Inspiring Youth Project of the Month: Recycled Denim!

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Happy August! As the summer winds down, we’re sure everyone is preparing for a Fall season of impact, connection, and growth. Whether you’re a young changemaker, a parent, or an educator, know that Roots & Shoots has your back! We’re also here to share some inspiration by showing off some of the most amazing changemakers in our network. These changemakers are always thinking ahead for ways to make a difference. So how are young people taking on an issue like clothing waste?

If you’re considering refreshing your wardrobe, keep in mind where your old clothes go. Clothing waste and fast fashion is a huge pollution problem and contributor to climate change! We get it, you grow out of these pants, or this shirt now has too many holes, but that doesn’t have to mean it’s the end of that item’s life. Instead of throwing things away and getting brand-new, get inspired by this Project-of-the-Month by Roots & Shoots NYLC member Maddy G.

Check out what we mean below!

AUGUST PROJECT OF THE MONTH: 2nd DAY DENIM, FROM SAN MARINO, CALIFORNIA! 

The Roots & Shoots NYLC‘s very own Maddy G. started this project in her town when she realized just how much denim ends up in landfills every year. Textile waste in general has become a major issue in the U.S. The EPA reports 11.3 million tons of textiles were brought into landfills in 2018 alone — over 65% of the textiles produced that year! We can reduce this by donating old clothes and linens, but Maddy’s project 2nd Day Denim takes an even more interesting approach. Maddy partnered with Cotton Inc.’s Blue Jeans Go Green to upcycle denim into environmentally-safe insulation! She started a denim drive in her community, and actively spread the word via flyers and the local newspaper, the San Marino Tribune. Everything collected was then sent to Blue Jeans Go Green to be broken down, and then given to non-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity.

RSNYLC Member Maddy G. with her Roots & Shoots Denim Upcycling Project

Maddy’s Roots & Shoots project 2nd Day Denim reminds us all that everything can be repurposed and that everyone can make a difference in their community through Roots & Shoots. As you prep for a new school year, keep this upcycling approach in mind! If you have something that you no longer want, but is in good condition, donate it or ask friends if they want it. If it’s slightly torn or broken, but you really like it, take a bit of time to fix it. If it really can no longer be used as is, think about creative ways of how it can be reused. Maybe you’ll even consider starting a denim drive of your own or other ways to make an impact through using our 4-Step Formula Toolkit guide! By upcycling our items, we keep waste out of landfills, lessen the need for new processed goods, and sometimes even help others in need.

Inspired to start your own project? 

Now’s a perfect time! Did you know when you submit your project or group on our website you have a chance to be featured just like Maddy??? You can search for a Roots & Shoots group near you, or create your own group. You can even talk to your school about opening it up as your very own local Roots & Shoots club! On our website, rootsandshoots.org, you can find our other fun resources to become the best changemaker around.

Looking for more ways to waste less? 

Check out this great 1-Click Action, Waste Not! This waste audit will help you track your single-use plastic consumption and waste, showing you where you can help reduce your negative footprint.


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The Jane Goodall Institute is a global community conservation organization that advances the vision and work of Dr. Jane Goodall. By protecting chimpanzees and inspiring people to conserve the natural world we all share, we improve the lives of people, animals and the environment. Everything is connected—everyone can make a difference.

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About Author

Kira is a current Communications & Policy Intern at the Jane Goodall Institute and recent graduate of Smith College, majoring in anthropology and minoring in art history. During her time at Smith, she developed a deep interest in the field of anthrozoology and found ways to incorporate this interest into her curriculum. This included doing an independent research project on elephant iconography in the U.S. and studying wildlife management abroad in Tanzania. She’s also a huge nerd who’s recently gotten into D&D, and she has a particular fondness for snakes.