Somewhere in Nebraska, an avid crafter and knitting enthusiast was on a search for treasure. She looked through the overabundance of clothing packing the racks in her local Goodwill, and stopped when she found a men’s Izod sweater.
It was giant, made of 100% cotton, and a plain white color. Sara Kluka, owner of the MingledYarnCo, knew at once it would be perfect for her work. She made her purchase, and brought it home to begin the sweater’s transformation.
Hours of an unraveling technique called ‘frogging’ later, the sweater was no longer a sweater. It was a number of neatly spooled up collection of yarn, perfect for new homes.
Why it matters
Fast fashion has created a huge glut of unwanted clothing across the entire globe. It’s shipped to foreign countries where it has no other purpose but to be landfilled. It’s sent to consignment stores, given away to friends, and thrown out like garbage over and over again.
With so much clothing out there, something has to be done. MingledYarnCo is not only finding new homes for hundreds of different items out there, it’s also doing a great service to the environment. Knitters no longer have to go to a fabric store and bring even more new material into the world, they can choose eco-friendly reclaimed yarn.
To date, MingledYarnCo estimates that it has reclaimed approximately 178,998 yards of yarn, 134,769 yards of which have made it into the hands of crafters all over the U.S. and Canada.
The Story Continues
I was one of the buyers of the Izod sweater. I looked on Etsy for an eco-friendly darning sock, so I could work on some DIY projects for Rinexii guilt free. I wanted something made out of recycled materials, so that I wasn’t adding yet another new product to the world in an effort to save an old one.
The yarn from this sweater did all that I asked and more. The reclaiming technique of frogging means that the sweater doesn’t require going through intensive chemical or water processes to be ‘recycled’, but instead is simply unraveled. Repurposing is always better than traditional recycling.
I received only a small part of this sweater, but in my hands it became a woven basket, several darned socks, an exciting Thanksgiving display, and so much more. There is still quite a bit of yarn left for me to use, and if you imagine that a dozen other crafters are doing the same thing, you can just imagine how powerful this is.
A circular economy could end waste
What would happen if every item we created was treated with the same respect and care as Sara’s sweater?
Instead of products coming in disposable packaging, imagine if there was a return scheme available that made it possible to reuse that packaging over and over again. Imagine if farmers, bakeries, and restaurants could use an app to alert people to food about to be wasted, instead of throwing it out.
Right now, our society is mind-bogglingly wasteful. According to the United Nations, we dump 2.12 billion pounds of waste every year—with the full intention of mining and growing even more new materials to do the exact same thing year after year.
This isn’t just detrimental to the environment, it’s a staggering waste of resources from start to finish. We don’t need to clear cut more of the Amazon rainforest to produce even more food when 1/3 of the food we already grow is wasted. The solution is not to produce more food, but to waste less.
This isn’t just a matter of saving the planet either (although, of course, a habitable planet is important, despite what politicians will tell you) it’s also a matter of economics. It makes little to no sense financially to buy seeds, fertilizer and pesticides, hours of time working the land, gallons of water growing crops, only to have them tossed away unused somewhere down the line.
This goes for everything. How much did it cost to search for oil, drill oil, ship oil, clean up oil spills, only to have the plastic it eventually became tossed out 11 minutes after using it? What about the gold and other rare minerals used to make technology?
When ever something is tossed out without the resources being recovered, both the planet and the people lose out.
Supporting the change
While government lags behind in terms of any kind of change, innovative companies are already working toward a circular economy on their own. You can also help in your own home, both by searching out and supporting these businesses, and also creating a circular economy in your own home. Here’s some examples.
- Download Too Good To Toss
Remember that food waste we talked about earlier? Too Good To Toss is an app specifically designed for people in the food industry to help reduce food waste. Rather than throw out food, they can send out an SoS through this app, offering food that can’t be kept until tomorrow at a discounted price to those who use it.
- Sign up for Buy Nothing
Chances are that no matter where you live, there is a local ‘Buy Nothing’ chapter nearby. Buy Nothing allows you to offer your old items to other people who may need them. When your child has outgrown their old clothes, bike, or shoes, giving them to someone else will not only help out your neighbor, but keep waste out of landfills that much longer.
Over 70% of the items thrown into landfill are still perfectly useable. The simple act of giving to a neighbor can make all the difference.
- Look for recycled, reclaimed, reused products
Many businesses like the MingledYarnCo are finding innovative new ways to repurpose old products, by finding these businesses to purchase ‘new’ products from can help keep waste out of landfill.
- Buy secondhand, or use Buy Nothing yourself
Need a new lamp, rug, or other item? That item may be clogging up your neighbors home. A quick request on buy nothing, or visiting a second hand store, can help reclaim old materials and keep the cycle going.
Responsibly manage your own waste
As a final reminder, what you choose to do with your own waste is just as important as how you shop. While offering your stuff on Buy Nothing is fine, bringing sack loads of crap to unload on your family or pressuring others to take your things isn’t.
Responsibly rehoming your unused items means finding someone who actually wants it—not someone who will take it because you forced them to and then discreetly discarding it themselves.
If an item truly has no use, it’s also worth writing the company of the person who produced it and let them know what part had to be landfilled, why, and how they could do better. The more pressure there is to reduce the burden on our resources, the better.