UBC Undergraduate Research

Green Depot : Empowering the UBC Community through Textile Upcycling Frame, Mikaela; Mouzin, Sacha; Yu, Nathan 2019-04-30

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UBC Social Ecological Economic Development Studies (SEEDS) Sustainability Program Student Research Report         Green Depot: Empowering the UBC Community through Textile Upcycling Mikaela Frame, Sacha Mouzin, Nathan Yu 1University of British Columbia SCIE 420 Themes: Biodiversity, Buildings, Land  Date: April 30, 2019       Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS Sustainability Program provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student research project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore, readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Sustainability Program representative about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report”. Executive Summary  The UBC student team worked together with the UNA Green Depot and Frameworq             to establish a long-term sustainability project. A total of $1162.50 was secured via grants for               hosting community textile upcycling events at the Wesbrook Community Centre. These           events entail fixing used clothing by using recycled textiles. The pilot event takes place on               Apr. 27th, 2019, during the community’s Earth Day celebration. The funding will cover the              cost of two events, with the second event anticipated to take place at the start of September.                 During the promotion phase of the first event, a group of seniors has expressed their interest                and plans on taking over organization of this project as “sewing experts” during these events.               This involvement of the seniors would decrease the cost of hiring sewing professionals             during each event. The engagement of the seniors shows a level of empowerment that will               continue to impact the community even after the timeline of the student team’s work term. A                tracking system involving a survey was also created for the Green Depot for better in-house               tracking of the amount of waste diverted from landfills.    2 I. BACKGROUND INFORMATION  The Green Depot is a community recycling centre located at the Wesbrook            Community Centre in Wesbrook Village. The recycling services are provided free-of-charge           to the community members as well as UBC faculty, staff, and students. The Green Depot is                operated by the University Neighbourhoods Association (UNA), and its day-to-day          operations are 100% volunteer-run. Waste accepted at the Green Depot includes household            electronics, clothing & textiles, flexible plastics, foam packing blocks, batteries, carbon           monoxide & smoke alarms, ink cartridges, and light bulbs.   Figure 1​: The location of the Green Depot in relation to the University of British Columbia. The Wesbrook Place/Village on map is the community that the Green Depot is situated in. Dashed lines indicate UBC district geographic boundaries. Image adapted from: ​https://www.myuna.ca/about/ (Edited using the Preview app on MacOS) As of January 2019, the UBC Social Ecological Economic Development Studies           (SEEDS) program created a partnership between the Green Depot and our student team. Our              goal is to assess the current operations of the Green Depot and evaluate whether or not it is                  meeting the current demands of the community and maximizing its impact on diverting waste              from landfills.  3 The student team began their needs assessment by visiting their facility and evaluating             their current output methods for the recycled items. The UNA currently pays a             well-established service provider (Waste Control Services) for a monthly removal of most            plastic and electronic waste. The Green Depot partnership with PosAbilities is coming to an              end in light of the new municipal decision to remove clothing donation bins across              Vancouver (Carrigg, 2019). This decision limits PosAbilities’ operating capacity and they           can no longer offer pick-up services for the donated clothing at the Green Depot. With the                clothing bins overflowing, this was the main issue that needed to be addressed.  Another concern that was identified was the lack of an adequate tracking system for              the waste that arrives at the facility. Their current metric for measuring waste is based on the                 total weight of waste diverted from the landfill. Although efficient, this system offers no              insight into what items the facility is receiving, and the relative weight of each item category.                Furthermore, electronics and textiles that arrive at the Green Depot are not tracked at all as                they are not handled by the Waste Control Services, but rather Free Geek. A more precise                method of tracking is necessary for the collection of meaningful data that could benefit the               UNA’s management decisions in the future. Finally, there is an opportunity for the Green Depot to expand its outreach past the               Wesbrook Village, and extend more into the UBC community. The average number of all              Green Depot users per day last year was 3.3, with only 12% UBC faculty/staff/student (data               provided by UNA). Although the UBC campus has its own waste control services operated              by Building Operations, the Green Depot offers a wider range of accepted items, and has an                accessible drop-off location.     