Governor John Hickenlooper recently appointed Nov. 18 as Upcycling Day in Colorado. His official proclamation cited more than 20 enterprises employing over 100 people, acknowledging that they "create new value in existing markets" while promoting "collaborative partnerships that bring dollars into the Colorado economy."
Urban Dictionary's definition of upcycling, to use "ordinary objects to make something extraordinary," captures exactly what Jayne Blewitt and Lorrie Myers say they want customers to do after visiting their newly opened creative reuse store, Who Gives a SCRAP. Housed in the former Hunt or Gather space in the Ivywild School, an upcycled building itself, SCRAP provides the raw goods for folks keen on giving items new life and different forms.
"We're hoping to meet that gap for stuff that will most likely get thrown away rather than reused," says Blewitt.
Two thirds of the store will be raw materials: old buttons, fabric scraps, stationery, sewing patterns, shelving, and many other miscellaneous donated items. The other third will be reserved for finished goods — items Myers and Blewitt have commissioned local artists to make using only upcycled material. Examples include jewelry made from old game pieces, kimonos repurposed into shirts, and vintage forks bent into bracelets.
The store provides materials to people who want to try a new craft or hobby but don't want to spend a lot at the big box stores. The finished goods will serve as inspiration for those DIYers but also be available for purchase by those who just want to shop, says Myers.
Material donations are by appointment only and if SCRAP can't take it, they'll let you know who can.
"Junk drawers are the best," says Myers. "You bring it to us, we sort it all out and suddenly it becomes treasures for somebody else who wants to make something."
Diverting from the waste stream and influencing the mindset of future generations is important to the 50-something co-owners, both of whom formerly worked in the nonprofit sector.
"We're such a disposable society," Blewitt says. "I really think that if we want our planet and world to be there for future generations, we need to be aware and conscious of what we're doing to it by throwing everything away."
The two established SCRAP as a public benefit corporation, a for-profit business required to put time and/or money back into the community. SCRAP has partnered with Performing Arts for Youth Organization (PAYO) to supply materials for their curriculum-based workshops. Tax-deductible donations can be made in the name of PAYO, and the proceeds go right back to the youth organization, says Myers.
Eventually, Myers and Blewitt want to have space large enough to host crafting parties and classroom events. They also want SCRAP to be a cost-effective alternative for teachers spending their own money. According to a study by the National School Supply and Equipment Association, teachers pay for 77 percent of classroom supplies, spending on average $500 out of pocket each year.
"We're hoping teachers can come to our shop and spend $10 and get enough for their whole classroom for at least one project," says Blewitt.
Both say there's something satisfying about seeing items reclaimed and reused in a better way.
"We don't want to repurpose just for the sake of repurposing. We're not taking cardboard tubes and making them into something else that just eventually gets thrown away," says Myers. "We want it to be something that actually gets used. ... It's really lovely to see things being reused and loved by someone else."