Fashion Can Be an Influence in Environmental Change

Dress made of sequins from plastic shampoo bottles© TerraCycle
. The sequins of this dress are made from waste shampoo bottles.

This is a guest post from Tom Szaky, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of TerraCycle, which provides free waste collection, and then turns that waste into sustainable products.

Let’s be honest – I don’t know a lot about fashion. It’s certainly not my expertise – that would be trash.

In addition to knowing a lot about trash, I know a fair bit about changing people’s perception of trash. TerraCycle’s goal is to get people thinking different about trash in order to eliminate the idea of waste.

To that end, we do a lot of PR, marketing, and engagement activities to show people that any type of trash can be useful and can be remade into something else when its first life is over. I think fashion and art are two great ways of encouraging this kind of thinking because they’re visual and influential.

Visual Aids for the Environment

Everyone is familiar with trash. Seeing it remade into another familiar item – art, or a dress, or a t-shirt – and being able to recognize it for what it used to be make art and fashion especially impactful. The trash and the art are very within reach for every artist and viewer. Not everyone can work with oil paints and watercolors, but anyone has access to and can work with trash.

There’s some really neat upcycled art out there, from cardboard sculptures to book art and even jewelry made from unusual trash like colored pencils, measuring tape, and buttons.

If you can’t think of a way to use a piece of trash around the home, office, or wherever, it can still be made into art. Art and design also spill into the world of dresses, fashion, and style. And not only will an upcycled dress or piece of clothing be useful, it can also combine elements of art and creativity – becoming an effective recycling and environmental influence.

Shampoo Bottle Fashion

A designer friend of mine, Giorgia Fonyodi, recently made a beautiful, stylish dress with sequins from waste shampoo bottles. This kind of fashion pushes the envelope – the idea of wearing trash on your body seems foreign and odd. But with encouragement from talented designers, the idea can come to seem more natural and trendy. Check it out:

Fashionable Food

St. Catherine University Department of Fashion Merchandising and Apparel Design has also sent us samples of really neat dresses made out of Colgate, Doritos, and Frito Lay packaging! We’re going to host a contest on our Facebook page for upcycled fashion fans to choose their favorite dresses. The inside of such packaging is pretty shiny, making the dresses bright and eye-catching!

Dress made out Doritos chip bags© TerraCycle

Dress made of sequins cut from plastic shampoo bottles© TerraCycle

Fashion trends are closely tied to culture and events – think about how the Beatles influenced fashion and how people study what celebrities wear to award shows. Using fashion as an example of what we can do with trash really hits home the idea that these items are reusable and are not trash. Everyone needs to wear clothes, so everyone can relate to apparel, no matter its material. Eco-design should know no limits!

Fashion Can Be an Influence in Environmental Change
Tossing something in a recycling bin or using that bag over and over isn't always the answer.

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