Recycle Runway Blog

2,000 children help make the Youth Eco-Dress! Published: 02.07.2011 at 9:24 am by Nancy Judd

The Youth Eco-Dress

Imagine a Scarlett O’Hara style dress made from old sheets and covered with 2,600 eco-pledges made into paper-link chains. Over the last two and a half years I have collected these pledges from kids across the United States.

The project started in 2008 at a Boys and Girls Clubs in Pittsburgh, PA. After a recycling presentation, a little girl asked me if I would come back and make her Club a dress. Her request made me wonder: “Could I make a garment with ALL the kids I work with across the country?” Thus was born the Youth Eco-Dress.

During my youth presentations about recycling and the environment, I started having the kids write their names and something that they would do to help the environment on a strip of recycled paper. Once I had gathered around 1,000 of these eco-pledges I began to turn them into long paper link chains to cover the dress. My goal was to finish the garment in time to display it in my upcoming Atlanta International Airport exhibition, scheduled to be installed in April 2011. Thanks to the help of the Santa Fe Girl Scouts, the garment is now complete!

Atlanta seems like the perfect place to debut this O’Hara style dress, since one of the dresses featured in the movie, Gone with the Wind was made from recycling old window curtains. Instead of curtains I used discarded sheets from the historic La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe, NM and I dyed them sage green. The dress has two petticoats made from these same sheets as well as old table cloths. A four layered hoopskirt supports the two petty coats, the dress and the chains made from the pledges. The wire in the hoopskirt came from the frames used for yard signs during the Obama campaign. Before the pledges were made into the chains, each one was adhered to the white table cloths (also used in the petticoats) to assure that the chains do not get crushed over time. The “curtain” dress in Gone with the Wind took a mere 200 hours to make, whereas the Youth Eco-Dress took 400 hours to complete!

Over 2,000 children from across the country created the 2,600 eco-pledges that cover the dress. Here are samples of some of my favorite pledges:

  • Lilia: I’ll get my clothes from second hand stores
  • Graham: I want to have timed 3 minute showers
  • Ethan: Unplug my charger when not using it
  • Emily: Turn off lizards heat lamp when it is sunny out
  • Abelino: Use fabric shopping bags
  • Manuel: Walk to school
  • Laura: Yo voy a reciclar papel
  • Mayra: Composting
  • Astrid: Use only what you need

Detail of the Youth Eco-Dress

I find these pledges to be very powerful. As the children take these actions, I hope that others will watch them and think: “I can do that too!” Additionally, as millions of people see the Youth Eco-Dress in the Atlanta Airport and read the pledges, I hope they will be inspired to make similar commitments in their lives. My greatest wish is that the children’s pledges, documented in the Dress, will be felt across time and space, as the inspiring acts of children around the United States help to lighten our load on the earth!

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