Paper Trash Bags & SF's Zero Waste Textile Initiative

San Francisco! Did you know that San Francisco residents send 4,500 pounds of textiles to the landfill every HOUR?! That's insane. Luckily, the Zero Waste Textile Initiative is available to help. There are now over 100 locations across the city where you can take items like unwanted clothes, shoes, and linens to keep them out of the landfill and give them a new life as insulation material, flooring, packaging, or cushioning in stuffed toys, insoles, and bags. Find a drop off location near you using this easy tool.

I've always tried to be mindful (maybe the correct term is obsessive...) about how much trash I create both at home and at work. At home, we have a three bag system set up in the kitchen - a paper bag for compost, a paper bag for recycling, and a paper bag for actual trash. One of the worst things about landfills is the crazy amount of plastic trash bags it takes just to get the freaking trash to the dump. The biggest question we get when people see our little.system is "don't the paper bags totally fall apart with gross trash juice?" Absolutely not! Even our paper compost bag doesn't get gross or fall apart. I think it's possible that the paper bags have better air circulation than traditional plastic, so the contents tend to dry out a little. Don't quote me on that; I'm a fashion designer, not a scientist! But in the four years we've been using that system we've never had a bag blowout and have kept thousands of plastic bags from entering the landfill.

At the Temple Ro studio, it's more difficult to feel good about what's going to the landfill. Fashion is decidedly not eco-friendly. Everything from my suppliers comes wrapped in plastic (I reuse it whenever possible, but then there's the issue of storing a roomful of random plastic bits and scraps!). Customers and retailers prefer having their garments shipped in plastic bags so they are guaranteed to be clean when they arrive (understandable) and the amount of plastic bags we go through is a little crazy. Before Temple Ro, when I was doing custom clothing only, I started a program where I included an addressed and stamped envelope so clients could send the bag back to me at my expense, and I'm in the process of figuring out how to implement that with retailers now.

Besides the plastic bag thing at the studio, there is the fabric waste situation, which is why I am so elated to have found the Zero Waste Textile Initiative. Every time we sew a sample or test a new fabric (and both of those happen pretty regularly around here!) we end up with unusable pieces of fabric that pile up. There's a fabric mountain in one corner that I don't feel comfortable throwing away, but also don't have the real estate to keep. Once in a while I give away a bag or two to a crafter or home sewer (interested? Email us!) but I may start taking the scraps to a recycling drop off instead. I'm so grateful to SFEnvironment for creating this program, and I'm looking forward to doing my part to help SF become a zero waste city by 2020!