By Joseph Robertia
Time is running out to give old materials a new life, as part of the second annual Cooper Landing Recycled Fashion Show on Nov. 16, a day when designers will show their fashion-forward garments made from materials and accessories that are used, post-consumer or were on the way to the landfill.
The event came to life last year after Kristine Route and Karen Fuller, AmeriCorps members and volunteers from the Cooper Landing Recycle Center, felt that more needed to be done to educate people of the importance of recycling and up-cycling.
Recycling is a term with which most people should be familiar. It is the process of converting materials and products into new products, such as glass bottles that are crushed to make an aggregate for asphalt.
“Recycling is important because it keeps perfectly good resources out of the landfill. Things like aluminum and steel can be reused over and over again, ultimately, saving money and fuel,” Route said.
Up-cycling is the process of converting waste materials and products into better ones, such as some did for the fashion show, tearing plastic bags into horizontal strips and then using them as yarn to make clothes.
“Up-cycling — reusing materials — is equally important. Being in Alaska there just aren’t the facilities to handle materials like they do in the Lower 48. So it’s great to be able to find a reuse for everyday items,” Route said
She wanted to come up with a way to promote awareness of up-cycling in a way that would be fun and interesting, since not everyone is enlightened or excited about sorting what would otherwise be looked at as trash.
“Throughout the year I had been attending webinars through the Keep America Beautiful Foundation in regard to recycling strategies. That’s when I first heard about America Recycles Day. As I thought about what kind of event to host, I remembered there being a recycled fashion show when I attended Colorado State University, and my co-worker mentioned that Clara LaRock, a youth member in town, was really into fashion,” Route said.
They contacted the 13-year-old, who was all in for helping plan the event, assisting with writing the rules and coming up with ideas for decorations made from reused materials.
“I’m planning on being a fashion designer when I’m older, so this seemed really interesting to do,” LaRock said. “But I also think recycling is really important. It keeps the Earth cleaner, and the world would be gross without it.”
For the inaugural event last year, LaRock created a detailed dress made of newspapers. This year she said that she would like to try her hand at something more simple, but still unique.
“I got pretty intricate last year and it was really hard, so this year I decided to go with something easier. I’m making a dress out of a trash bag. And from the red draw handles of the bag, I’ll make my dress straps and a flower for my hair,” she said.
While LaRock represents the youth generation most often associated with green concepts, Theresa Norris, a senior from Cooper Landing, said it’s never too late to get involved.
“I wanted to participate because it sounded like fun and for a good cause,” she said.
Norris will be utilizing plastic bags, the bane of a landfill, for her project. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2011, the most recent year of compiled data, 32 million tons of plastic waste was generated in municipal solid waste, of which only 8 percent was recovered for recycling.
Wanting to do her part, after collecting hundreds of plastic bags, Norris is tearing them into strips, tying them together and then crocheting them into a coat for the show.
“I try to recycle anything I can. It can be tedious but it’s worth it because it’s important, especially plastic bags. They can do a lot of damage to animals and the environment,” she said.
Norris added that events like the fashion show are slowly getting the word out to people about this important issue.
“I think this idea has gotten a lot more people involved in recycling,” she said.
The event will begin at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Cooper Landing Community Club, with recycling-themed games throughout the evening and prizes awarded to the best outfits. To learn more about the show and to register for it, check out the ReGroup page on Facebook or email questions to CooperLandingRecycle@gmail.com.