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Local College Students Help Environment by Turning Trash Into Tote Bags

Bridgewater State University costume director Kellsy MacKilligan partnered with an environmental health class to turn scraps of fabric into bags made by students

Students at a Massachusetts university are taking recycling to a whole new level.

Heaps of old fabric spill out of boxes and bins at the Bridgewater State University costume shop.

“I was faced with the option of do I throw these away, do I donate them, or do I do something useful with them,” asked costume director Kellsy MacKilligan.

For MacKilligan, there’s only one right answer. The last one.

For the second semester, she’s partnering with an environmental health class to turn her scraps into stylish totes of all shapes and sizes.

“They have their own kind of personality,” MacKilligan explained.

“And that’s the cool thing, a lot of them have a story behind them where you’re like, ‘this fabric was used to make these kilts for this Scottish dance piece.’”

After MacKilligan designs the bags, students make them, and sell them as a fundraiser.

“I did a lot of ironing of the straps as well as ironing some of the material that was a little wrinkly,” said senior Laura Yurkevicius.

By re-using these old fabrics, instead of tossing them, Professor Lydia Burak says learning comes to life.

“I think that the majority of students have probably never seen a sewing machine. I think this was a novel experience but I think that having that opportunity to have a hands on experience kind of links what we learn in the classroom with what they do in real life like buy clothes,” explained Burak.

That feeling is shared by students like senior Bridget Burke.

“I haven’t really been aware of how I can improve the environment. I think the fast fashion, and just wanting the newest trends and what’s on the mannequins in the stores, [that] keeps changing rapidly, that is so detrimental to our environment,” said Burke.

Across Massachusetts, with landfalls closing and recycling standards tightening, students now realize reusing is more important than ever.

“I’m really proud of my class that they could come together and help the costume shop, as well as give back to earth and maybe get rid of plastic bags in Bridgewater,” said Yurkevicius.

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