Reusing and repurposing beyond sustainability.
Hearing companies talk about sustainability always sounds disingenuous, we are very aware of that, but, believe it or not, we have always tried our best to be mindful.
While organizing the third edition of Solve the SDGs, we started thinking harder about the event industry, and how, no matter how hard we plan, we always end up with tons of leftover materials we no longer have a use for. This was especially clear after we re-organized our storage room and we found hundreds of t-shirts from previous events, for volunteers, participants, side hustles, and so forth.
When sourcing the shirts we had been mindful that they’d be made using recycled materials and made locally, but how sustainable is it to have all this stuff locked in a room when it could have a new life? That’s when our Head of Operations started working on possible solutions. Option one was clear: we count and catalog all the shirts, find someone that can repurpose the textile, and get some more storage room in the process. Option two was a bit more future-oriented: what if we find a way to print over the old design, and use the old (unused!) t-shirts for some future event? The latter was definitely more time-consuming, but in honor of Earth Day, we decided to try it out.
What better event than Solve the SDGs to pilot such a project. We knew the availability would be limited and that the sizes probably wouldn’t match exactly the number of participants, that’s the deal when repurposing something, but we knew that this was done in the spirit of the hackathon’s theme and everyone would be excited that we could save the shirts from the landfill.
We got in touch with Pure Waste to see what could be done. Pure Waste is a Finnish company that specializes in recycled fabrics, yarns, and garments. Many of the shirts were made by them
They were super excited about the concept and they promised to do their best so that we could try it on different bases. The first shirt + design combo we planned was a failure. We had picked a white shirt with a quite big and bright print and tried to cover it with an even bigger and brighter design. The final print was so thick and bulky, making the shirt quite heavy, and it still didn’t quite cover what was under it. This result made it so that, once worn, the shirt would no longer look nice. We almost lost faith in our plan 😭. By this time we only had about two weeks to go until the event with the Easter holidays in the middle, succeeding seemed REALLY unlikely.
We decided to give it one last try with a different original shirt, the ones we made for Junction 2021 with the logo and the little planet. This print was much daintier and the colors pale enough to be covered by a new design (especially with the kick-ass purples and yellows of Solve the SDGs 😎), and Pure Waste gave us some sort of pre-approval that this one would be the one.
One day before kick-off we got the final confirmation! IT WORKED! No pictures, no nothing, but we knew the project had succeeded, at least in theory. Pure Waste made sure to print and deliver the t-shirts as soon as humanly possible, and, by the last day of Solve the SDGs, we had a beautiful batch of reused, repurposed, recycled t-shirts for everyone to take ✨ We even spared two for our hosts, which rocked them during the Closing Ceremony.
So, what did we learn in the process?
- When planning an event, it’s important to think about the lifespan of everything we buy.
- You can find another use for (almost!) anything, and if you don’t, someone else probably will!
- Create a sustainability checklist and stick by it. Recycling is the bare minimum, we all know we can do more.
- TRUST THE PROCESS