Monthly Archives: April 2012

Nails & screws!

Home Re-Use-Ables has entire boxes of new nails and screws, of varying sizes, being sold for half the retail price!

Taking advantage of surpluses like this is also smart! Waste not, want not.

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The Joy of Clothing Swaps

Every couple of months or so, my friends and I get together and have a clothing swap. The way it works is simple: Everybody brings some articles of clothing that they never wear, we put them all in piles (shirt pile, dress pile, etc) and then we POUNCE!

There are always extra garments left over, and usually these either go to subsequent swaps or donated to Goodwill.

If you’re about to work on a show (probably a modern piece), it would be a great idea to hold a clothing swap and grab what you can for it…. and then grab some stuff for yourself!
The extra clothes can be saved for future projects, donated, or cut up and used as anything else you can think of.




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What To Recycle, Where to Recyle, and Why

WHY: I honestly feel a little weird talking about “why” to recycle, when it just seems so obvious that it’s an important and smart thing to do. However, I will attempt to do just that without erupting into passionate babble about how everybody needs to recycle all the time (although, really, it should be that way).
Why recycle? The Earth needs it. Humans are creating waaaayyy too much waste for the environment to handle, and we are rapidly running out of space and resources.
Now, really, the most important thing one can do, especially in a theatre context, is try to REDUCE the amount of waste being created. In his great little manifesto of sorts, ‘How to Go Green,’ ( theatre practicioner Mike Lawler talks about small and big ways a theatre company can become more environementally conscious. His first point is to “keep the word REDUCE in mind.”
He later states:

    “Part of the problem may be our fear of limiting the artistic process. No artistic director in the world wants to tell his or her creative teams to limit themselves in order that they may reduce the waste generated by their productions. But, is there a time that artists must step forward and play a role in change, rather than merely using what they may to comment on it? Reducing the use of non-recyclable materials alone would go a long way in reducing a theater’s waste. Conceiving of a way to reuse and store (safely–perhaps off site) scenery would be another” (Lawler).

Try to create a show using all reclaimed materials, or reuse elements in multiple shows (flats can be repainted, etc). Think about ways to light a show without using 100 lights. It saves money, time, resources, and your conscience!


The City of Edmonton has a great recycling program that, in the near future, hopes to divert 90% of waste from landfills. Amazing!

The Edmonton Waste Management Centre is the largest of its’ kind in America. It has a Materials Recovery Facility for recycling, a Composting Facility, an Electronic Waste Facility, a Landfill Gas Recovery System, a Waste Drop-Off Station, and much more. They also give tours of their facilities. More information can be found on the City of Edmonton website:

    The City of Edmonton website has a very big section on Garbage and Recycling, including info on how to compost, recycle grass and leaves from your yard, where to find Eco Stations, a recycling info page, and information on garbage collection. The following paragraph will go into detail about some of these services; the URL for all of this is

Another fun feature on the City of Edmonton website is the Reuse & Recycling Directory. Type in whatever you need to get rid of, and it’ll tell you where you can drop it off. It will list recycling stations as well as shelters and community associations that you can donate items to. You can access the search engine at the bottom of this page:

ECO STATIONS: There are three Eco Stations in Edmonton: one in Ambleside, one in Coronation, and one in Strathcona. These buildings are a place where one can bring in household hazardous waste (which includes paint, motor oil, batteries, herbicide, lightbulbs, cleaners, etc), electrical appliances (toasters, old computer monitors, power tools, etc), old sofas and other furniture, and just normal recyclables (paper, cans, old clothes, etc)! You can also take home some free paint and bags of compost mixture. If you have old, broken props, leftover building supplies, or even a drill that won’t work anymore, take it to an Eco Station!

REUSE CENTRE: I’ll be singing this place’s praises more later when I talk about props; this place is the BEST! It’s at 10004 103A Avenue- easy to get to as it’s downtown and very close to Churchill station and many bus stops. It’s open Tuesdays through Saturdays and accepts donations of many kinds. The best part though is that for five dollars, you can grab a box and fill it with whatever you want. You can get craft supplies, old books, CDs, VHSes, and tapes, as well as photo albumbs, trophies, puzzles and games, fabric, containers, cards, paper, and so much more. Their list of accepted donations is huge!
Visit the website at:
(And if you love it enough, you can volunteer there and get dibs on awesome stuff!)

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This is a list of all of the websites I use in my paper and on the website. Good luck.










