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Southeast Alaskans are frugal by nature. They know the value of reusing and repurposing existing items rather than purchasing brand new things. They know how to get the most of out what they have. In this story, we focus on a few individuals who have taken it upon themselves to reuse, reduce and recycle in their own ways for the benefit of all.
Southeast residents recycle in unique fashions 121609 NEWS 1 Ccapital City Weekly Southeast Alaskans are frugal by nature. They know the value of reusing and repurposing existing items rather than purchasing brand new things. They know how to get the most of out what they have. In this story, we focus on a few individuals who have taken it upon themselves to reuse, reduce and recycle in their own ways for the benefit of all.

Photo Courtesy Of Sean Neilson

Rowan Sharman, Linnea Lentfer and Yarrow Platt of the Gustavus School display bags made out of repurposed t-shirts as a part of the 350 campaign, the most widespread day of climate action in history.


Photo By Libby Sterling

Stickers marketing the Carry Your Cup campaign have been seen popping up on reusable cups in Juneau and beyond.


Photo By Libby Sterling

A child's dress made by Milligan. Her handmade recycled clothing pieces can be purchased at Rainbow Foods.


Photo By Libby Sterling

Bridget Milligan sits in her sewing studio, surrounded by her creations made from recycled wool.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Story last updated at 12/16/2009 - 11:51 am

Southeast residents recycle in unique fashions

Southeast Alaskans are frugal by nature. They know the value of reusing and repurposing existing items rather than purchasing brand new things. They know how to get the most of out what they have. In this story, we focus on a few individuals who have taken it upon themselves to reuse, reduce and recycle in their own ways for the benefit of all.

REWORKING WOOL

Bridget Milligan sees a vest in a shoulder, a blanket in a back and a sock in a sleeve. Her handcrafted clothing items include hats, socks and dresses, all of which are constructed from reclaimed clothing that would otherwise make its way to the landfill.

"I always try to give them away first, if there's something that's usable," Milligan said.

Wool sweaters that have been shrunken may make their way into a design for a girl's dress, be turned into a hat or be used as a square on a wool patchwork blanket. Finished items are sold locally at Rainbow Foods.

Milligan discovered her love for sewing at a young age and has become well known for her work, including her line of Kodiak Coats. She raised her children in wool, altering thrift store purchases until they fit just right.

Her sewing studio is lined with projects, some finished and some still in process.

"I'm kind of obsessive about it," Milligan said. "I really enjoy it, obviously."

Part of Milligan's fascination with her craft is the materials that she comes across in the process of using reclaimed items. Recycling isn't just about using leftover things, she said, but also about taking advantage of quality materials that aren't as easy to find as they used to be. She described many of the wools she uses as precious - so precious, in fact, that she saves every scrap for use in future a piece.

Milligan even saves wool lint from her dryer, mixing it with wax from leftover candles and pouring it into egg cartons. According to Milligan, this makes the best fire starter one could ever ask for.

In addition to sewing projects, Milligan also enjoys other forms of art including pottery and painting. She is looking forward to an exhibition of her work at The Plant People in March.

FROM SHIRT TO SACK

On the other side of Lynn Canal, Gustavus residents have embarked on a reclaiming mission of their own. On October 23, students of the Gustavus School and community volunteers gathered to transform t-shirts into reusable grocery bags. The student-driven event was a part of the most widespread day of climate action in history, known as the 350 campaign.

According to third- through fifth-grade teacher Jessie Soder, the students came up with the idea to make bags after they observed a large number of plastic bags in their school trash bins. They asked for t-shirt donations and volunteers from the community to help make 350 bags. They even went so far as to ask community businesses to hand out the t-shirt bags in lieu of plastic bags.

Each t-shirt was made into a bag by cutting the sleeves and neck to form handles and sewing the bottom closed. Community volunteers provided sewing machines and assisted students in the sewing process.

"Community support for the project has been amazing," Soder said. "People in Gustavus tend to be pretty aware of issues like this and are pretty responsible. There's definitely a reuse and reduce attitude here, partially because it's hard to get things in or out of here."

Soder said the school hopes to plan more activities geared around reducing, reusing and recycling.

CUP CAMPAIGNERS

A Juneau movement is gaining ground in the region with hopes of going international. The Carry Your Cup campaign, conceived by Ashley Saupe and Teri Tibbett, aims to reduce waste from disposable beverage containers by encouraging beverage drinkers to carry a reusable cup with them when they plan to purchase a to-go drink.

"My biggest concern with the planet is consumption," Tibbett said. "One of the simple ways that we can actually decrease consumption is by using less."

"It's annoying that people are creating so much unnecessary waste," Saupe said. "If everybody carried their cup we wouldn't have all this waste and our landfills wouldn't be exploding."

Saupe and Tibbett have been present at many local functions promoting their cause by encouraging people to sign a pledge form, in which they promise to carry their own cup to the café. If they forget their cup and there are no non-disposable options at the beverage establishment, they pledge to refrain from purchasing a drink that day.

"It's a simple solution," said Tibbett, who credited the idea to her friend Knikki Cinnoco of Haines, who has carried her cup as long as the two have known each other. "She'd say, 'If I forget my cup I don't get to get a latte.' If you forget it once and punish yourself by not giving yourself coffee, you'll never forget it again."

The campaign encourages first-time cup carriers to simply start with a one-day commitment, not to rush into a lifetime pledge against disposables if they aren't ready for the change.

"On a personal level, people can make that commitment to themselves and live up to it," Tibbett said. "That's how you change your behavior, when you force yourself to live up to your own standards."

The campaigners have also spread their cause with a series of stickers that have been making their way onto coffee cups around Juneau. Thanks to Facebook and other Internet marketing efforts, Carry Your Cup has sparked the interest of people from other states and countries as well.

"It's not for profit," Saupe said. "It's not even a nonprofit. We're just raising awareness."

"My biggest goal is that (the campaign) gets a life of its own and leaves us ... and other people will get excited about it and create stickers with the (Carry Your Cup) message on it," Tibbett said.

Saupe said the community support the cause has received has been encouraging, and she hopes someday to see the concept be more internationally recognized. The biggest problem, she admits, is training the mind to remember.

"It's not just something trendy to do, it's a need," Saupe said. "Waste is completely taking over our world. If people don't recycle, fine. If they don't turn their car off instead of letting it idle, fine. But people can be more conscious of their waste and their purchases, and they can start with their coffee."

For more information about the Carry Your Cup campaign, visit their official web site at http://www.carryyourcup.com/. To request a sticker, send your mailing address to ak_ashley@hotmail.com.

Libby Sterling may be reached at libby.sterling@capweek.com.


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