Author Archives: Kat Moulton

What the Heck is a Take Home Project?

Make an impact from the comfort of your own home! ACR offers remote volunteer opportunities (aka “take home projects”) for individuals, groups and businesses. It’s a great option for those who have packed or constantly changing schedules, free time during odd hours, or simply like to keep their hands busy while watching their latest binge-worthy show.

 

There are a wide variety of projects that we send away with folks including testing and sorting writing instruments, measuring and securing lace and trim, sorting and bagging corks, sorting and packing bins of mixed office supplies, and more!  When you pick up a take home project, we include instructions and all the supplies you’ll need to complete it. You do the work on your own timeline and return the completed project to us! Pick up and drop off are fast and easy, and you can take as many projects at one time as you’d like!  Super simple, right!?

 

 

What’s it like to do a take home a project? Here’s what some of our volunteers have to say:

 

Taking home projects gives me the opportunity to volunteer like I want and still work around my other responsibilities (work, family, etc.). It allows me to help, but in small chunks of time. It’s the best of both worlds, I can help, but on my own  schedule. -Lisa I.

During the pandemic, I wanted a way to help ACR… but since the store was closed to the public, volunteering there wasn’t an option. When they started the program for take-home projects, I jumped at the opportunity! I love being able to take my time and work on projects whenever I have a free moment. I also love that there’s no deadline… so I can get the projects done as slow (or as fast) as I want to. – Julie K.

 

 

Want to learn more? Visit our website or send us a message at volunteer@austincreativereuse.org 🧡♻✨

 

Defining Fast Fashion with Amanda Lee McCarty

 

ACR is hosting our first fashion show on November 12th! Reuse on the Runway will be a night celebrating designers who are practicing sustainability in fashion, cosplay, costume and drag. In anticipation of this inaugural event, ACR Board Member, Sondra Primeaux, reached out to industry expert, Amanda Lee McCarty, to understand what slow-made fashion is by defining what it isn’t: fast fashion.

 

Sondra:  How would you define the term ‘fast fashion’?

 

Amanda: I think we tend to view fast fashion as having a particular aesthetic (trendy, youth-focused), a particular price point (low price), or even particular locations (malls, shopping centers). In reality, fast fashion is a way of doing business, not a particular product or brand.  It can’t always be identified by the actual product itself or its selling price.  And in 2021, most large brands/retailers ARE fast fashion, because the rise of the “original” fast fashion brands like Forever 21 and H+M made every other retailer adopt the fast fashion model to stay competitive.  In the beginning, it was all about the lowest prices.  When everyone reached the bottom in terms of pricing, they began to compete on selling the latest trends faster than one another.  This sped up the entire production process, which meant skipping a lot of quality control measures and fittings (so everything started to fit kinda weird), and shipping lots and lots of clothing via air (literally on airplanes) rather than via boat because it saved a month of time!

 

Fast fashion is making products as fast and cheaply as possible, and then selling them in extraordinarily high volume.  Fast fashion is all about selling as much product as possible, as often as possible.  Brands will do whatever they can to get us in the doors of the store or on to the website on a daily or weekly basis.  They will encourage us to buy multiple items on each “trip,” via an array of deals, free shipping, and constant suggestions to add this or that. 

 

Sondra: Do you have a rubric that’s useful for determining if a brand is indeed fast fashion or is it one of those things that “you know it when you see it”?

 

Amanda: You can’t always  identify fast fashion based on the price or aesthetic.  Sure, sometimes you can…like if something seems “too cheap to be true,” it’s probably fast fashion.  But many other fast fashion brands hide behind elaborate store merchandising, “brand experiences,” and the illusion of being premium.  Fortunately, you can identify fast fashion by its behavior!

 

1.  If you visit the store or website of this brand, do they have hundreds or thousands of different items for sale?  Fast fashion relies on you filling your cart with as many items as possible to drive up that sales number. So they want you to have almost an infinite number of options at your disposal. 