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Links to Awesome Things : This is a blog run by the fabulous Ann Salmonson from the Timms Wardrobe Departmen. Ann is currently completing her degree in Human Ecology and her focus is on Textiles. Ann is also one of the coolest ladies I know. She has a recent entry about the 3D body scanning/pattern drafting technology that she got for the Wardrobe Department. The program is able to scan a person’s body and use an AutoCAD program to upload it onto a computer, where you can virtually draft a pattern to perfectly fit a person. This eliminates the need for fabric and supplies for making mock-ups of costumes. Her blog also has topics ranging from upcycling and recycling to the textile industry’s issues, and much more! A fun read! – Aside from the amazing header on the homepage (a green elephant in fancy boots?!), this website has been a helpful resource for me. There are many links to other websites and initiatives, including a Carbon Calculator especially for theatre (, information on LEED certification (, and miscellaneous articles on the topic of sustainable theatre. – This is an awesome article about my dream workplace, the Portland Centre Stage (PCS). Additional info about their venue, located in an old armory, is on their website ( The company is housed in a building that is one of only 25 LEED-Platinum certified buildings in the world, and it has features like water-reclamation tanks, natural ventilation, the use of skylight windows in administrative and lobby areas instead of actual lights, 95% of waste diverted from landfills or recycled, and so much more. Their seats are upholstered with fabric made of recycled pop bottles. They use recycled paint whenever possible and have banned the use of spray paint. Their lobby is also open to the public during the day as a place to have lunch at their cafe or just hang out. Excuse me while I swoon a bit. – A little bit unrelated, but this website is still very important. It has research on sweatshops, sweatfree shopping, possible solutions, and education (including art and film). – This is a fun video about the culture of materialism that we live in, and how in order to improve our quality of life, we need to stop thinking about “the good life” as “the goods life.” – This website details a standard developed for textile manufacturing. It values environmental and social responsibility. – This is an article about the Whitney Museum in American Art’s new all-LED lighting system in their new gallery, currently being built in the meatpacking district in Manhattan. “Senior consultant Steven Rust, our lighting system designer for the Whitney says, “We had an opportunity to take advantage of the leaps in technology in LED theatrical lighting. We compared the cost of standard stage lighting distribution to an all-LED based system. The LED system requires one quarter the number of hard-wired circuits due to their lower power consumption and on-board dimming. This reduction in circuits and the associated installation cost, is what tipped the scale in favor of LEDs and offset the higher cost of the LED fixtures.”” this company designs theatre venues all over the world. They were the company working on the completely LED theatre mentioned above. – This website has been pretty quiet for the past few years, but the articles and pieces within it are pretty interesting and still relevant (in my humble opinion). – The National Theatres’ Trust is located in the United Kingdom and is dedicated to promoting the value of theatres. The Ecovenue is a project that aims to improve the sustainability and reduce the carbon emissions of 48 different theatres in London. – This is an awesome concept that is also being implemented in Los Angeles and Toronto, Set Exchange is like Kijiji for theatre sets. If you have set pieces, props, or costumes that you don’t need, put it up on the message board. If you’re looking for a specific item, place it as a Wanted ad, and someone may be able to help you! – Green Maven is a search engine that specifically searches through “green” websites. For example, when I search “theatre,” I get a link to a theatre in London made of entirely reclaimed materials, links to Sustainable Design Innovation, and information on the Long Now Theatre, part of a foundation that hopes to “to creatively foster long-term thinking and responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years.” Pretty cool!

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Laundering and Dry Cleaning

Laundering costume pieces every day- especially on a large show- naturally use up lots of water and energy. Try to use machines that have the Energy Star Label. Energy Star is the Canadian rating system for energy-efficiency standards for many different appliances, as well as building systems, lighting, electronics, and more. According to their website, “Standard-size clothes washers must be at least 59 percent more efficient than the minimum federal energy performance standard in Canada’s Energy Efficiency Regulations to qualify for the Energy Star mark… Energy Star qualified clothes washers must have advanced design features that deliver cleaning performance while using less energy and 35 to 50 percent less water. The washer extracts more water from clothes during the spin cycle. This reduces the drying time, saves energy and wear and tear on your clothes.”


More information can be found here:

In terms of soap, it’s a good idea to stay away from conventional detergents because of the amount of chemicals in them that can cause anything from irritated skin to a damaged immune system, and are obviously awful for the planet in general. There are tons of different “green” and “eco-friendly” brands out there. A couple of brands I’ve researched and/or used myself that work well are Seventh Generation (, and Ecos Liquid Laundry Detergent ( Ecologo is a third-party certification program for environmentally-sound products, and they list many different types of bleaches and laundry detergents on their website ( Another option is to make your own laundry detergent. Here is an easy recipe using baking soda, borax, and natural soap:

“Green” detergents are gaining in popularity and many can be purchased in places like Planet Organic and Earth’s General Store as well as large grocery stores and Shopper’s Drug Mart. Here is a fun article about experimenting with different eco-detergents:


            Often, costume pieces can’t simply be thrown in the washer with everything else, so they are taken to the drycleaners. Simply put, dry cleaning is BAD. The process uses tons of chemicals, most notably tetrachloroethylene/PERC. PERC can cause dizziness, headaches, sleepiness, confusion, nausea, difficulty in speaking and walking, unconsciousness, and death. PERC is also linked to menstrual problems and spontaneous abortions in females working in dry cleaning. On top of all this, there is a bit of research pointing to it being a carcinogen. And not only is it harmful to workers, but residual PERC left on clothes can continue to off-gas onto costumers, actors, etc. Yuuuuuck!

