Cynthia Albers

Cynthia Albers

Unable to keep pace with “fast fashion”? New clothing is not only a stress to the pocketbook, the textile industry has been revealed as one of the world’s largest polluters.

New clothing is more likely than the well-worn to leach dyes and shed microfibers that travel from the washing machine into our major waterways, where synthetic fibers have been found inside of fishes.

One “positive” is that fabrics are intended for multiple use. Old and vintage clothing can be repaired or redesigned, and fabric scraps are prized by quilters and crafters.

Fabrics present reasons and opportunities to reuse and repurpose, and to have fun in the process.  Abacus Wealth Partners on Main Street hosted a “Swap, Don’t Shop” event in April, for women seeking to revamp their professional wardrobe. Moved by the rising cost of new fashions and an awareness that industrial pollution streams from clothing production, participants gathered socially to enjoy food and wine and to swap good-quality apparel.

“Most of us have those few items we can’t seem to part with, yet never seem to wear,” Abacus advertised, “so why not give that clothing a new purpose and a new home?”

Know of another clothing swap coming up? Let us know!

Wrapping things up

Sonoma West reader Una Hall offered a gift-wrapping suggestion: She buys Christmas-themed fabric at The Legacy Thrift and Gift and makes reusable gift bags of various sizes. “This makes wrapping presents a total breeze,” she said. “An activity that can take hours requires only a few minutes, and children can wrap gifts easily without help.”

Hall claims to have saved lots of money over the years by not needing wrapping paper and tape. She pointed out that reusable items are always more ecological than their single-use alternatives.

Thrifting for Makers

The Legacy Thrift and Gift has been a destination for sewers and crafters for more than 20 years. The shop, on Gravenstein Hwy South, is overflowing with donated materials, sold at thrift store prices. Their sales support the Sebastopol Area Senior Center.

What does The Legacy have to do with reducing waste?

All thrift stores are hubs for the recirculation of still-usable materials.

The Legacy receives some of its fabrics from retail sources that donate what they cannot sell, including leftover fabric scraps. In turn, Legacy customers will use those leftovers for quilting, clothing design and more. I’ve used those scraps to make reusable bulk foods shopping bags.

The Legacy refurbishes donated sewing machines. They also repurpose donated cookie tins, plastic shopping bags (with handles) and plastic vitamin bottles, which they use for storing small craft items.

Children old enough to sew can pick up a “Free Sewing Kit for Juniors” made of an upcycled tin equipped with sewing basics.

Visitors can expect to find new and used yarns, beads and magnets, sewing and knitting supplies, belt buckles and purse handles, quilt and costume patterns, materials for rug hooking and doll-making, art supplies and “How To” books. Fabrics are sold for $2/pound, and patterns for 50 cents.

The Legacy’s Christmas Pop-up Shop: In addition to their main shop, The Legacy will open their annual Holiday Store on Nov. 18 at 137 South Main Street, Sebastopol. This pop-up shop will feature items for the winter holidays, including ornaments, decorations, tablecloths and fabrics.

Rethinking consumerism

“Make Do and Mend” was a pamphlet issued in 1943 Britain. The intention was to provide households with useful tips on being both frugal and stylish in times of economic downturn. The pamphlet primarily contained advice on restoring and improving old clothing. It was an indispensable guide in an era that required a complete rethinking of consumer habits. An updated edition of the pamphlet was released in 2013 to extend similar advice to 21st-century families.

The Zero Waste Challenge is taking a break until the beginning of next year. In the meantime, keep sending me your zero waste tips and columns ideas.

Cynthia Albers is a member of the Sebastopol Zero-Waste Subcommittee. Send comments to

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