Monday, June 17, 2013

Fun Learning with Panasonic: Go Eco, Get Crafty

(Photo from Panasonic Singapore)

I have plenty of old t-shirts from different stages of my life, from the P.E. attire that I wore in secondary school and junior college, to those that I received for participating in freshman orientation activities in university. And there are loads of others that I just don't wear anymore, simply because I've outgrown them, or the print has faded.

I was going to post a photo of my wardrobe to show just how many old t-shirts I have, but thought that it wasn't worth showing the world the horrible state it's in right now. Nope, better to just hint at it in writing and leave everyone guessing as to how messy it really is. Anyway, here's a pretty flower instead.

Many of these clothes got a new lease of life by being handed down to others in my extended family. Just like how some of my wardrobe consists of hand-me-downs from my father, my uncles, and my older cousins, so my younger relatives now own what I once wore.

But then there are plenty of other clothes that I'm unwilling to give away, partly because of sentimental value. Is there a way I can continue to keep them yet free up space in my wardrobe?

Thanks to Panasonic's Go Eco, Get Crafty workshop, which was held on Saturday at City Square Mall, I learnt two simple ways to convert t-shirts into other useful items. And as a bonus, I finally got a chance to meet the rest of the finalists in the Panasonic Best Eco-Challenge Blog category.

There were quite a few families with young children taking part in this workshop, which is a really encouraging sign. Many important values are best learnt during one's childhood, and it's great to see so many parents taking an active role in getting their children to learn some basics about being environmentally-friendly.

The host for the event was Evelyn Kuek. With her cheerful and bubbly personality, she entertained kids and adults alike, gave instructions on how to make the items, and generally made the entire event a fun and enjoyable one for everybody.

Item #1: T-shirt Coaster

The first item that we learnt how to make was a simple coaster, made from strips of cloth cut from old T-shirts.

1. Cut the t-shirt(s) into strips.
2. Braid the strips together, knotting them on each end. Tip: Use tape to secure one end for easy braiding.
3. Roll up the braided t-shirt strips, adding a drop of fabric glue occasionally.
4. ????
5. PROFIT!!!

Some of us bloggers didn't think of trading cloth strips to get multiple colours, so our coasters ended up being monochrome. Mine looks like a very neat pile of scrambled eggs.

I was feeling silly, so I stuck on a pair of googly eyes. And partly as a tribute to a hilarious site that I follow, Deep Sea Fauna... with Googly Eyes.

Some of the coasters made by the children were a lot prettier!

What if you have a t-shirt with an interesting or eye-catching design that you want to retain?

Item #2: T-shirt Bag

The second item that we made, a reusable bag made from a t-shirt, provides one solution to this conundrum.

1. Lay your t-shirt flat. Cut off the neck band, the bottom seam, and the sleeves.
2. Turn the t-shirt inside out.
3. Cut off the bottom hem binding (you will reuse the binding).
4. Take the binding, wrap it around the bottom of the t-shirt and tie it really tight. Do this step at least twice so the bottom is secured.
(If you're good at sewing, you can skip steps 3 and 4 and simply stitch the edges of the bottom hem together)
5. Turn the t-shirt right side out.

Item #3: Sock Pouch

The third and final item that we made involved turning socks into small pouches.

1. Cut two notches in the top hem of the sock. Don't cut further than the hem.
2. Slip one end of a shoelace or ribbon into one of the notched openings, and thread it through the opening on the other side. You can use a straw to guide it through.
3. Remove the straw (if it was used) and tie the ends of the shoelace in a double knot.
4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the second piece of shoelace, but start on the opposite side.

No, I don't wear flowery socks. I just decided to draw random flowers on the sock-turned-pouch once I was done.

Art & Craft was never my strong subject in school, and I don't think my rushed creations are particularly aesthetically pleasing, but they are certainly useful. Feel free to further decorate and accessorise your own handiwork according to your talents and tastes.

(Photo from Panasonic Singapore)

While we were hard at work, Evelyn checked on our progress regularly, helping those who had problems following the instructions, and highlighting interesting or creative pieces that other participants were making. She also used this opportunity to talk to the children the basics of the 3Rs. As adults, many of us would have already heard the mantra of reducing, reusing, and recycling many times before, but how many of us really try to live up to these tenets? I know I'm still far from being a shining example of somebody who actively makes a conscious effort to reduce my ecological footprint, but hey, we all have to start somewhere.

Here are some of the kids with the items they've made:

And a group photo of all the participants: children, parents, and Panasonic Best Eco-challenge Blog finalists.

(Photo from Panasonic Singapore)

This workshop has helped spark some interest in finding out more ways to recycle second-hand items.

Here's a selection that I found after a quick Google search:

50 Creative Ways to Repurpose, Reuse and Upcycle Old Things
30 Creative Ways to Repurpose & Reuse Old Stuff
21 Disposable Products You Can Reuse

After reading some of these tips, I was like this, but in a good way:

Then I was:

After the event, I took a closer look at the green wall that served as the backdrop of City Square Mall's Fountain Square, where the workshop was conducted.

It would be interesting to see if this green wall could incorporate plants that can help enhance urban biodiversity, such as flowering climbers that attract nectar-feeding insects and birds.

During the workshop, Evelyn had mentioned that the ferns and climbers on this green wall do not require watering, as the roof above is angled such that rainwater would flow off and irrigate the wall, with funnels and drains forming part of a rainwater harvesting system to collect water for non-potable use.

More green features that can be found in the City Green area are listed on its website, which also showcases how the building itself is designed to cut down on unnecessary wastage of energy and water. I may have been a little hasty in dismissing the ability of a shopping mall to genuinely commit towards reducing the amount of resources consumed, and helping to promote more environmentally-friendly lifestyles.

Green Business Times and Eco-Business also have further details on how the mall has sought to be known as the leading eco-friendly family mall.

I don't usually write about waste reduction and recycling, since my focus is more on biodiversity and nature conservation. But of course, these are merely two aspects of the same issue. After all, our lifestyles have a significant impact on the natural environment; because we consume so much, we devote energy towards resource extraction, with the manufacturing process leading to waste products that may or may not be disposed of in a responsible manner. All that energy is likely to have been derived from fossil fuels, and there is increasing pressure to harvest the untapped potential locked away beneath some of the planet's remaining wilderness areas. And even if our trash and waste doesn't inadvertently end up in the ocean, it all still has to go somewhere.

As I shared that afternoon, Semakau Landfill will run out of space someday, and there's only so much more that we can expand before nearby marine habitats are affected.

Semakau Landfill from replanted mangroves on Pulau Semakau
Living reefs of Pulau Semakau
Mangroves and coral reefs of Pulau Semakau;
(Photo by Ria)

It's wonderful to see how individuals and corporations alike are beginning to understand that there has to be a better way to do things, and I'm heartened to see how Panasonic, the event organiser and sponsor for this category in the Singapore Blog Awards, places a lot of emphasis on being eco-friendly. I'm typically skeptical and cynical with regards to many attempts at corporate social responsibility (CSR), but at the same time, I like to be optimistic and believe that business entities do have the ability to make a powerful impact.

Kudos to OMY and Panasonic Singapore for organising this workshop, City Square Mall for hosting us, and all the other participants for a fun afternoon.

Now, let's see what else I can make out of all my other old t-shirts...

Postscript: The other finalists in the Panasonic Best Eco-challenge Blog category have also written about the workshop, and here are their entries:

(Cross-posted to SBA Plus. Do support me in the Singapore Blog Awards!)