Next week is Earth Day, and the state of Virginia will be celebrating with educational events and service projects. Year round, however, environmental solutions have inspired creative businesses around Richmond. Three of them are run by women, who have successfully managed to merge creativity and entrepreneurship.
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Scrap RVA

In the neighborhood of Northside, Richmond, Virginia, Scrap RVA Director Amy Turner is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling shelves full of art supplies and strange craft materials.

"Canvas frames, oil pastels, acrylic...feathers, googly eyes, glitter..."

Scrap RVA Director Amy Turner

These are just some of the materials, among them keys, bottle caps, baby crib-bumpers, circuit boards, and other forgotten machinery parts.
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"We have the weavers, the crocheters, knitters, quilters, the jewelry people, the fine artists. It's amazing the collection of people that we can hit every single spectrum in the art world."

Scrap RVA Director Amy Turner

The non-profit store is donation based. This allows it to provide a wide range of supplies at a low cost.

"It saves money. It keeps everything out of the landfill, keeps it moving. And it's an adventure; it's a treasure hunt and it's a win-win for everybody."

Scrap RVA Director Amy Turner

In 2017, Virginia generated nearly eight million tons of waste—that's about 2,000 pounds per person! According to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, only about 40 percent of this is recycled! Scrap RVA is doing their part to increase that number. Last month, residents donated almost 4,000 pounds worth of supplies!

"That's two tons of waste—things that are kept out of the landfill."

Scrap RVA Director Amy Turner

Top Stitch Mending

Lisa Hutchinson started Top Stitch Mending in 2016. She works out of the foyer of her home, where two long tables hold all of her sewing supplies. Underneath, are bags filled with scraps of thread and fabric. Hutchinson uses every bit of material she collects.

"I do anything from a missing button all the way to vintage restorations and alterations are always sprinkled in the mix. Anything on its last leg or in between just to keep it in circulation."

Top Stitch Mending CEO Lisa Hutchinson

Hutchinson utilizes her platform to promote repurposing clothing that can't be fixed. She also aims to raise awareness of the dangers of "fast fashion."
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"When something's damaged it's not the end of it's life. We've had a lot of disposable clothing produced in the last, well 20 or so years. And the faster it gets, the easier it gets damaged."

Tom Stitch Mending CEO Lisa Hutchinson

So far, Hutchinson pays a few of her friends to help her with the mending, but she hopes to someday expand her business, providing more jobs.

Recycled Yarn

"My name is Misti Nolen and I recycle 100% natural fiber sweaters back into yarn."

Recycled Yarn CEO Misti Nolen

In her studio, Misti Nolen carefully threads a string of yarn around the pegs on her loom. What was once a sweater sleeve becomes a bundle of yarn known as a skein.

After graduating from Richmond's Virginia Commonwealth University's art school, Nolen couldn't find sustainably sourced yarn anywhere in the city.

"I did a little experiment and found a men's large chunky L.L. Bean wool sweater, took it home, unraveled it, and ended up with like 1 or 2,000 yards of yarn."

Recycled Yarn CEO Misti Nolen

Through trial and error, Nolen learned what goes into making both industrial and handmade garments, and how to efficiently unravel them.

"I think of it as kind of like rescuing a piece from the vicious cycle of fast fashion."

Recycled Yarn CEO Misti Nolen

She recycles both plant and animal fibers, including flax, linen, cotton, and wool. She also works with rare fibers, such as silk, camel hair, angora, and alpaca.

"It's a responsible practice for fiber artists. It's respectful to the animals and plants these fibers came from and it's a good use of earth's resources."

Recycled Yarn CEO Misti Nolen

Nolen sells her yarn on Etsy. On this website, she's been able to connect with people in the sustainability movement, both locally and worldwide.

"I love engaging with my community and sharing my sustainable initiative in local small craft show settings. But online enables me to connect with people I wouldn't meet otherwise."

Recycled Yarn CEO Misti Nolen

In Virginia, more than 13,000 tons of textiles were recycled in 2017! Nolen herself has recycled over half a million yards of yarn! This would stretch almost all the way from Richmond, Virginia, to Trenton, New Jersey!