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Upcycling & Sustainable Fashion


About Me

I'm Anya Merriman, a high school senior and Ambassador Girl Scout. I've been a Girl Scout since second grade. As a junior, I earned my bronze award and knew right away I wanted to earn the silver and gold awards too.

I'll be heading to Virginia Tech in the fall and plan to major in psychology and neuroscience.


Gold Award Project

The fashion industry is a major environmental polluter throughout a garment's lifecycle - from the heavy use of petrochemical products during production to a "fast fashion" attitude that encourages consumers to replace "still good" clothing with the latest trends in fashions sending a large majority of unsold and limited use clothing to incinerators and landfills. 

That is why my project "Upcycling and Sustainable Fashion" aims to help reduce the amount of still good clothing that ends up as waste by educating and helping others to design and create new fashions from pre-owned fabrics and materials.



I chose my Gold Award project “Upcycling and Sustainable Fashion” to:

  1. Educate others about a lesser-known environmental issue and ways they can help.

  2. Learn a new life skill, machine sewing, and teach it to others.

  3. Have a positive impact on the environment.


According to the Merriam Webster dictionary fast fashion is “an approach to the designing, creating, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.”

With the help of my project advisor and team I achieved the following:

Developed the curriculum and helped lead a 2-week class on upcycling at my high school. We have a better understanding of the environmental impact of “fast fashion”, designed and created new clothing pieces from discarded clothing, and learned or improved our sewing skills. The class was such a success, my school will be offering it again next January.

Developed and led a 2-hour workshop for younger Girl Scouts in my community. They learned about fast fashion and its environmental impact, and what upcycling means. Then they took action by creating a t-shirt tote bag and dream catcher / wall art from used t-shirt fabric. I knew the class was a success when, on their own, they took left over t-shirt yarn pieces and made bracelets to give to friends!

Continue to promote my project. I will be conducting another workshop with young girls at Circle Camp this summer. The camp will then take my program and run it with the older girls.


I've also shared my program with adults at a local DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) Chapter. The DAR chapter has already committed to running the class at one of their meetings next year. And I will be sharing it with the Amherst Recreation Department, and The Souhegan Valley Boys & Girls Club.

Spread the word by developing this website that consolidates information and resources, and writing articles for local print and online news sources.

Learn More

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, fashion accounts for up to 10% of global dioxide output which is more than airline travel and shipping combined, and a fifth of the 300 million tons of plastic produced every year globally. Consulting firm McKinsey and the World Economic Forum estimate that the number of garments produced each year has at least doubled since 2000. And 87% of total fiber input used for clothing is incinerated or sent to a landfill. Options to reducing clothing waste like recycling and donating have their own issues and drawbacks. Recycling clothing is difficult because of what today's clothes are made from – complex combinations of fibers, fixtures and accessories. This makes them hard to separate so they can be effectively recycled. Sorting textiles into different fibers and material types by hand is labor intensive and slow. Mechanical methods are hindered by modern fabric blends in clothing that make it difficult for the machines to separate the different materials. Donating clothes doesn't have the positive impact most people think it will. There just isn't enough of a need for all of the unwanted clothes in people’s closets, and much of what’s donated isn’t desirable. Your trash isn't necessarily someone else’s treasure. If stains and rips/tears are found, it likely won't be donated and will end up in the trash. Clothing sent out of our country is also difficult to trash and it's believed most is disposed.

Here's an excellent documentary on the issue.

For younger kids, here is a great video explaining upcycling and how to make new items using everyday “trash” around the house.

Take Action

Fashion Upcycling has grown in popularity over the last ten years with individuals and companies. There are a lot of great ideas and programs to reduce fashion waste but many individuals are unaware and a lot more can still be done.


Here’s what you can do:

  • Start by seeking out companies that take back and repurpose their own clothing. Patagonia is a great example. Here is the link to their T-shirt Take Back Program

  • Look for and support Upcycling Fashion shops in your area. Here in Milford, NH we have an upcycled fashion shop "Mountain Girl Clothing", but she also has an online store so you can shop from anywhere

  • Search YouTube for many great videos on designing and making upcycled fashions – both sew and no-sew! Here are a few of my favorites:

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