In Athens, many people contribute to community sustainability efforts. Local businesses such as Greendragon Thread, Cricket Jones Jewelry and Coral Marie are doing their best to help the Athenian community become more sustainable in its fashion production by recycling and reusing materials.
UpCycle Ohio Thrift helps small businesses by providing access to its Community Makerspace. The room is equipped with a tool library where one can check out tools for projects at home. UpCycle Ohio Thrift also offers a sewing/fabric shop, woodworking shop, and metalworking equipment.
Shannon Pratt-Harrington, chief sustainability officer for Zero-Waste Event Productions, a social enterprise dedicated to reducing festival waste, uses a fabric workshop to make custom bags to carry and haul flagpoles for the company. One service he mentions that Zero-Waste Event Productions participates in is picking up trash at festivals across the Midwest. The collected waste is then recycled or composted. Pratt-Harrington is also one of the many local business workers who use recycled fabrics to make new pieces.
“We get people excited and inspired to use things they already have or find new homes for them, reimagining or reforming them in a way that works for them,” said Sadie Meade, manager of UpCycle Ohio Thrift. “We teach people job skills on Makerspace that they can use in the workforce or (to) create their own business.”
When UpCycle Ohio Thrift was owned by ReUse Industries, a nonprofit organization, Erin Hogan, owner of Greendragon Thread, worked as a Community Makerspace manager and gained skills from the available tools.
Hogan most recently opened his upcycle business, Greendragon Thread, in June 2021. He sells recycled corsets and fabric dragon sculptures made with clay and bead accents that mainly make up the horns, claws, and teeth, Hogan said.
“I studied sewing in theater at Ohio University,” says Hogan. “We had to make corsets and vests… I fell in love with it. It’s like a building project, lots of integrated metal pieces. It has become my passion.”
Hogan’s business logo is a green dragon, symbolizing ferocity, passion and struggle for what is important in life.
“I really wanted to make as many things out of the waste stream as I could, making things that were unique and beautiful,” says Hogan.
Cricket Jones gave new life to antique silverware when he started making jewelry from these items 14 years ago.
“There was a spoon that I definitely used to pry the window open, and it was almost ring-shaped… so I fiddled with it a bit,” says Jones.
This became Jones’ first handmade spoon ring. Using his garage as a studio, he now makes silver jewelry that can be found at flea markets and yard sales. Sustainability also played a big role in its creation.
“I was a recycler my whole life,” says Jones. “We don’t need anything new. It’s really caused a lot of our environmental and even political problems.”
Coral Marie is a one-woman team working in a solar-powered studio. He creates clothes from recycled cotton. Marie creates designs for her sustainable brand that are inspired by the land she lives in.
“I really draw a lot of inspiration from the flowers, the branches and the lighting outside,” says Marie. “I’m also a very emotional person. I’m very sensitive. Relationships are also very important … the relationship to where we live, the things that move us to emotions. I think a lot of my design inspiration comes from the sensitive and emotional qualities of an observer. , listeners, and thinkers about what is around me.”
Marie, along with other local businesses, enrolled in the Rural Zero Waste Pledge, a program designed to get businesses to take initiatives to reduce waste by using reusable and recyclable products, according to the Rural Action website.
With 23 businesses enrolled in the program in 2018, communities collected 13,149 tonnes of waste in landfills. The program has a target of 50 registered businesses by 2030, and expects a 20% reduction in the amount of waste going into landfills, according to the Athens Sustainability Action Plan. Marie accepted the Zero Waste Pledge and other pledges for reduced waste streams.
“I already have a very limited waste stream because I reuse, recycle, compost and I have a small amount of stuff going into landfills from my business and home,” says Marie.
Shopping locally helps the community’s economy and reduces environmental impact. According to Sustainable Connections, local purchasing requires less transportation and reduces habitat loss and pollution. Greendragon Thread, Cricket Jones Jewelry and Coral Marie recycled materials, send less waste to community landfills.
According to the United Nations, the fashion industry is believed to be the second most polluting industry in the world. The EPA estimated in 2018 that textile production was 17 million tonnes in the United States, with landfills receiving 11.3 million tonnes of textiles that year.
“I really wanted to reach out to the community and help build sewing skills and more awareness of how to (improve) through classes and teaching,” Hogan said.
Coral teaches at Hocking College and shares his expertise in fashion design and sustainability. She says sustainability plays a big role in her teaching, as it encourages her students to think critically about their choices.
Along with being a sustainable business that reduces the negative impact on society, Coral annually donates 10% of its profits to various advocacy organizations.
“Right now, to My Sister’s Place and the Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program,” Coral said. “I focus a lot on organizations that support women’s equal rights, social justice and such issues and sustainability.”
Amid the height of COVID-19 regulation, it’s getting harder for artists to showcase their art, but Jones found a way to innovate. One Sunday, Jones had nowhere to go but spoke with his friend Emily Christine Johnson, the owner of Tavolino, and was able to open an art popup in the restaurant parking lot.
“I got some artists, some experienced and some new who had never shown (their work) in front of people before and when people came to appreciate the show, there was this big light,” Jones said. “We need art.”
Jones uses the term “artkinglot” to talk about art popups in parking lots.
“It’s kind of a fuse to ignite art in Athens again,” said Jones.
As these small businesses grow, each has a different goal for the future. Hogan is working on his portfolio and plans to officially open an Etsy store and website later this year to build his online presence. Jones is not only a jewelry maker but also a poet, and he plans to continue writing poetry, making recycled jewelry, and drawing designs. Coral plans to collaborate with her husband and her children’s art and creative designs, incorporating them into prints for her fabrics.
“(I plan to) continue to do this, continue to make a difference in education and fashion and see how it all starts to weave together in a hopefully balanced way,” Coral said.