Friday, 2 May 2014

Sentimental, Yet Sustainable - Taking “Reusing” to A Whole New Level with Upcycling

Every year, consumers in North America generate 12 million tonnes of textile waste, with households averaging approximately 30kg of waste each year. The U.K. sees similar issues, with 1.2 tonnes of clothing ending up in British landfills alone. These figures are set to increase, with studies now showing that consumers have begun buying more clothes, up to four times as many as they did in the 1980s. As trends become more short-lived and more people become fashion-conscious, more clothes end up in dumpsters.

Recognizing this, various organizations have developed ways to utilise the millions of tonnes of textiles wasted across the globe. One such organisation is Oxfam, whose joint efforts with British retailer Marks & Spencer have resulted in the conservation of 11 million items that would have otherwise been sent to landfills around the country. Clothes donated to Oxfam are resold, with all proceeds going towards providing livelihood programs to mothers in third-world countries.

For the sentimental that can’t bear to part with old clothes, donating them might not be the most ideal course of action. But these clothes, whether they’re your children’s baby clothes or your prom dress from high school, can still be given a new lease on life by upcycling.

Upcycling has taken off across the world, and now thousands of web pages have popped up, all dedicated to the art of creating new items out of old clothes. If you’re not sure how to start, here are some of the simpler projects you may want to look into.

Project I: Old Clothes into New Clothes
People who like to work with their hands can certainly let their creativity shine with various upcycling projects. Old T-shirts can be sewn with loose fabric to create dresses, and daddy’s old shirts can be altered a bit to create nightshirts for the kids. Harder materials such as denim and leather can be used to create everything from flip-flops to handbags.

Project II: Old Clothes into Household Items
Repurposing old clothes to create potholders and quilts is a no-brainer, but how about creating a lampshade from old ties? A tent or a bed for the family pet with old shirts? You could use old sweaters to create instant gift-wrapping for your wine bottles so you never have to waste fancy paper again. You could even use old jeans to create tables and flower pots!

Project III: New Clothes from Old Materials
A more common theme of upcycling involves creating clothing from various household materials. Civic Duty shoes made out of old FedEx envelopes are on the rise, but clothes made out of various wrappers have always been popular. Nowadays, everything from paper to aluminium cans and even garbage bags have been used to create haute couture. After all, it’s only the right thing to do.


Top 5 Tips:
  • Manage your resources and reduce the number of clothing items you purchase per year. Get as much use out of your clothes as possible.
  • Go through your closet and fish out the clothes you never wear; separate them into the things you’d like to keep and the things you don’t mind parting with.
  • Donate what you can to foundations that specialise in recycling old fabrics. Remember, even though 100% of textiles are recyclable, over 85% still end up in landfills as scraps. Research a foundation before donating to them to see how they treat donations and where proceeds go.
  • Look at everything with a fresh eye. Instead of immediately using old shirts as rags, look into using them to create everything from cat tents to curtains.
  • Separate your items according to fabric. Tougher fabrics such as denim and leather can be used to create items such as tables and flip-flops; softer fabrics like cotton and silk may be better off being used to create new items of clothing.

Article by Sookie Lioncourt - Follow her @SookieLioncourt

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