Upcycling for the Homeless: One Man Is Making a Difference

Posted at May 29, 2015 | By : | Categories : Our Partners | 0 Comment

Around here, we value philanthropy as much as sustainability. So we always jump at the chance to help our communities at a local level. It’s always inspiring when individuals approach us with great ideas. Here’s how one man is making a difference:

Eric & Albert with materials Eric & Albert pose with recycled materials in front of the iconic ATRS lobby art.

Eric Thayer is a first-year graduate art student at the University of Houston. Recently, he approached ATRS Executive Director of Production Albert Larriu with an idea for a class project: using old towels, robes and other warm materials to create blankets! The project was spurred by his involvement in a class called Art As Activism.

While simply purchasing blankets from a retailer like Walmart, Target or Bed Bath & Beyond would have been a much easier route to take, Eric wanted to create works of art using his passion for upcycling as a gift to the Houston homeless community.

Did you know it takes approximately 2,700 liters of water to produce the average t-shirt? Just imagine how much water is wasted making an entire blanket. That’s why Eric chose to upcycle warm, insulating material that people no longer want or need to complete his creations. And the results are so worth the extra effort- just ask Mother Earth!

picking 8 Eric digs through piles of donated towels to find the perfect blanket materials.

Eric made two trips to our facility in Houston, where recycled items from all across the nation come to be sorted and graded. He pulled approximately 80 pounds of warm, colorful items to transform into his blankets. You can read a little about his visit on his blog, The Great Chainsaw Juggling Act.

For any other philanthropic souls out there who have thought of trying this but don’t feel they have the skills, Eric has some surprising advice:

Before starting this project, I had no quilting expertise or sewing skills, I just took a leap of faith!” 

And his hard work, persistence and dedication paid off immensely. His first blanket was recently unveiled at the UH School of Art Student Exhibition at University of Houston’s Blaffer Art Museum. His complete project is named Total Coverage, with this display titled Heat Options Unit (HOU) Prototype.

Gallery Preview 2 Eric displays his Total Coverage exhibit at the Blaffer Art Museum.

The Total Coverage project doesn’t just begin and end with one blanket. Eric plans to distribute many finished blankets as part of care packages to homeless individuals in downtown Houston this fall, to help them prepare for winter. If you live in one of our ten other markets and would like to start a similar initiative in your community, please call the ATRS 24-Hr Hotline 866-900-9308 to inquire about starting a charitable program.

Want to help out? Eric is planning a group sewing session to increase blanket production! We’ve got the scoop: like our Facebook page to stay updated on his progress and events.