re-telling climate change stories

Recycled Runway Challenges Colorado’s Youth

Designing Eco-Friendly Haute Couture


Now in its eighth year, The Common Threads Creative Lab’s Recycled Runway has become a staple event for the community’s fashionable and eco-conscious youth. During Tuesday’s sold-out show, more than 30 young designers strutted the stage at The Boulder Theater, wearing outfits made of freezer bags, parts of old shoes, suitcase lining and sunglass lenses. Flashes of silvery braces lit up the room as the middle and high school students proudly showed dozens of screaming fans what had taken each of them months to create. “The girls really grow through this process,” said attendee, Laurie Snyder. “It has meant a lot to Olivia to have the support of her friends, the mentors in the program and her teachers at Centennial Middle School.” Snyder’s daughter, Olivia, won Best Design for her ensemble, a look inspired by the most recent Victoria’s Secret runway show that she used bike tubes and wire from an old fence to create.

Recycled Runway is an independent study workshop and fashion competition for middle and high school students, grades 6 through 12. Common Threads’ Creative Lab provides mentors for the students to teach them the basics of making the garments and guide them through issues that may arise. Other than that, the students are on their own to conceptualize and create the elaborate garments we saw at Tuesday’s show. Many of the students start planning and collecting materials a year ahead of time, carefully considering what they use and how they alter it. Designers who decide to color their garments even use thoughtful choices when it comes to dye. Holly Shafroth, an 8th grader from Casey Middle School, used turmeric to dye her dress, and Sydney Canova, a 7th grader from Casey Middle School who won Runner-Up, used recycled paint she got from the local hazardous waste disposal site to color the dryer sheets on her dress. Additionally, the Recycled Runway program donates the net profit generated from the show to a local nonprofit annually. This year, the recipient was Attention Homes, an organization that is dedicated to providing youth and young adults ages 12 to 24 with the ability to live independently. The organization’s services include shelter, community-based living and education about life skills.

This year is especially exciting, as it marks the first time the event was a collaboration with the University of Colorado Boulder. Students from a Creative Climate Communications class led by associate professor Max Boykoff from the Environmental Studies program and associate professor Beth Osnes from the Department of Theatre and Dance interviewed Recycled Runway designers, documented their work and created a presentation and short film. “We were prompted to engage in this collaboration because Recycled Runway has clearly been a treasure in Boulder over the past eight years, empowering young adults through these connections between design and consumer waste,” said Boykoff. “Connecting students from the Creative Climate Communications class with RR8 designers helps everyone involved to better understand varying perspectives and motivations that bring them together to creative and multi-modal expressions of climate change and the environment.”