Springclean keeps clothing, textiles out of trash while giving back

CHARLOTTE — Tucked into the Innovation Barn, the Springclean workshop is where CT Anderson loves to create.

The textile upcycling nonprofit makes new clothes, pillows, bags, and anything the volunteers can think up. As long as it’s something fresh and new, Anderson thinks it’s worth resale.

“I am the target market,” she said. “I am somebody who likes shopping. I like new things, I’m into fashion but I also don’t want to contribute to the degradation of our planet.”

Fashion often does contribute to climate change. The industry accounts for about 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the clothes we throw out pile up quickly. Working in corporate sustainability, Anderson was acutely aware of the issue.

“I realized that what I was doing in my outside business activities were in direct conflict with what I did during the day for a living which was combat climate change,” she said.

Springclean was her way of changing that. Anderson wanted to reduce the waste that went into buying new while still giving herself the chance to enjoy the thrill of adding something fresh to her closet.

“I don’t think that telling people not to buy is necessarily the way to go,” she said.

Instead, Anderson saw an opportunity to create something new from what we typically toss. Donated upholstery can become pillows, marketing banners can become tote bags and last season’s Charlotte Hornets T-shirts can become teddy bears.

Volunteers help sort, cut, and even sew the fabric. Anderson works with local artists to come up with most of the clothing designs. From their prototypes, they can come up with a few unique pieces for the store boutique.

“Everything we do is made to be sold,” she said.

Much of the work also gives back. On June 1, Springclean is hosting a Wine and Wonder fundraiser at the Innovation Barn on behalf of AfroCareCLT. In partnership with a dozen nonprofits and organizations, they’re raising money to build a school in Charlotte’s sister city in Ghana.

In addition to hosting the event, Springclean created upcycled bags and a banner for the school made of recycled fabric. Once the school gets up and running Anderson said she’d love to teach some of the upcycling skills they work on at Springclean because countries like Ghana often bear the brunt of the clothing waste we rack up in the west.

“It gets shipped over to developing nations that often don’t have the same waste infrastructure that we have,” she said.

(WATCH: NC recycling facility ramps up to become a hub for solar panels)

Michelle Alfini

Michelle Alfini, wsoctv.com

Michelle is a climate reporter for Channel 9.

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