2. Does this brand launch 10-15-20-50-even 100 new products every week? Some retailers even launch new products EVERY day!  Fast fashion wants you to come back to the website or the store as often as possible so they can sell to you again, and again, and again.  They are going to jump on and offer you a product for every passing trend, no matter how minor.  Often a fast fashion brand will be churning out 12 or 24 collections a year…or more! Maybe they aren’t even launching products in collections, just dropping some constantly.  Constant newness=fast fashion.

3. Does stuff move to markdown pretty fast? So fast that you would feel embarrassed to buy something full price from this place?  And you know if you wait a few weeks it will go on sale?  In the beginning of my career, styles would on average be full price for 12 weeks (aka three months). Most recently?  4-6 weeks – half the time! If you don’t have to wait very long for stuff to go on sale, it’s fast fashion!

4. Does the brand have a confusing array of constant DEALZ DEALZ DEALZ? Like 50% off this brand new collection plus free shipping with this promo code plus BOGO on all shoes?  Are they doing promotions for holidays that aren’t even real holidays?  Like International Cat Day or Pizza Day? As fast fashion grew, it forced other retailers to bring their prices down so customers would stick around.  But they didn’t want to stoop to those low low prices on the price tags (it would be brand damaging), So instead, they stuck with their normal ticket prices (the price you see on a price tag), but engineered the product to sell at a discount no matter what.  They aren’t expecting to sell you stuff at full price.  While the price tag on that dress might say $60, they are actually planning that it will sell at $30….so you’re getting a much cheaper dress in the first place.  Retailers want to preserve that high profit margin while still offering you hot deals, so they just cut the cost of making the item in the first place.  That means cheaper fabrics, low quality zippers and trims, less fittings (because fitting your garments properly costs money), cutting out things like pockets and dress linings, etc!  Most importantly, they squeeze the factories for lower costing, so garment workers are paid even less.  As I like to say on Clotheshorse, “It’s cheap because someone didn’t get paid.”  Is that a good deal?  

5. Does this retailer copy a lot of other designers (large and small)? Do you see articles about them knocking off small artists and makers?  This is often a huge red flag of fast fashion because in order to  deliver that constant flow of newness, those hundreds or thousands on the website at any given moment…they have to copy other ideas.  There just aren’t enough ideas to go around!  

 

Sondra: Do labels like “Made in America” and “Sustainably Made” mean that the item is not fast fashion?

 

Amanda: The short answer is “no.” Or at best “maybe.”  

Let’s start with “sustainably made.”  Unfortunately there are no legal parameters around what is/is not sustainably made, so anyone can slap that label on anything they make.  Sure, they might get some pushback from savvy customers, but overall, they lose nothing by using that term in bad faith.  Ultimately something is “sustainably made” if it was manufactured with both the planet and its people in mind.  So even if a garment is made of organic cotton and it was dyed with little to no water and made in factory that runs on renewable energy, if they workers who made the fabric, the trims, cut the fabric, sewed the garment, inspected and packed it for shipping were NOT paid a living wage, then it was not “sustainably made.” Often fast fashion brands will speak to the sustainability of a collection/garment, citing recycled fabrics and conserved water, but they don’t mention working conditions and waging.  That’s called “greenwashing.” A truly sustainable item is made with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in mind, which include ending poverty, decent work and economic growth, and responsible consumption and production.

 

Now, let’s talk about “Made in America”/”Made in the USA.”  It’s a whole big ball of wax, but to put it as briefly as possible:  tons of fast fashion clothes are made right here in the USA.  Los Angeles is the capital of garment production in the United States.   More than 45,000 garment workers cut and sew garments there.  Most are Latinx and Chinese immigrants and the majority are women.  About 85% of these workers are not paid a living wage for their work.  Instead they are paid 2-6 cents per piece they sew.  This is called “piece work.”  They will work 60-70 hours per week and take home about $300. They work in cramped, unventilated factories and they do not have benefits like health insurance and PTO.  

 

Fast fashion brands are complicit in this exploitation of workers because they demand pricing so low that it does not allow for a living wage and good working conditions.  A U.S. Department of Labor report indicated that these brands on average are demanding pricing that is 73% less than the amount needed to pay a living wage to workers.  Activists in California are working to pass SB6:  The Garment Worker Protection Act which would eliminate “piece work” and guarantee at least a minimum wage for garment workers.

