s a more than a little obsession, it’s kind of a passion,” Oleita said. “I’m always looking for something to do for the community for my birthday so this year, I decided it should be my birthday present.”
In two weeks, she’ll turn 25 in two weeks and is asking for your empty chip bags so she can repurpose them into sleeping bags for Detroit’s homeless.
“You’re going to throw it in the trash anyways. Give it to me, I want it,” she said.
Eradajere Oleita said she got the idea from a video online. Chip bags are durable, lightweight, and great insulators, Oleita says of her material of choice. Each sleeping bag requires 150 chip bags and takes around four hours to make.
The bags are good insulators and you can iron them together with a bit of caution to keep people inside them warm and dry.
“We have the Better Made factory here so, of course, we have an influx of chip bags,” Eradajere Oleita said.
Oleita turned her home into an assembly line. She has since enlisted the help of some volunteers. Before they assemble the sleeping bags, they soak the chip bags in soap and hot water for a day. They then cut them open and iron them to seal the bags together. For comfort and more insulation, they use foam and padding in old jackets to line the inside of each sleeping bag.
“I could easily go out and buy 100 sleeping bags and pass them out but with this, we are combatting two issues – which is the influx of trash we have in the city of Detroit and helping people less fortunate,” Oleita said.
Eradajere Oleita Goal
Oleita’s goal this winter is to collect 10,000 chip bags to create 60 sleeping bags. With the extra 1,000 chip bags, she plans on using those for another project yet to be announced. So far, the Chip Bag Project has collected more than 3,300 chip bags and made three sleeping bags.
Oleita is accepting donations
In addition to empty chip bags, Oleita is accepting donations of new and used sleeping bags, umbrellas, socks, shoes, hats, and jackets to create “emergency packs” (new jackets will be given to those in need, and old jackets will be used to line the sleeping bags).
She’s also taking monetary donations, which go toward purchasing new items to pass out.
Oleita says she and her friends plan to have all 60 sleeping bags completed by Feb 1. Once they’re ready, they’ll drive around the city and distribute the sleeping bags and emergency packs to those they see outside.
They’ll also reach out to local shelters and youth organizations to donate goods. Specifically, Oleita wants to work with the Neighborhood Service Organization and the Detroit Phoenix Center.
“For me, I’m not trying to pass judgment. I’m just saying, ‘Hey, if you want it, here’s a sleeping bag, if you don’t want it, let’s give it to somebody who could use it,’” Eradajere Oleita says. “And really just putting more humanity into a lot of the issues that we’re talking about.”