Turns Out, You Can Teach an Old Shirt New Tricks

By Emma Massick

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?

Americans use 100 billion plastic bags a year, which needs 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture. It only takes about 14 plastic bags for the equivalent of the gas required to drive one mile. The average American family takes home almost 1,500 shopping bags per year.

The average American family recycles about 15 of those 1,500 bags per year. The rest go into the landfill where they will take 500 or more years to break down.

This past week, Energy Corps members in Butte put on a local event to help reduce these numbers. We hosted an upcycling workshop to teach local kids and their parents how to turn old t-shirts into bags.

Armed with a generous donation of t-shirts from the Butte Rescue Mission thrift store, a sewing machine, and some other craft supplies, Americorps service members taught the community how to create reusable grocery bags from t-shirts.

We taught the group how to cut off the sleeves and collar, turn the shirt to the right side, and decide which style they wanted. We then showed them how to either use the sewing machine or a knot tying method to secure the bottom part of their bag so that it could hold groceries or whatever other goodies they chose to put in it!

After the shirts had effectively been turned into bags, the group had a change to decorate them with fabric markers, puff balls, and felt pieces. The shirts looked great and the workshop participants seemed very happy with their new cloth grocery bags! I am excited to use mine and will be on the lookout for other bags around town!

Like other areas that have created laws to ban plastic bags, Montana has recently introduced some new plastic banning bills to the ballot, but they have not gotten very far due to concerns of citizens and small businesses who feel that this is a threat to their lifestyles. Creating reusable bags out of old items would help this concern, because while the need for bags won’t go away, they will be reusable cloth grocery bags instead of plastic.

The Energy Corps members of Butte will be hosting monthly local workshops with projects for kids and their parents. These workshops will focus on several issues, such as waste management, gardening, composting, energy efficiency, upcycling projects, and other important topics facing our environment today. These workshops will happen at the Butte Silver Bow Public Library on the last Wednesday of every month, and will be happening around 6pm.

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