 

 

Sondra: I’m thinking about the clothing brands that I was obsessed with when I was young, like Esprit and Benetton. Were those also considered fast fashion?

 

Amanda: While it’s hard to go back and figure out if those brands were paying living wages and being environmentally conscious (it seems unlikely), at least they weren’t working at the same volume and speed that brands are now. Most of those garments would have shipped via boat which has a lower carbon footprint than air shipping.  Even in the early days of my career as a buyer (in the 2000s), we would place orders 4-6 months in advance.  In the last few years that has become more like 4-6 WEEKS.  That is the effect of fast fashion!  Furthermore, those brands would not have been overproducing in the same way brands are now. Now the industry makes 150 billion garments per year and 30% of those are never actually sold.  The cost of making clothes has gotten cheaper and cheaper (thanks to the combination of shifting most production overseas and exploiting workers), so brands can afford to overproduce and then destroy anything that remains unsold.

 

 

Sondra:  Why should the consumer care? 

 

Amanda: 60% of fast fashion clothing goes to the landfill in the same year it was made! How devastating is that? The average American buys 70 new garments each year (and no, that number doesn’t include individual socks). That equates to something near every 4-5 days. Now maybe you are reading this and saying “well, I haven’t bought a new garment in years.” That’s great! But remember, that 70 garments is an average.  So if you didn’t buy anything new this year, that means someone else bought 140 new items of clothing!  

 

Each year, 85% of our unwanted clothing goes to the landfill. That’s 12.8 million tons of clothing each year. The other 15% is donated to thrift stores and charities, but unfortunately this clothing is flowing through at such a high volume (and so much of it is poor quality), that only 1% of all of our unwanted clothing is ever worn by another person again.

 

It’s devastating to think about all of the water, energy, raw materials, and hard work that went into all of that clothing, most of which was barely worn and quickly discarded.  

 

Sondra: What are some best practices that we can do to minimize engagement with fast fashion?

 

Amanda:

  • Be very mindful of your consumption!
  • Buy less in general, focusing on items that you hope to wear for a long time. Resist the urge to impulse shop.
  • Skip out on one-off outfits and become a proud outfit repeater! 
  • Adopt a #secondhandfirst way of shopping:  look for a garment secondhand before shopping new, whether that’s using an app like Poshmark or Depop, visiting a vintage or consignment shop, or thrifting.
  • Do your homework when you are shopping. You worked hard for your money and it is powerful! Each time you shop somewhere, you are casting a vote for the way that brand runs its business.  So it’s important to cast that vote wisely by spending your money wisely.  I recommend checking out Remake and Good On You for more information about a brand’s ethics and environmental impact.

In 2021, most big brands are fast fashion. And of course, we’re going to buy some stuff from them sometimes. Maybe you can’t always find everything secondhand, maybe you need something really specific and you need it fast, maybe you don’t have the privilege to shop secondhand.  It’s progress not perfection! But remind yourself always that the best thing you can do is buy only what you need, make it last, and educate those around you about the impact fast fashion has on the planet and its people.

 

Thank you, Amanda for taking the time to share your expertise with us!

 

 

 

Amanda Lee McCarty is the host of Clotheshorse podcast. As a former career buyer and fashion industry expert, her excellent podcast decodes and demystifies the fashion industry. For more fashion industry behind-the-scenes content, please go to her website or follow her on Instagram @clotheshorsepodcast or on Twitter @clotheshorsepod.

Staff Spotlight: Jen Mack

 

Each month, we highlight one of the amazing folks who help to keep Austin Creative Reuse running. This month, it’s ACR’s first ever employee, Jen Mack! Jen started out as a volunteer at the Linc location, back when the organization was 100% volunteer-run. As ACR grew, she was the very first person to be hired into a paid position.  Since then, she’s filled nearly every role within the organization, from running the register to balancing our annual budget.  Now, as our Center Manager, Jen oversees every aspect of our programming, HR, and our volunteer community. Jen is incredibly versatile and a true team player.  She’s always willing to tackle any issues and jump in wherever it’s needed most!  We’re so appreciative of her and hope that we have many more years to celebrate together!

