SCRAP, which stands for School and Community Reuse Action Project, began in 1999 when a group of teachers decided to rescue extra craft materials from their classrooms and make them available to other teachers. With the assistance of a grant, the program quickly grew and became a nonprofit organization serving the Portland community. Last year, they diverted 116 tons of materials from the waste stream by selling them in their store or using them in craft projects as part of their educational programming.
“Our mission is to inspire creative reuse and environmentally sustainable behavior by providing education programs and affordable materials to the community,” Kelley Carmichael Casey, SCRAP’s executive director, told Earth911. “That really informs everything that we do. We have a really well-rounded education program for kids. We also have something that we call in-reach. A lot of organizations believe in going out into the community, but we believe in bringing people through the door. It’s an incredible experience to bring people in to see the colorful mayhem, sort of like a treasure hunt,” she explained.
The center of SCRAP’s operations is their creative reuse store, where customers can buy everything from fabric to old trophies to buttons. SCRAP also accepts donations from community members and businesses to stock their shelves. For businesses, they have developed a program called Fill Minds Not Landfills, which helps businesses assess the waste they are producing and donate creative materials to SCRAP. Some businesses have donated unique items like glass or leather scraps, Carmichael Casey said.
In addition to their reuse store, SCRAP offers a wide variety of programming, from craft camps for kids to birthday parties and field trips. Kids engage in crafts like tie dye and garden art.
“We really make an effort to ensure projects are sustainable, that this isn’t going to be something that’s on the refrigerator for a week and then gets thrown away in the trash,” Carmichael Casey said. SCRAP wants everyone to think before throwing things away, and teaching people how to work with what’s available to them is something SCRAP values.
“Creative reuse is really the next big thing, sustainability-wise. I think we’re finding that people are more and more interested in how to creatively reuse and how to incorporate that into their lifestyle. I think part of that is the economy. People are moving more toward resourcefulness as a way of making do,” Carmichael Casey said.
SCRAP is always coming up with fun ways to promote their mission, and one of these ways is by hosting an annual fundraiser called the Rebel Craft Rumble, which took place on October 18th. The event was set up as a craft off – similar to The Food Network’s “Chopped”, but with craft materials instead of food – in which participants adopt a persona, receive a basket of random crafty items and then have to construct new things. A panel of judges determines who is the Craft Master.
“It’s a fun event that really gets the community involved,” Carmichael Casey said. The event usually draws around 300 attendees.
Creative reuse centers aren’t unique to Portland; they are spreading all over the country. SCRAP currently has four satellite locations nationwide. Other organizations have gotten into the creative reuse scene as well, and a list of reuse centers around the country can be found at Lancaster Creative Reuse.
For those interested in starting creative reuse centers in their communities, Kelley Carmichael Casey published a book with co-author Alyssa Kail this month about starting your own center. More information can be found at the Creative Reuse Workshop blog.
If you’re looking for some inspiration and live in the Portland area, SCRAP’s Re:Boutique, a consignment store, offers work from local artisans, while their Re:Vision Gallery hosts art exhibits made from at least 75 percent reused materials.