Textile Waste in Vancouver: A sharing by Alex Okrainetz

Yesterday morning I attended a Sustainability Breakfast Series on Textile Waste put on by Metro Vancouver. Here’s what I learned!

25% of what you donate to thrift stores actually gets sold.  So… where does the remaining 75% go?

It gets purchased by a sorter grader! Donation bins and thrift stores are the gateways to sorter graders.  The sorter graders take all our excess textiles and either:

  1. Re-use by sorting into over 360 different categories and re-sell to markets (often overseas)
  2. Recycle fibre by exported textiles to be broken down and turned into new materials to give them a new life
  3. Make wiping cloths from damaged textiles for painters

Did you know that…

  1. It’s actually ok to donate used pillows, stained and hole-y clothes, and single shoes? Items like single shoes can be paired with similar ones and sold!
  2. There is a market for down? So, donate your old winter jackets if you don’t need them anymore!
  3. Thrift stores often don’t have space to keep out of season clothes? These garments may go straight to the sorter graders!

Some thoughts to leave you with:

  1. REPAIR your clothes to extend their life instead of abandoning them as soon as they get hole-y. 
    • Frameworq Education Society organizes monthly community textile fix-it workshops in Vancouver – learn basic mending and sewing skills to keep your old and tattered clothes out of the landfill!
  2. REHOME and extend an item’s lifespan
  3. ASK and question what you consume.
    • Who was exploited so that your t-shirt could cost $10?
    • When the Canucks lost in the Stanley Cup finals what happened to all the celebratory apparel that was made and never sold?
    • What happens to all the fast fashion clothing that are mass produced but never sold?
  4. ENGAGE with local individuals and groups who are contributing to the solution:

DRAFT 1If you know of any other organizations or individuals that are playing a part in the war against textile waste, comment them in the section below! 👇🏼

Share this post with your friends, family and community, and start a conversation with someone about your textile consumption (and waste). What else can we do? 🗣🌎🌿

Common Energy’s Term 1 Recap!

Welcome back, and happy 2018! We thought we’d kick off the year with a recap of some of the cool things we did last term so we can get energized for another semester of sustainability work.

Generation Energy UBC


We kicked off the year by hosting a youth dialogue on critical energy issues and policy, with a diverse group of students. This dialogue was one of 14 youth dialogues that took place across Canada, each led by a Generation Energy Youth Champion as part of the national Generation Energy initiative conducted by Natural Resources Canada. The insight and discussion from the UBC dialogue contributed to the Youth Voices Report that has been submitted to NRCan – check it out here!

Welcome Events and Kick-Off Meetings

Dozens of enthusiastic students came to find out more Common Energy at our two Welcome Events, and became members of our five different teams. We were thrilled to see how many people came out to each team’s kick-off meetings, and we can’t wait to see you all again (as well as new members!) this semester.

Vancouver’s Largest Clothing Swap

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In early October, we held a huge clothing swap in CIRS. Hundreds of students attended and swapped more than a thousand items of clothing in just a few hours – a major wardrobe revamp that’s both free and sustainable! At the clothing swap, our friends at UBCC350 also held a brownie sale to raise funds for the Pull Together campaign . Thank you to everyone who volunteered. We couldn’t have pulled this off without you!

UBC Pulls Together: A FUNdraising Event!

Seven student organizations at UBC partnered together to host a fundraiser for the Pull Together campaign, to support First Nations’ legal battles against the Kinder Morgan pipeline project. We had a wonderful evening at Seedlings with delicious food, DIY crafts, raffle prizes and live music from The Stranded Assets, Sashka Warner, and Traffik. Thank you to everyone who attended and donated to this cause.

Common Energy’s Big Teams

Last term, we held two Big Team events, at the end of October and November, both with lots of delicious vegan food. Our Big Teams are a chance for members of our 5 teams to get together, as well as anyone else in the UBC community who cares about climate change or sustainability. This year, we had more than 40 students at each of our Big Teams, and lots of newcomers each time! Our first Big Team featured a lively debate on the politics of building pipelines. Our second Big Team included a presentation and roundtable dialogue with UBC delegates from the COP23 conference in Bonn, Germany, on the effectiveness of international treaties in addressing climate change. Stay tuned for our Big Teams this semester!BT 2

COP23 1

Zero Waste: Consuming Differently


Common Energy teamed up with Sprouts and EUS to run a Zero Waste workshop covering everything from zero waste philosophy to actual DIY projects to take home. The event was SOLD OUT quickly, and the demand was unbelievable! We had more than 800 people interested in attending on Facebook, and we’re thrilled to see the level of interest in pursuing a zero waste lifestyle. We’ll be having another Zero Waste workshop this term, for anyone who missed out last time.


Sustainability Careers Night

An annual partnership between Common Energy and Embark Sustainability from SFU, we hosted a careers night featuring professionals working in social sustainability, ranging from small start-ups and non-profits, to large-scale organizations. This event also sold out quickly – it’s clear that more and more young people are focused on incorporating sustainability into their future careers!





