Recognizing Island-based innovation and sustainability

Gabriola Island Recycling Organization

Being a part of something that can make a difference on a bigger scale makes me proud. It means one less onion bag hooked on a bird’s feet in the landfill.” – Judi Fisher, textile designer

Judi Fisher’s friend says she’s changing the world one stitch at a time. For residents of Gabriola Island, Judi’s passion and creativity as a designer and seamstress have become part of a larger effort to upcycle their community’s waste textile stream.Judi Fischer at work in her sewing studio.

“When I see single-use items, I see all their other uses too,” says Judi, who was one of three design winners for Relove Local, the upcycled fabric product line that is a part of C2C Threads.

C2C Threads is the latest innovative entrepreneurial project, run by the Gabriola Island Recycling Organization (GIRO) and supported by ICET, to help grow a cohort of textile entrepreneurs and reduce waste by reusing and repurposing local clothing waste.

“Gabriola has always been ahead of the curve in terms of rethinking how we use waste,” explains Michelle Kresnyak, GIRO’s General Manager. “But we needed to better understand our residents’ consumption habits to sustainably address the problem.”

After a local survey was carried out, it was clear to GIRO that their community was supportive. But determining what and how the issue would be addressed remained unclear.

“I couldn’t find a template for a circular economy textile makerspace anywhere,” says Yarrow Koontz, creator of the C2C Threads visioning document that includes a makerspace, workshop, space for production of shredded textile and textile repair work. “Today, we have the plan for a leading-edge and grassroots project. It will help revalue textile arts, reeducate on consumption and hold endless possibilities for what can be created from waste.”

An example of the infinite possibilities of repurposed textile waste is the recently invented acoustic panels. The locally-made and 100% recyclable acoustic buffers are still in the research and development phase, but Michelle hopes they will be made mostly (or entirely) from discarded polyester, which makes up 40% of Gabriola’s waste stream.

“They’re perfect for cafes, restaurants, home offices… anywhere you might need noise reverberation reduction.” says Michelle.

When the C2C Threads incubator program officially opens, in fall 2022 they expect 10-15 entrepreneurs and workshop facilitators. Participants can rent out space and equipment, while learning and collaborating from one another and experimenting on new designs. If innovative products, like the acoustic panels, and creative designers, like Judi, are examples of what’s to come, ingenuity won’t be in short supply at C2C Threads.

“(GIRO) has had to hold me back,” says Judi, who creates everything from tote bags and bowl covers to unpaper towels, everything cloths and un-sponges for Relove Local. “Being a part of something that can make a difference on a bigger scale makes me proud. It means one less onion bag hooked on a bird’s feet in the landfill.”

And while Judi’s daughters may tease her about the mounds of fabric she regularly sorts through, she remains up for the challenge and keen to create. She’s currently apprenticing her own grand-daughter and constantly fleshing out more ideas, just one stitch at a time.

The Trust contributed $50,000 to the C2C Threads – Upcycle Textile Entrepreneurs Incubator project (2021) through the Capital and Innovation program.