 

How did you find Austin Creative Reuse?

I found out about ACR through a local toy lending library.  I had just had my second child and I was looking for a way to get back out into the world and talk with other adults.  A friend recommended that I look into volunteering.  The convergence of conservation and creativity was perfect for me!  The people were inspiring and I was hooked.  I volunteered for a few months before scooping up the very first paid staff position.  

 

What’s your favorite part about working at ACR?

The community for sure.  Whether it’s the amazing artists, the dedicated volunteers, the spunky staff and all of the other supporters. I am in love with the way that this community supports and lifts each other up.  

 

Are you an artist, crafter, or maker? What mediums do you work with?

Nah, I prefer to help amplify other artists, crafters and makers.  My daughter is pretty crafty though so I’m sometimes forced to create with her ; ) 

 

What do you do when you’re not working at ACR?

As a single mom, I’m usually pretty busy with the kiddos.  We love to do anything outdoors, hiking, fishing and camping are some of our favorites.  I’m the troop leader for my daughter’s girl scout troop also.  For myself, I’m a little obsessed with board games.  Someday, I’ll get to play them with real people.  I also love to cook.  My creative pursuits usually happen in the kitchen. 

 

What’s the craziest thing you found in donation mountain?

I guess one of the craziest things is human teeth.  We also had a zebra hide donated.  I love seeing folks collections of regular items.  Bread ties, button replacements from garments, one time someone donated their clothing tag collection.  People are amazing.  

 

Jen’s kiddos having some fun in the sun!

2020 Volunteer Metrics Wrap Up

Ever wonder how we manage to keep our prices so low? Now you know! Volunteers are integral to our operations, contributing nearly HALF of our total labor hours in any given year. This enables us to measure every piece of fabric, package every last pom pom, and keep the chaos organized!

 

Volunteers contributed 9,631 hours in FY2020, which translates into a monetary value of over $260,000. Imagine if we had to add that amount to our payroll!

 

Volunteering isn’t just for individuals, we love hosting groups too! It’s always more fun to volunteer with your friends, family, and coworkers, which is why we offer volunteer opportunities of all kinds! Help us keep creativity affordable in Austin! Sign up to volunteer at one of our community days or apply to be a core volunteer here.

 

Here’s a snapshot of what volunteers contributed during our latest fiscal year:

 

  • Gave nearly 10,000 hours of their time (that’s 47% of the labor hours for the year!)
  • All those hours have a value of $260k
  • Another way to look at this is:
    • Our total revenue for the year was $437k
    • Our total staff payroll for the year was $266k
    • Volunteer labor would have taken up 59.5% of our revenue if we had to pay out that time!
  • We hosted 53 volunteer groups
  • Volunteers helped to move our center in just two days! We closed normally on a Sunday, moved Monday and Tuesday, and reopened on Wednesday!

 

 

October Reuse & [Re]Think Challenge: Creepy Creatures!

 

 

It’s officially spooky season, and time to announce our October #reuseandrethink challenge: Creepy Creatures! What scary monsters, spooky critters, or eerie beasts can you make out of reused materials? ACR has all the materials and inspiration you need to let your imagination run wild.

 
Submission:

When you’ve completed your creation, please provide at least 2 photos of your art piece, your contact info and a short description of materials used. Your submission can be emailed to rethink@austincreativereuse.org.

Your creation should be made from Reused Materials — all materials will be available at a low cost (as always) at Austin Creative Reuse. One winner will be notified and receive a $10 Gift Card to ACR. They will also be announced on our social media!

 
Deadline: Sunday, October 31st

 

[Re]Think Tanks

Need space to work on your creation or want to collaborate with others? Consider coming to one of our [Re]Think Tanks, which take place on the 2nd and 4th Friday of each month from 12PM-4PM. These are free to participate, though donations are greatly appreciated.

No appointment or sign up is necessary, you can come at any time during the open workshop hours. Space will be limited and if the workshop reaches capacity, there may be a wait. Minors must be accompanied by an adult at all times. This is an indoor event, masks and social distancing are required.

