Mark your calendars. America Recycles Day, part of the national nonprofit organization, Keep America Beautiful since 2009, is Tuesday, November 15, 2016.
Typically the words recycle, up-cycle, repurpose and re-use are referred to when speaking about plastic, glass and paper products, but I’m here to tell you when it comes to up-cycling, repurposing and recycling, there’s no better source than your closets, and there’s no time like the present to organize your closets and embrace eco-friendly practices at the same time.
Either I grew taller or my “skinny jeans” shrank, but for whatever reason, whenever I wore my favorite jeans I kept thinking, “where’s the flood?” Rather than consigning or donating them and then having to go through the ordeal of having to buy another pair of jeans, I decided to add a piece of decorative trim to the hem. Now, in their reincarnated state, I love my jeans even more than ever.
Next up were my tee shirts. Unfortunately, I noticed a cluster of tiny holes right above my belly button on my favorite lace-trimmed tee shirt. Instead of stitching the holes closed or patching the tee with iron-on tape, I removed the lace and reapplied it to one of my basic white tee shirts, which was in need of a little sprucing-up. (Note: the hole-ridden tee shirt has been repurposed as a rag.)
When it comes to up-cycling and/or repurposing shoes, handbags, small leather goods and luggage, having a good cobbler is akin to having a good hair stylist. While culling my closet, I came across a pair of shoes, which may have been comfortable at one time in my life, but because of the high heel height, were no longer being worn. I took them to my shoemaker who added a quarter-inch sole to the shoe, which made all the difference.
After her husband passed away, a client called to ask what she should do with his ties. In an effort to come up with an idea that would not only inspire her, but also alleviate some of the pain, I discovered instructions for making a Christmas tree “skirt” on Pinterest (Pinterest.com). The client handpicked each and every tie, thus telling the story of her husband’s personal and professional journey through life. Each year at Christmastime, she; her children and her grandchildren celebrate her husband’s life as seen through his ties. (Even if you don’t know how to sew, with the help of a great seamstress, your dreams and ideas can come true.)
Repurposing can carry over into other areas of your wardrobe as well, including your jewelry. Recently, I discovered two pairs of earrings, one from my maternal grandmother and the other from my paternal grandmother, as well as two rings – one from my mother and one from my great grandmother. I took everything to a local jeweler who created a fun, everyday “legacy” necklace using the gold and assorted small gems from all four items.
Thanks to Nike, Converse and Puma, among others, for their tireless efforts to recycle and repurpose athletic shoes and apparel. Since the early 1990’s Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program has been collecting old, worn-out athletic shoes for recycling. Combined with pre-consumer shoe waste, the company has created “Nike Grind,” a man-made material, which is used to make athletic and playground surfaces. (www.NikeGrind.com)
Puma’s Bring Me Back program accepts shoes, athletic clothing and accessories from any manufacturer. The used products are either re-used or recycled by means of breaking the items down into raw materials to be repurposed, or in the case where they are still in suitable condition, they will be re-used. (www.Puma.com)
Not everything in our closets can be up-cycled or repurposed, so for those items, there’s always consignment, selling or donating. Please note most thrift shops will accept clothing and bedding, even if a bit tattered, as long as the items are clean. It’s always best to let the charity decide what to accept. It’s also preferable to donate to a charity, which “salvages” any unsold items. (i.e.: unsold items will be purchased by a salvage company and sent to a third world country where the scraps will be made into mattresses, building insulation and pillows, among other things.)
And remember, just because there’s a particular day of the year called American Recycles Day, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t live an environmentally responsible life year-round.