4 II. PROBLEM POSED AND RESEARCH QUESTION  The Green Depot’s mission is based on the wicked problem of recycling waste, as              there are currently no definitive formulation for the problem. The creation of waste is              prevalent in modern practices.Moreover, the overflow of wasted materials arriving at the            depot can not be localised to a particular point in the network. It is a consequence of                 emergence occurring at different points in the system, having social, economic and ecological             aspects. Waste is a societal problem that emerges from individual behaviour. The Green Depot             is first and foremost dealing with the social aspects of waste within the community. For               society to go zero-waste, a drastic paradigm shift is necessary. But in doing so, there will be                 economic strain to develop completely reusable everyday items. Until then, the Green            Depot’s hope is to raise social awareness and increase its influence so that it can educate the                 public as much as possible. The problem has ecological implications as well. I​n Canada,              landfill sites account for 38% of the total methane emissions (RCBC, 2018). ​The Green              Depot is trying to find solutions to redistribute waste in a way that minimizes its ecological                footprint. For example, broken electronics are given a second life through the collaboration             with the local tech store FreeGeek. The diversion of waste from landfills will decrease the               community’s ecological footprint. ​Collaborating with local stores rather than further          establishments also reduces the CO2 emissions linked to transportation. Finding ‘ideal’            solutions is never straightforward. A systemic view, like for all wicked problems, has to be               adopted to evaluate the actions of the Green Depot. In order to maximize the impact of the                 Green Depot, we decided to adopt a 2-pronged approach to address issues at different levels               of the system. The student team established a waste tracking system that will soon be               implemented, and organized events aimed at empowering the community via textile           5 upcycling.  III. RESEARCH AND METHODS  Tracking System Minimal tracking is currently being done by Waste Control Services (WCS) and            consists only of weighing the total amount of items diverted from the landfill, not including               clothes and electronics. Furthermore, users are currently being tracked through hand written            surveys, answering only whether they are a UNA member, UBC student, faculty or staff. The               current method is lackluster and does not encompass all the items that the Green Depot               receives. One of our project objectives was to establish the current Green Depot usage and               impact. This couldn't be done with their current tracking system.  A recycling strategy project developed for the city of London in Canada, stated that              monitoring the waste that was being recycled was a key component for their strategy (City of                London, Canada, 2014). Their monitoring system included a measure of the weight and             volume of the total waste recycled, the weight and volume of the waste recycled by category,                the weight and composition of items being shipped to landfills, as well as tracking the               call/complaints received from customers, in order to improve customer services (City of            London, Canada, 2014). Due to the limited number of volunteers at the Green Depot, we               considered that measuring the volume and composition of items in each category was beyond              the current scope of the depot. Similarly, tracking customer satisfaction seemed complex as             the Green Depot doesn’t have a phone number independent of the UNA.  After consulting with project partners, the student team suggested the implementation           of a digital survey to track the weight of items received as well as user demographics. The                 implementation of our survey is still underway. The three crucial elements for this             implementation process are: a tablet with internet access, a scale (preferably digital), and the              6 creation of a survey. For the survey, we originally decided to use the PerfectMind online               program, that allowed for user and impact tracking. However, the Green Depot does not have               free access to this system as it is not affiliated with UBC. This was not a sustainable solution                  as the Green depot could not have modified it after the end of this project. The student team                  decided to create a Google Survey that offers basic means of summarising the data collected,               accessible online (a requirement considering our limited storage capacity on the tablet) and is              straightforward to use for volunteers without previous training. Volunteers will be tasked            with filling out the weight of items per category (ie. 1.2kg of Soft Plastics) for every client                 visit. The client will fill out an optional section regarding their background. In addition, they               will have the opportunity to opt into the Green Depot’s mailing list, and apply to be a                 volunteer. This will hopefully create a strong client database for the Green Depot to perform               impact measurements. Although statistics will not be 100% reliable, these efforts will be a              major improvement to their current tracking system. The survey can be accessed using the              following link: ​https://bit.ly/2OXpY6p  In order to find a tablet and scale with limited financial resources, we decided to               contact one of Green Depot’s community partners - FreeGeek. The Green Depot has been              providing FreeGeek with used electronics for them to repair and sell. The student team              requested the donation of an old iPad and scale through their online donations platform. Their               decision process is still pending. If FreeGeek is unable to donate an iPad and/or a scale, we                 can look into purchasing one for under $100 from FreeGeek using the grants that the student                team has secured The only necessary features for the iPad is internet access to load the                survey, and a charging port.   