Saturday Register Donations Fund Special Projects

When you check out your basket of treasures at one of ACR’s registers, our Reuse Specialists may invite you to make a donation along with your purchase.  These donations go into our general operating fund and support our center operations, programming, staff and more.  We couldn’t do what we do without your financial support, and now we’re giving you a chance to directly support the projects you love most.  

 

Starting this month, we’re making Saturdays special financial donation days here at ACR.  When you donate at our registers on a Saturday, your donation will go toward one of the following special funds:

 

FIRST SATURDAYS ARE FOR THE PEOPLE

Our People Make it Possible:  This is a core value we really take to heart!  We wouldn’t be where we are today without our hard-working staff who make the wheels turn here at ACR.  We’ll be collecting donations on First Saturdays for team-building activities, professional development, staff appreciation and outings that will be chosen by our staff.

 

SECOND SATURDAYS ARE FOR SCHOOLS

Adopt a School Program: Educators pour their hearts and souls into teaching the next generation, and we want to help stretch limited school budgets.  Donations received on the second Saturday of the month will be turned into ACR gift cards that our adopted School of the Month can use to stock their classrooms with school supplies,  art materials, makerspace projects and more. 

 

THIRD SATURDAYS ARE FOR LEARNING

Community-Building Make and Takes:  Our creative reuse center is more than a store.  It’s a vibrant community hub where all kinds of people can come together to explore and create.  Donations received on third Saturdays will fund a facilitator to provide free Make & Take workshops in the center to help inspire visitors to look at creative materials in new ways, offer an opportunity to try something new and help ensure that visits to our creative reuse center are fun and engaging.

 

 

FOURTH SATURDAYS ARE FOR THE LOVE

Workshop Scholarship Fund:  At ACR, we believe that creativity is for everyone.  We prioritize making our creative workshops affordable, but sometimes a little extra love can go a long way.  Make a donation on the fourth Saturdays to contribute to a scholarship fund to help your neighbors take a class at ACR.

 

ACR Launches Adopt a School Program!

Educators pour their hearts into teaching the youngest members of our community.  At Austin Creative Reuse, we’re here to make their work just a little bit easier. We’re excited to announce our new Adopt a School program to help local schools get the supplies they need to make this the best year yet!

 

Each month, ACR will select our School of the Month based on nominations from the community.  For one full month, shoppers and visitors to ACR’s creative reuse center will be invited to purchase low cost school supplies, art supplies and other creative materials from an ACR wish list created by the school’s teachers and staff.  Plus, on the second Saturday of the month, all monetary donations received at ACR’s registers will be donated to the school in the form of ACR gift cards.

 

Our neighbor, Harris Elementary, is ACR’s first School of the Month! 

 

 

Be sure to stop by ACR in September to support Harris students.

 

Eligibility

To be eligible, the nominated organization must be: (1) a school or other institute of learning; (2) public or private; (3) all grades – infants to college and beyond; and (4) located within 100 miles of ACR. 


Nominations

Nominations can be made by completing the nomination form available hereNominations will be accepted on a rolling basis, be held for one full year from the time of submission and considered monthly during that time.  Nominations will be accepted from school employees, students / student families, community members and any other supporters.  Multiple nominations for the same school will be accepted and weighed in the decision.

 

September Reuse & Rethink Challenge: Bucket Containers!

 

What can you make with the containers from our bucket section? We have containers of all kinds, from cookie tins, to tupperware, tiny pillboxes, wooden boxes, and so much more! The possibilities to show off your creativity are endless. Make a masterpiece of your own and then enter our monthly contest to win a $10 ACR gift card!

 

If you need inspiration or want to hang out in our workshop and craft with others, join us for a ReThink Tank session on Friday 9/10 and 9/24 from 12-4pm. We’ll provide you with all the tools and material needed for your creation. Free to participate though donations are much appreciated!

 

 

Submission:
  • When you’ve completed your creation, please provide at least 2 photos of your art piece, your contact info and a short description of materials used. Your submission can be made in person at our center or in an email to rethink@austincreativereuse.org.
  • Your creation should be made from reused materials  — all materials will be available at a low cost (as always) at Austin Creative Reuse.
  • One winner will be notified  and receive a $10 Gift Card to ACR. They will also be announced on our social media, along with photos of their creation!

