It seems that we live in a time in which the words “reduce, reuse, recycle” are heard so much that they begin to lose meaning, and, more often than not, when people do remember the mantra at all, it is usually just the last part.
UNCGreen, one of UNCG’s environmental advocacy student groups, organized an event last Tuesday to remind UNCG community members that recycling isn’t the only important green activity. The group encouraged people to reduce the number of plastic grocery bags they use and to reuse a fabric bag of their own creation.
The bags in question were made from donated T-shirts. UNCGreen set up donation boxes around campus prior to the bag-making event.
“We left donation boxes in offices like the Office of Sustainability in Mossman and Dr. Allen’s classroom in the Music Building,” said Rae Ackerman of UNCGreen. She estimated that at least a dozen people filled these boxes with their unwanted shirts.
This collection of shirts led up to the event that took place on the bottom floor of the Eliot University Center. The event was previously supposed to take place outside — where they may have gotten more foot traffic — but was moved inside due to rainy, blustery weather.
“We have probably about a hundred shirts,” estimated Ackerman.
Some of these shirts were just plain solid colors, and a few of them read things like U.S. Army, Cook Out and UNCG Spartans.
Inside of the room, people were free to mill about a large table that was dotted with crafting supplies. About 15 to 20 people labored on their bags at any one time. The event was fairly casual, and people stood around the table, chatting and wondering if they were making their bags correctly.
But Ackerman described how to craft a reusable bag from an old tee shirt.
“Well first, you just cut off the sleeves, and then—you want to cut off a big chunk—you want to cut off the neckline essentially and make it [the cut] kind of deep and thin because these are going to be your holders,” she said.
She continued to describe how to tie up the bottom of the shirt by saying, “And then you have a couple options on how you want to tie it up. You can just turn the shirt inside out and just use your sleeves that you had previously cut off to tie it up, and then turn back.”
A second options for the bottom also existed: “Or you can cut little slits in the bottom of the shirt, so all the way along the bottom, and then tie them together to make a fringe basically,” said Ackerman.
The newly finished bags could then be personalized with paints and designs.
One particularly cool design available was a tie-dye stencil that people could paint over for an explosive color effect.
UNCGreen charged three dollars to people who wanted to make a tote to bring home. Extra totes were also made, and one member of UNCGreen mentioned that they would probably sell some of the totes until they broke even and then donate the rest.
While making reusable tote bags from donated tee shirts obviously sounds like a hoot and a holler, UNCGreen also brought in some musicians to liven up the event some more.
Eli Whitman, Scott Johnson, and Shane O’Brien played an animated acoustic set as members of The Palms. O’Brien recently replaced Genevieve Palmer on bass, but the three of them melded musically nonetheless.
The Palms played for about an hour, nonchalantly interweaving goofy demeanors with serious attention to their music.
During a break in the set, Ackerman picked up a guitar and joined Whitman for a couple of songs.
The music seemed to help relax the atmosphere in the room, so it did not feel like a task to finish, but rather a fun thing to do with like-minded people.
Eventually people started to drain out of the room, and the bag-making event ended with a number of completed totes on display.
UNCGreen has meetings every other Tuesday in the EUC’s Dogwood Room, while The Palms can be heard at Common Grounds the last Wednesday of every month.