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At 'Trashion Night' students spotlight recycling

Nancy Judd shows off her fashions at the

Nancy Judd shows off her fashions at the Town of North Hempstead "Trashion Show." (Jan. 9, 2013) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Most sauntered -- one shimmied -- down the catwalk. One girl wore a dress made from a lampshade, arranged, by decoupage, with newspaper clippings. Another sported a top bound by playing cards.

Cameras flashed and lights beamed at the "Yes We Can" Community Center in New Cassel, staged as a runway.

The so-called "Trashion Night" -- sponsored by North Hempstead Town -- showcased apparel and accessories crafted by elementary, middle and high school students -- from recycled materials, such as Capri Sun packages and place mats.

The event, held Wednesday, was a marquee one for the town, which has sought in recent years to reduce its solid waste sent to its landfills.

The celebration, in which students from 11 private schools and public school districts participated, highlighted the challenge officials and educators face generating excitement about recycling.

In 2008, "the schools were not recycling," said Fran Reid, the town's chief sustainability officer. Town officials brainstormed, held several conferences and arranged for the installation of recycling bins in nine of the town's 11 districts' classrooms and offices.

The program has generated revenue from the sale of some of its recycled materials, which is used to keep the program running, she said.

Lior Cole, a sixth-grader at Great Neck North Middle School, who wore the lampshade dress adorned with a bicycle chain, said learning about recycling was drab before she began making dresses out of recyclables.

"You'd have a recycling bin, we'd bring caps into science class, but I never thought people would make things out of the caps," said Lior, who wants to become a fashion designer.

Van Dyk Lewis, a professor of fiber science and apparel design at Cornell University, said making clothes through school is "unique . . . If anything, it pricks the conscience. If we can start to incorporate those pieces in our wardrobes, we've taken the next step as a community to appreciate the castoff."

"You have to be creative," Reid said. "Besides just 'reduce, reuse, recycle,' " a popular recycling slogan.

Since the initiative launched, Reid said, schools have produced about 15 percent less garbage.

Reid said she was inspired to host the "Trashion Show" after seeing Nancy Judd, an eco-friendly fashion designer, at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in August. She was there with 21 of her garments, which Judd describes as "trash-couture."

Judd, the night's emcee, has made a career of her designs -- one of which, a man's winter coat compiled of Obama campaign door hangers, is part of the Smithsonian's permanent collection.

An environmental educator, Judd has visited schools across the country to promote sustainability. The challenge, she says, is to make the "message last more than a minute."

"I think images of their garment stick," she said. "Really making that link to a change in behavior that is substantial is always a challenge, so it's not just superficial."

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