 

Deadline: Thursday, September 30th, 2021

 

Please feel free to email rethink@austincreativereuse.org with any questions. Good luck!

 

August Reuse & Rethink Winner: Mimi A!

Last month, we gave y’all the challenge of reimagining the humble binder clip. We’re excited to announce our winner, Mimi A! Her divasuarus was the most creative of all the entries, with thoughtful assembly of the binder clips and fun decoration that totally transformed the material into something new. Her workmanship is evident in the details and use of reused materials unmatched by any other participant. Congratulations to Mimi!

 

 

Here are some of the other entries!

 

Staff Spotlight: Jennifer Evans

 

Each month, we highlight one of the incredible folks who help to keep Austin Creative Reuse running. This month, it’s our HBIC – Jennifer Evans! Jenn works tirelessly behind the scenes as the Executive Director of ACR. She started out as a board member several years ago and loved it so much, she joined the staff in 2020. Over the last year, she has overseen the rapid growth of ACR, steered us through a pandemic, and spread the reuse gospel to anyone who would listen. Here’s your chance to learn more about the woman behind the scenes! Also, be sure to check out her tutorial for a DIY weaving board!

 

How did you find Austin Creative Reuse?

My first visit to ACR was as a shopper at our first space in The Linc.  I fell in love immediately with the colors and the textures and the treasure hunt.  I applied to join the Board of Directors that day and spent the next three and a half years as ACR’s Sustainability Chair before joining the staff in 2020.

 

What’s your favorite part about working at ACR?

The JOY.  Being eco-friendly often means making a sacrifice, but at ACR being green is fun and accessible.  Every donation we receive and every visit to our center is a joyful contribution to making a more sustainable future for our community.  

 

Are you an artist, crafter, or maker? What mediums do you work with?

I don’t feel like a natural-born creative, but our staff and volunteers have definitely helped me learn to get comfortable with experimenting with art and trying new things.  You really can’t do creativity wrong.  My kids love to create, especially with natural materials.  We’ve rolled beeswax candles, made bath salts, printed fabrics and made lots of homemade strawberry jam from my grandma’s secret recipe.

 

What do you do when you’re not working at ACR?

My family bought a van last year, which we are converting into a camper for our family of five.  We’re doing the work ourselves, so I’m learning my way around power tools, insulation, carpentry and wiring diagrams.  Traveling the world has always been my joy, and this is a way for us to continue exploring with three young kiddos.

 

What’s the craziest thing you found in donation mountain?

I love it when donors include personal notes about what they donate.  Knowing that an object came from a beloved aunt or was brought back on a family trip gives an insight into the object’s story.  

 


About Jenn:

 

Jenn spent much of her childhood traveling up and down the east coast from Canada to Florida in the back of her parents’ baby blue 1970s Econoline camper van. While it might have been frowned upon by today’s standards (there were no seats in the back of that van, let alone seat belts!), her fond memories of days on the beach, hikes in the woods and nights spent around the campfire started her down a path toward environmental stewardship that she now hopes to instill in her own children and share with her community.

Jenn is a graduate of Duke University’s Environmental Science & Policy Program and the University of Chicago Law School. She previously served four years on ACR’s Board of Directors, and was the Deputy Director of Austin nonprofit Families in Nature and an environmental law associate at the global law firm Allen & Overy LLP. She sits on Austin ISD’s Environmental Stewardship Advisory Committee and is active in the Cities Connecting Children to Nature Initiative from the National League of Cities. Jenn founded Nature Playdate, a nature community for Austin families, and is active in several other local environmental and community groups.

When she’s not out promoting the beauty of creative reuse, Jenn can be found chasing around her three wild kids and working on their old camper van with her husband, Kelly. She digs travel, the ocean, cool mountain breezes and admiring the creativity of all the folks who pass through the doors at ACR. You can reach Jenn at execdirector@austincreativereuse.org.

You can also follow her on Instagram @natureplaydate

 

Jenn’s (and her kiddo’s) first visit to ACR!

 

Beeswax candles

2005 Wheless Lane, Austin, TX 78723
Tel: (512) 375-3041