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Makers

The Environmental Seamstress

The Environmental Seamstress

"People either get really turned off or really turned on by the the whole aspect of being environmentally friendly," says Christine Arnold. "But it's not like tomorrow you need to stop drinking from a plastic water bottle or stop using straws. Change comes from a lot of people making really small changes every day.  So my mission is to help people on their journey to make less of an impact and to try and not be Earth jerks (Haha)" 
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Growing up in the Finger Lakes region, Christine has been sewing since the age of 7 - influenced by sewing neighbors and the surrounding Mennonite and Amish communities. But it wasn't until she volunteered a few years ago at a place called SewGreen Rochester - which focused on keeping fabrics out of landfills - that she realized the fashion industry's impact on the environment. "In the Fashion Industry people use clothes and then throw them away. Or they'll keep it for a season and then that's it."
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Now a "zero waste seamstress," Christine operates with recycled and upcycled fabric out of her home studio in Farmingdale. With the use of six sewing machines (dubbed "The Fleet"), and a hand operated cutting table, she churns out colorful, reusable items mostly designed for the kitchen - Napkins, Sponges, Sandwich Bags, UnPaper Towels. "I think if you tracked your waste you'd find the most in your kitchen. And that was the thought process - let's look at disposable items and try to create reusable items. Not only does it help with your monthly budget - just wash them with your regular laundry when you're done - but it's more exciting for a kid to bring a colorful sandwich bag to school than a piece of plastic. And think about how many rolls of paper towels the average family purchases over the course of a year. Probably a lot. Every single one of those paper towels comes from a tree that's been treated with a lot of bleach and chemicals involved in the process."
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Sourcing most of her fabrics from recycle and upcycle establishments, Christine only works with natural plant based fibers - Cotton, Linen, Hemp, Hessian. "Anytime you wash a Polyester or Polyurethane based material it creates micro plastics. They don't get filtered out by your washer and dryer and end up going into the Ocean and waterways." And everything gets repurposed into something else. Leftover pieces of fabric from her Sandwich bags can be repurposed into nail polish removers or for fabric needed in Children's Hospitals like a button cover on a gastrointestinal tube. "A lot of my licensed characters and superheros I'll try to cut up and use for something like that because that little bit of familiarity can really make a kid happy when they're stuck in the hospital."
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"I think there are people who are really starting to take these things seriously. I did the Babylon Farmers Market over the summer and there were a lot of people that were really interested in learning more about being eco friendly and starting that transition. It's about everyone doing a little bit. Just starting out small makes a huge impact. On Long Island there's definitely a forward thinking mind and the education is just waiting to be heard."