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Savers

I went through my closet the other day. The amount of jeans I own is slightly absurd, and I have a feeling that’s pretty typical.

The denim industry is a huge one. Worldwide, over 1 BILLION pairs of jeans are sold each year.


Image via Chris RubberDragon/Flickr.

That denim demand isn’t easy on the environment. It takes 1,800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to make a single pair of jeans. And that doesn’t even account for the water used to make and distribute them! The State of the Apparel Sector reports that the full water footprint for a single pair of jeans is about 2,866 gallons. Yes, that’s a lot.

Now, while our planet is made primarily of water, we’ve seen time and time again that it’s not a resource to be taken lightly — National Geographic points out that “in essence, only 0.007 percent of the planet's water is available to fuel and feed its 6.8 billion people.” Yikes.

And according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average American tosses about 80 pounds of textiles annually. Given how many jeans are sold each year, you can bet they make up a significant portion of that waste.

Image via Adam Levine/Flickr.

It’s not like denim “goes bad.” So, instead of tossing it, what can we do when it’s time to retire our collection?

Fortunately, there are a ton of ways to give denim a second life! From companies that are using their corporate power for good to crafty people who show us how to transform old jeans into everyday objects, there’s an option for anyone who wants to take a small step toward keeping this planet in functioning order. And we are living in the internet age after all — there are a ton of DIY blogs and videos online to help the less-skilled along. Here are some of my favorites.

There are companies finding unique ways to cut down on waste:

Levi's & Evrnu

Levi's is pretty much synonymous with jeans. And while they benefit from our denim fervor, they’re also well aware of the effect of textile waste on the environment. So they got creative. Partnering with Evrnu, they created jeans from discarded T-shirts. Yes, they literally turned T-shirts into jeans. Their website states that “the cutting-edge method not only converts consumer waste into renewable fiber, it also uses 98 percent less water than virgin cotton products, according to Evrnu data.”

This is still an early prototype, but for so many, it's already proven its worth. In a release, Paul Dillinger, head of global product innovation at Levi Strauss & Co. said,

"Although early days, this technology holds great promise and is an exciting advancement as we explore the use of regenerated cotton to help significantly reduce our overall impact on the planet. ... As technologies such as Evrnu evolve over time, there will be greater opportunities to accelerate the pace of change towards a closed loop apparel industry."

That’s good on so many levels. Less water used, less waste produced, and out of it all, an eco-friendly pair of jeans is produced. That’s a nice loop.

These creative projects could be a fun way to hold onto that pair of jeans.

You know, the pair with the hole in the side that no longer fits, but which you’d never get rid of ... because memories.

Potholders

I have a knack for destroying potholders. I’ve accidentally seared quite a few by leaving them on or near the stove, so I was pretty pumped to see that my old jeans could be a solution to that ongoing problem.

Image via Mary Turner/Flickr.

Skinny jeans

Commatose blog shared a great trick. With the help of a sewing machine and some patience, old, baggy jeans can become stylish skinny jeans. The best part? The jeans are completely tailored to your body and your preferred fit because you get to make them exactly the way you like them.

Image via Free People/Flickr.

Picnic quilt

Cutesycrafts blog blew me away with this DIY quilt and versatile carrying strap. The quilt is adorable and perfect for the summer months when we want to sit outside in the park but aren't quite sure whether that green patch of grass is a smart choice or every dog's favorite poop spot. And the carrier? Well that's the best part — it can be used to carry just about anything that you can fold and fit into the straps.

Image via Cutesy Crafts, used with permission.

And for those of us who aren't great with a sewing kit, there are a lot of easy ways to donate:

Thrift stores

Thrift stores offer a ton of options for turning in your old denim. Some will even pick up the clothes from your house! They resell what they can and recycle what can't be salvaged.

And if you're wondering what happens to your dscarded denim once it's donated, companies like Blue Jeans Go Green are doing pretty cool things, like making denim insulation — yes, that's a thing! Picture your old pants keeping families warm as the temperatures drop. And they don't stop there. A portion of the insulation created is provided to communities in need. Doing good all around.

The options are endless, really.


Image via Maria Morri/Flickr.

Whatever you choose to do, giving denim as long of a life as possible seems like something the environment will thank us for later.

The fact that only 0.007% of the world’s water supply is available sounds bleak, but with a little creativity — and the help of corporate powers stepping up to the plate — it doesn’t have to be.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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