What better way to conclude a great semester and celebrate the UBC sustainability community’s hard work, than by sipping hot chocolate, enjoying live music, and games and activities outdoors?! Winterfest brought together all 5 of our teams (each of them had a fantastic booth!), and hundreds of UBC students in a celebration of sustainability  and community at the end of November. Thank you to all the team members that worked so hard on the displays, photo booth and activities. (A special shout-out to two Common Energy coordinators who took the lead on organizing this event – Ganimul Singh and Natasha Harland!) Check out photos from Winterfest here!



We look forward to another amazing semester of sustainability on campus. Thank you for all your love and support.


Minimalist May: Week 1

Week 1: The Inventory

Melanie Chanona, Common Energy member

So far so good! Although I can easily admit that it was pretty tricky at first to get to 33… I managed to pick 38 items without too much trouble, but it was a real challenge to scratch the final five! But, I bit the bullet and managed to stash away 1 more scarf, 1 pair of jeans, 1 belt, 1 tank top, and 1 pair of shoes. The good news is I haven’t missed anything so far! It’s also kind of nice to just look at one shelf of clothing for all your options. What I found most intimidating is actually going through all my closets/drawers and doing a complete inventory of all my clothing. Even though we have a specific goal for May, I figured it was as good a time as ever to throw everything I own onto my bed (see pic). To say the least – I was a little overwhelmed! (although I think my pup enjoyed nesting in the middle :)). After totalling it all up, I came to 192 items (see pic). And that’s coming from a person who really didn’t think they had a lot of clothes, and someone who goes shopping barely once a year.

All the clothes I own piled on my bed, plus a very happy dog.

From this process, some stand out items were: 11 baggy t-shirts (although I rock climb about 2 or 3x a week, and do not usually come out smelling like roses, this still felt a little embarrassingly excessive!), 8 bracelets (I can’t remember the last time I wore a bracelet), 4 pairs of heels (do I even know how to walk in heels??), and 11 scarves (okay, I do in fact really like wearing scarves…all the time…).

Things I will not miss.

On the bright side, I really enjoyed looking through everything and realizing how much I could pare down with minimal effort. I was quickly able to make a sizeable pile of stuff I was sure I would not miss (see pic). Then, I made another list (I’m a little addicted to making lists…), and was able to come up with my first attempt at an ideal “pare down number” based on what I think I really need. Encouragingly this reduced my current total by over half! While yes, 90 is still very far from 33 if I wanted to make a permanent capsule wardrobe switch, I believe there’s nothing wrong with baby steps 🙂

My 33 items!!

So – here is my final lists for the month of May!
1 – rain jacket
1 – leather jacket
1 – light jacket (to go with dresses, etc)
1 – sweatshirt
4 – t-shirts
4 – longsleeves
5 – tank tops
1 – shrug
3 – dresses (2 casual, 1 professional)
2 – jeans
3 – shorts (2 short, 1 long)
1 – skirt
3 – “accessories” (1 scarf, 2 necklaces)
3 – shoes (birkenstocks, fancy sandals, boots)

I did say I love making lists….

I Forgot About the Rain….

Ana Gargollo, Common Energy Director 2016/2017

Week 1 has flown by! The hardest part of the challenge was definitely deciding what to keep and what to store away; the rest has been easier than I thought. I found that I’m having an easier time getting ready in the mornings and choosing an outfit, since my choices are so limited and I like every one of them. While I can be a mess sometimes and just pile my clothes on a chair, this week I found myself actually putting everything away right after I used it. It simply seems less daunting to put things away, as there are only three places for my clothes to go: my 1 shelf, 5 hangers or the laundry basket.

Speaking of laundry, that is one thing I struggled with. I usually put it off as much as possible and have clothes to last me one month. With only 33 items, however, I am running out of clothes sooner. This has made me think about the overall impact of this project and, in turn, a minimalist lifestyle. If I were to live like this all the time, I would need less and buy less, but I would wear and wash the clothes that I did have more often. This would not only mean more water, energy and detergent, but also my clothes getting older and getting to their useful end sooner. I’ll definitely be doing more research into this!

When I was choosing my 33 items, I spent hours going through my closet and thought I considered everything from weather to choice. Turns out, I forgot about the rain and the fact that I now work at the UBC Farm and will be outdoors a lot. The day of my orientation, I woke up to relentless rain and knew it would not stop. I decided to wear my hiking boots (which were technically in my list) and the raincoat and jacket I had put aside. To my surprise, my raincoat isn’t as waterproof as I thought and my jacket not as warm; I was soaked to the bone the whole day. I was too optimistic about the weather and forgot how easily I get cold; I’ve been wearing like three sweaters everyday. When I got home, I decided to exchange the flats that I had yet to use for my black boots and my thin jacket for a heavier one. Although I only used the thin jacket one week, I’ll find something else to exchange it with.


Thin jacket and flats on top, exchanged for warmer jacket and boots.

George Radner is also doing this challenge and took a different approach. He did not lay out his 33 items, but rather adds to them every day. He is very mindful about his outfit choices in the morning, and will stop choosing new things when he reaches 33. I will adjust my strategy to match his a bit more. I realized I can’t plan ahead for a month, so if I need to add anything, I’ll just exchange it for something I haven’t worn yet, like the boots for the flats.

I’m excited to see what week 2 has in store for us!