November 7, 2007 | By: Katie Pratt

The University of Kentucky merchandising, apparel and textiles sustainability seminar for graduate students strives to educate the public about how they can help the environment by cleaning out their closets.

“Recycling of plastics, bottles and cans has been around for decades, but most people are not aware of the opportunities to recycle clothing and textiles,” said Elizabeth Easter, merchandising, apparel and textiles professor, who teaches the seminar.

Easter said this is the first year for the seminar that began due to the relevance of sustainability to the students’ field of study and her interest in the subject. More people are becoming aware of ways to live sustainably due to global warming and increasing energy costs.

“When people live sustainably, it reduces the amount of waste, energy and resources and contributes to a greener, cleaner environment for our future and generations to come,” Easter said.

Graduate student Avery Malone said since the seminar began, she has started to make changes that result in a more sustainable lifestyle. These changes include recycling, using fluorescent light bulbs and looking for organic and fair trade products when she shops.

“So many of our resources are nonrenewable, and we live and believe as if they are never ending,” she said. “We, as a society, have to decide how much destruction of natural resources and how much deprivation we can allow others to suffer before we are ready to make sustainable choices.” 

Students in the seminar are reaching out to educate the community about sustainable living through projects that encourage and promote different ways of recycling or reusing clothes. Two projects involve recycling fleece clothing and tennis shoes, while the other two projects focus on donating used women’s business attire and formal wear. 

Recycled fleece includes jackets, vests, pants, scarves, gloves and socks. Recycled fleece products are used to make other fleece items. Each component of used tennis shoes can be recycled to make surfaces found in sports fields or playgrounds. Students reuse business attire by donating it to unemployed women to help them better compete in the job market. 

Disadvantaged youths, who might not otherwise be able to afford formal wear to attend events such as prom, are the recipients of recycled formal gowns.

“Every step in the process of creating a product has an impact, whether it’s chemicals in manufacturing, plastics and paper in packaging or its eventual destiny in the landfill,” said Malone. “Though this seems dire, the good news is that each of our choices can have positive outcomes.”

Donations can be dropped off at recycle bins located on the third floor of Erikson Hall on UK’s campus or in Lexington-area recycle bins at John’s Run Walk Shop locations on Ashland Avenue and Lexington Green and at J&H Lanmark on Moore Drive.


Elizabeth Easter, 859-257-7777