Community Engagement via Fix It Events 7 The textile and clothing industry is a growing environmental concern due to mass             pollution (Dadi et al., 2017), depletion of natural resources such as water (Li et al., 2017), and                 excessive waste production (Yacout and Hassouna 2016, Islam et al., 2014). Global estimates             predict textile consumption amounts to more than 60 billion pounds per year (Niinimäki and              Hassi, 2011). Subsequent pre-consumer and post-consumer waste generation result in          landfills becoming exhausted (Mair et al., 2016). According to Bick et al. (2018), Americans              alone consume 3.8 billion pounds of clothing per year, approximately 85% of which ends up               in the landfill.  Extensive documentation of the ecological unsustainability of current consumption         patterns (Vitousek et al., 1986, Vitousek et al.,1997, Meadows et al., 1992, Wilson, 2002;              Schor, 2005) has yet to be adequately addressed. According to Joung and Park-Poaps (2013)              “textiles represent one of the untapped consumer commodities with strong reuse and            recycling potential” (Domina and Koch, 2002). In contrast, a ‘throwaway’ fashion attitude is             increasingly being adopted among consumer (Birtwistle and Moore, 2007), leading to the            development of frequent clothing disposal and replacement practices (Joung and Park-Poaps,           2013). Improving the longevity of clothing is increasingly becoming recognized as the most             effective means of reducing the environmental impact of the clothing industry (WRAP, 2012;             Harris et al. 2016), with mending identified as a plausible solution (König, 2013; Laitala,              2015; Gwilt, 2014, Middleton, 2014; McLaren, 2015).  To address the Green Depot’s overflowing textile donation bins and encourage UNA            and UBC community members to develop sustainable clothing maintenance and disposal           practices, the student team has arranged a collaboration with Frameworq Education Society, a             non-profit organization that shares the Green Depot’s mission to divert textile waste from the              landfill. The two organizations will tentatively collaborate on quarterly Fix-It events.  8 Frameworq’s Fix-It events resemble communal mending workshops first started in the           Netherlands in 2012, designed to address the growing concern over increasing post-consumer            waste generation (Durrani, 2018). Durrani (2018) defines communal mending workshops as,           “free spaces to people where they can come and either utilize the provided material to mend                garments, learn how to mend first-hand or get assistance in their mends while working              together with expert menders”. ​Durrani’s (2018) review of communal mending workshops           found the approach an effective means of improving consumer disposal practices by            overcoming social and time-cost-skill barriers associated with garment repair practices.          Communal workshops provide direction for changing social paradigms, necessary to offset           the wasteful culture established by the fast fashion industry and stimulate environmentally            responsible behaviour (Kilbourne et al., 2002). Repairing garments allows consumers to           reduce waste production by increasing clothing longevity, effectively challenging the culture           of overconsumption and short clothing lifespan characteristic of the fast fashion industry            (Harris et al. 2016). Providing information regarding the environment impact of unsustainable practices         alone are not enough to develop long-term sustainable habits (Abrahamse et al. 2005;             Osbaldiston and Schott 2012; Harris et al. 2016) due to the attitude-behaviour gap prevalent              in individuals with pro-environmental perspectives (Auger and Devinney 2007; Gatersleben,          Steg, and Vlek 2002; Kollmuss and Agyeman 2002; Young et al. 2010). The social              component of communal mending workshops are necessary to change participants’ disposal           habits (Abrahamse and Steg 2013). According to White (2019), “sustainable behaviors often            require collective as opposed to individual action (Bamberg, Rees, and Seebauer 2015)”.            Durrabi (2018) found social factors improved participants’ learning (Gherardi and Perrotta           2014, Lave 1998), in part attributed to the feedback received from fellow participant, which              9 in itself encourages sustainable habit formation (White 2019).  The Fix-It events will be held at the Wesbrook Community Center, around the corner              from the location of the Green Depot. Having a fixed location builds the regularity of               mending practices and is thus vital for the development of sustainable habits (Fenwick,             2015). The event’s conveniently close proximity, is also expected to encourage future use of              the Green Depot’s textile disposal services by developing the participants’ familiarity with            the facility (Koch and Domina, 1999; Joung and Park-Poaps, 2013). The events will include              two sewing experts and will otherwise be run by the Green Depot’s existing volunteers. The               first event will be combined with the UNA’s Earth Day celebration, maximizing exposure to              attending community members. Please see the timeline of the project here:           https://bit.ly/2Z0F5kc  Grant Applications for Fix-It Events - SEC The UBC Student Environment Centre (SEC) is a student organization that provides            grants for sustainability projects on campus. An application was sent in with the description              of our project, along with the budget for the Fix-It Event. The organization responded              positively to our project idea, but was concerned about the distance from the Nest of our first                 event (held at the Wesbrook Community Center). After an in-person meeting between the             SEC, our student team, as well as our community partner at the Green Depot, we were able to                  secure $600.00 for our pilot event. The SEC has also requested for subsequent events to be                held on campus (most likely in the AMS Nest) to increase student accessibility.  - AMS Sustainability The sustainability department at the UBC Alma Mater Society offers Student           Initiative Grants that aim to financially support student-led sustainability initiatives on           10 campus and in the community. An application was sent in with the description of our project,                along with the budget for the Fix-It Event. After a 3-week process, $562.50 was granted by                the AMS Funds Committee.  Overall, a total amount of $1162.50 has been secured for the project. This amount will               not only cover the fees for the first event, but also ensures the continuity of the idea by                  funding a second event as well. If the events are successful, the student team hopes to secure                 a sustainable source of funding from the two aforementioned organizations for future years.             Frameworq has already expressed their commitment to continue providing their services for            us and decrease their prices once an established annual timeline is finalized. A breakdown of               the event budget can be seen at this link: ​https://bit.ly/2U3ct68  IV. PROJECT OUTCOMES The first Fix-It Event is scheduled to take place during the Earth Day celebration hosted by the UNA. The community partner believed that this would attract the most community members to the event. With $1162.50 secured, we are able to host a second event within 3-4 months. This would allow us to make adjustments to maximize the effectiveness of the initiative. Our community partner and SEEDS Coordinator have both expressed gratitude for the efforts of the student team and all parties are looking forward to the event. Textile waste has yet to be addressed at UBC and this event will be the first of its kind to be hosted in the community. The two key performance indicators that will be tracked are the attendance of the event, and the weight of clothing repaired. During the event, the student team will also aim to promote the purpose of the Green Depot through handing out pamphlets and recycled grocery bags (provided by the Green Depot).  V. DISCUSSION 11 The mission for this CBEL project was to devise a solution to maximize the impact of                the Green Depot. ​After conducting a thorough needs assessment, the student team decided to              address the overflowing bin of clothing and developing an effective tracking system. Through             our Fix-It Events and the implementation of our survey, we hope to engage both the               Wesbrook Community as well as the UBC campus community. Throughout the duration of             this project, the student team learned more about how the Green Depot functions on a               day-to-day basis, and discovered some areas worth discussing: Volunteers Relying on volunteers comes with a number of challenges. It restricts the potential             scope of the Green Depot, makes the impact measurement less reliable thereby making it              harder to secure funding. Most importantly, it comes with the constant uncertainty and stress              associated with searching for reliable volunteers. Although most volunteers come from the            adjacent high school (University Hill Secondary), their turnover rate is high and the hours of               operations change with the after-school availability of the students. In order to provide a              reliable service, a set schedule needs to be established. This can be achieved through working               with the school administration to develop a set schedule for the volunteers to come in               everyday, regardless of the school term. As an incentive for students, the school can offer               school credits for this after-school program.  More Collaborations with On-Campus Organizations The student team intends on extending the reach of the Green Depot by raising              awareness though Fix-It events. However, other incentives could be put in place to bring              people to the depot. A membership/stamp card, for example, could be implemented with a              reward once a client dropped a certain amount of items. Moreover, finding other collaborative              partners could be beneficial. A number of items (such as decorative items) are being dropped               12 off despite not being part of the “accepted items” list. Finding a way to collaborate with AMS                 Free Store or another store to give these away, and to extend the reach, could be an option.   VI CONCLUSION A total of $1162.50 in funding was secured for Fix-It events. The continuity of this project has been ensured through the funding as well as the engagement of the seniors of the community. The student team plans on continuing to help plan and organize future Fix-It events and applying to grants whenever available to provide consistent funding for the project. The tracking system will improve the Green Depot’s abilities to analyze their user demographic, as well as their impact on reducing landfill waste.  13 REFERENCES Abrahamse, Wokje and Linda Steg (2013), “Social Influence Approaches to Encourage Resource Conservation: A Meta-Ana- lysis,” Global Environmental Change, 23 (6), 1773–85. 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