With Earth Day on April 22, Value Village is unveiling an art installation on Alki Beach to visually represent the impact clothing has on the environment. The 2,000 square foot pop-up piece will only be up on Friday from 8am - 7pm. We chatted with Tony Shumpert, the company’s vice president in charge of recycling initiatives, about the work and Value Village’s commitment to going green.
How did you choose the final concept for this artwork installation?
We worked with Electric Coffin, a local artist group, to bring our message of rethinking reuse to life. Like us, Electric Coffin believes in re-purposing and finding homes for used goods. The inspiration … came to us from the realization that most people are unaware of the staggering environmental impact of their clothing. We are seeking to make the connection between the often unseen environmental impact of clothing and the very visual impact of something like a hazardous waste spill. Our hope … is to empower everyone to recognize the massive impact their shopping and clothing disposal habits have on the environment and to offer them a solution: to rethink reuse.
Have you always been eco-minded in the company’s pursuits and is this an issue you are particularly passionate about?
Reuse is our reason for being and is in our DNA. Value Village has been extending the life of goods for more than 60 years. Over the years, we’ve created an entire division focused on recycling. It continues to be a huge priority. As head of the Recycling and Reuse Division, I look for innovative ways to recycle and reuse while staying true to our roots as a purpose-driven business seeking to positively impact our community.
What do you think about disposable fashion, i.e. fast fashion? Do you think this contributes to the huge amount of wasted clothes in landfills?
Today, the average American throws away about 81 pounds of clothing and textiles a year. This is up from 68 pounds a year ago. Current data shows that only 15 percent of clothing and textile waste is currently getting recycled or reused—this is a huge loss. These items could have been given a second or even third life through reuse or be re-purposed into material that is used in installation and a number of other products.
What are the next steps for Value Village after Earth Day? Any big initiatives to go green year-round, etc.?
This is just the beginning for us. In addition to this installation, we have launched our Rethink Reuse initiative to drive more awareness about clothing’s impact on the environment, encouraging people to rethink reuse. Value Village wants reuse to become as natural as recycling is to us Pacific Northwesterners. In the upcoming months, we will have more to share on this very exciting initiative.