            A solution to dry cleaning garments is a process called “wet cleaning” which customizes cleaning procedures for each garment. Wet cleaning uses computer-controlled washers and dryers and special mild detergents that can be used on many different types of fabric. Gentle agitation is created using tiny air bubbles or ultrasonic sound waves (I know, right?) instead of mechanical agitation to remove stains. The garments can be pressed as usual after the wet cleaning process. A case study conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency can be found here:

“CO2 cleanings” takes gaseous form of CO2 and pressurizes it into a clear liquid. Add soap and clothes and ta da! They are clean! A case study about CO2 cleaning can be found here:



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Thread, Needles, Etc.

I get almost all of my thread, buttons, zippers, and more from places like the Reuse Centre and Value Village. They often sell bags of unused thread of all colors for very cheap prices (less than five dollars). The same goes for buttons and zippers! If you need more specific or specialized materials, however, it’s best to look online. Here are a few different places to look:

   Near Sea Naturals sells thread made of organic cotton in many different colors, thicknesses, and spool sizes. They also sell buttons made of wood, nuts, glass, and even “naturally dropped” antler! Most of the ribbons, lace, and stuffing is organic cotton or hemp. This website also sells natural fabric and has a very big FAQ page. Transparency! This particular link leads to Peace Silk Thread, which is silk thread made in a small Indian fair-trade mill. The company, Aurora Silk, also sells some pretty cool-looking natural dyes that are apparently very vibrant and not harmful like traditional dyes. And it’s all fair trade!


   Fiberactive Organics sells all sorts of colourful, organic cotton thread. They will also create custom-coloured thread at no extra charge.

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Renting Costume Pieces

Renting costumes is like reducing and reusing at once! Here are a few places you can rent garments:

–       Timms Centre for the Arts

–       Citadel Theatre

–       Theatre Garage

–       About Face Mascots ( – 6836 82 Avenue- they rent out costumes and mascot outfits too… I’m sure there are plays that have mascots in them. The website recommends you pre-book costumes 2-4 week in advance.

Here is a fact sheet about textile recycling!

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Second-hand clothes & surplus fabrics

If you don’t have the time, money, or desire to order online, another option is to scour the following:


– Reuse Centre often has many scrap pieces of fabric that are organized by colour.

– Value Village is always a safe bet to find old fabric or costume pieces. Also, three words: After Halloween Sales.

– Goodwill, Salvation Army, and other consignment stores are often less expensive than Value Village, which means they are MEGA CHEAP!

– Caprice West ( is a store in the west end of Edmonton. They sell consignment womens’ clothes!

– Red Pony (located on Whyte avenue, near 102 street) has a great selection of modern consignment garments, as well as pretty formal dresses, jewelery, and some men’s wear too.

–  Vintage shops like Divine Decadence are a bit more selective in what they sell, and therefore a bit more expensive. However, there are still a ton of possibilities and you’re more likely to find a rare gem of a garment at these shops than while sifting through old snow pants and t-shirts at other consignment shops.

– It may also pay off to visit the costume shops of larger regional theatres for extra fabric that they may be willing to give away or sell at a reduced rate.

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When designing and building costumes sustainably, it’s important to not only consider what the play needs, but also how to get what you want in an environmentally and ecologically sound way… and by that, I mean things like:

           – Buy organically!

           – Buy second-hand!

           – Purchase surplus fabric!

           – Borrow!


Sourcing Fabrics


Buying organic fabric is one way to ensure minimal harm to the Earth when crafting amazing costumes. Here is an article on what exactly organic fabric is, and what standards need to be met for it to be considered so:

Essentially, in order for fabric to be organic, the production, processing, distribution, and sales of the product must keep the organic integrity that begins at the farm. For a crop to be considered organic, it needs to have a low impact on the environment as well as maintain the soil’s fertility and use minimal chemicals and pesticides. More information on organic textile standards can be found here:


There are small organic sections at places like Fabricland, but, unfortunately, you’ll either have to travel to Portland or take to the Internet to find the best selection of organic fabric. Seeing as flying around isn’t exactly good for the environment, and also expensive, here are a few websites I found that offer a decent selection:

  sells organic cotton with very cute designs.


  This website sells organic cotton, hemp, linen and blends of natural fabrics (silk, bamboo, wool, soy, and more). It is quite reasonably priced- all of their fabrics are between $5.00 and $13.00 per yard and cutting/handling/shipping is $9 per order. The only stipulation is that ten or more yards must be purchased, so it is probably a good idea to order fabric for costume mockups or projects that will need a lot of material.


Edmonton fabric stores:

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