Although not found in NZ, elephants are known for helping the biodiversity and ecosystems of the areas they live. They are also renowned for their long lives, long memories and strong social bonds. We have developed an idea that we hope will bring these special benefits to Dunedin.
This is work we are thrilled to have the support of the Dunedin City Council with Dunedin Dream Brokerage, as part of Te Ao Tūroa - Dunedin’s Environment Strategy.
4KT Elephants Project is a unique creative project to engage the Dunedin community in practical solutions to re-purpose textile waste, reduce landfill, build resilience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Dunedin waste management review reports that Dunedin’s textile waste to landfill has doubled in the last year, with over 4 thousand tons of textiles added to our green island landfill.
As well as putting pressure on landfill capacity and speeding the need for additional land to be converted from natural landscape or productive purposes to industrial waste storage. Textile waste also contributes significantly to Dunedin’s carbon footprint, as slowly degrading synthetic and natural fibres contribute 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions from our current landfill, which will continue long after the landfill has been decommissioned (200-700 years according to estimates based on the breakdown time for synthetic fibres!).
This textile waste presents an ‘elephant in the room’. The 4KT Elephant Projects will create a positive, empowering way to engage the community in discussion and demonstrate how textile waste can not only be reduced, but used to enrich our lives.
We have designed a unique soft toy elephant, which can be made by anyone in our community from (clean) worn clothing, curtains, bedding and other textiles, along with commercial waste stuffing materials.
(We will ultimately make four thousand elephants - one for every ton of waste, each with it's own numbered tag.)
For the Environmental Envoy, we will create a fun, accessible workshop space in a vacant shop in the central city to engage the public in collecting materials and developing skills to make the elephants; including sewing, problem solving, and teamwork.
The resulting elephants can be adopted by participants; donated to local children's projects such as Tedz4Kidz, Te Whare Pounamu Dunedin Women's Refuge; or sold to raise money to support the ongoing costs of the project as we continue towards our goal to make four thousand soft toy elephants: one for each ton of textile waste.
In additional the practical work space and making of the elephants, there will be educational resources and information about the context of textile waste and its impact on our community and environment here in Dunedin, and more importantly, how each person in our community can show their love of our environment by taking an active part in reducing textile waste through our everyday choices.
Keep your eyes open for where and when you can get involved!
A skirt made from shirts... a dress made from table cloths... a cardigan made from two jerseys... and luxurious nightgown from a sentimental souvenir... a coat made for walking Canada's cold streets in in the 1980's, now re-tailored for city life in Dunedin for winter 2019.
These are some of the projects we worked on at the top of Dunedin Public Library last month during ID Fashion Week.
Desi and I were joined by four attendees with a wide range of background sewing experience, all keen for ideas on how to re-imagine items which had been stashed away (in several cases for years).
Treasured items made from silk, cashmere, organic linen and denim (from days before Lycra and polyester were added). Items that were hand-made by them decades ago, or by family members, or 'the tiny gentleman who worked in a cupboard-sized workshop just off the street in Bangkok' ...
These are common themes we experience with Upcycling: items where the provenance is personal, the fabric of a quality that seems undervalued in the current form, or simply the desire to make something more practical for our contemporary taste and lifestyle.
It is hugely rewarding to take inspiration for what something already is, and consider what form it could be to become more than what it was - more practical, more appreciated, more beautiful, and much more personal.
In our Mend & Make Awesome workshops, we see this on a small scale. People repairing or altering items to improve them. Upcycling however, is a much bigger (and often trickier) enterprise, involving many hours work, and often facing challenges when the previous shape resists your efforts and you have to think again. It's easy to become disheartened and stuck, and end up with grand plans put indefinitely on hold.
This is where having some outside advice is so valuable. Having another person to bounce ideas with, suggest alternatives techniques, or to make the tea!
This workshop was a delight on all levels, and we hope to organise more in the near future!