As you may have heard, SLO County's 30th annual Earth Day Fair has been postponed until (hopefully) Saturday, June 27, but that doesn't mean you can't do something cool for Earth Day, which falls on Wednesday, April 22.
For her senior project, Cal Poly senior Elena "Laney" Richardson is organizing an online Trashion Show, where participants are asked to design and create fashion made from secondhand materials.
"Why throw it away when it can stay and sashay?" Richardson asks.
Design something from secondhand materials found around your house (you're allowed to use "new" adhesives and fasteners), do a photoshoot of your design, email the photo with a caption (model, designer, materials) to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday, April 20 (You've got time!). Then, on April 22, tune in for the show at earthdayalliance.com (where more info is available under the "Turning Trash into Fashion" tab), or follow @cptrashionshow on Instagram and @Earth Day Trashion Show on Facebook. Participants are also encouraged to keep their outfits to be displayed in person on June 27, in Laguna Lake Park.
Richardson is an anthropology and geography major with a minor in sustainable environments.
"I've always been interested in the environment, specifically the crises we're experiencing due to our impact on the planet, but I didn't realize I wanted to pursue a career in the field of sustainability until about a year ago," she explained. "Overwhelmed by how big this problem is and how it affects all of us, I never had the courage or confidence to try to tackle it since I was only one human being."
She took a summer job as a recycling coordinator and then got involved in local environmental groups, such as the Eco Reps and Zero Waste Club.
"It made me realize just how powerful people can be once they set their mind to something," she said. "With the addition of my environmental classes, I learned just how much we've managed to extend this problem into all aspects of our lives and how backwards our methods have become."
Richardson's not naive; she knows wearing clothes made from trash isn't going to solve our sustainability crisis.
"To me, making clothes out of trash, recycling, and so on are all merely ways of visualizing this huge overarching environmental problem we've created. They simply serve to showcase a tangible item for individuals to connect with," she said. "Again, to me, recycling shouldn't be the end goal of making our waste. What we really need to do is take a step back, see how much waste we're producing, and then find creative ways to reduce it so it never has to be created in the first place."
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average American produces 4.4 pounds of trash a day!
- Photos Courtesy Of Elena Richardson
- TRASHIONISTA! Cal Poly senior Elena "Laney" Richardson models her upcycled skirt made from used wrapping paper and ribbons from last Christmas. She's organizing an April 22 online Trashion Show.
"Recycling is great for now, but in the end, it's really just like taking a bucket to a flooding boat; we need to fix the hole before we sink!" Richardson said. "Another issue I've noticed regarding recycling is that many people now see it as an excuse to continue to buy packaged items since they're under the impression that nearly everything can be recycled; however, the reality is that most materials are not recyclable! It's a double-edged sword in my opinion, and I hope that a better system can be enforced at some point.
"My hope for this show is that it gets people thinking about what kinds of waste they produce in a day and hopefully use that knowledge to make more informed decisions when buying things," she continued. "For example, asking questions: 'Do I really need this?' 'Can I be resourceful and use something I already have?' 'Can I buy what I need secondhand or with minimal packaging?' I think little questions like these will really help change people's mindset about waste."
Of course, even changing one's mindset is merely a first step. Richardson says it will take "policy makers and large corporations" to make systemic changes, but for now "the pressure to reduce waste is on the individual consumer."
For fashion design ideas, Richardson recommends websites such as her "go-to source of inspiration": Pinterest.
"People have such creative ideas on there!" she said. "Also, though this is the first Trashion Show in our area, it's not a new concept; many other cities and colleges have hosted some, so a quick Google search of 'trashion show' should yield some great results."
Participating may also offer a great lesson for kids and young adults who are stuck at home while schools remain closed.
"A great way to get inspired and gain awareness of your waste is to look around your home, and most importantly, in your trash! Make note of what you throw away, and I guarantee you'll find multiples of items that you use on a daily basis, such as toilet paper tubes, plastic utensils, bubble wrap, etc. I think this is a great way to become more mindful of what you use and be a perfect source of materials for your outfit!"
Richardson's most important message to her fellow humans is that "they are powerful, and change starts with them.
"You don't have to live a perfectly zero-waste lifestyle to be helping the cause; just make small choices every day to reduce your waste," she said. "Also, please vote! Voting affects all aspects of your life, including your waste, so vote for someone you'll be proud to have representing you, us, and our planet." Δ
Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey has some trashion-forward ideas. Send bubble wrap to email@example.com.