ISU’s Office of Sustainability holds event to make plastic bag sleeping mats for homeless

Instead of throwing away old plastic bags or hoarding them at home without any real purpose, the Office of Sustainability had a different idea on how to approach the campus’s rise in plastic bags: use them to make plastic mats for the homeless. 

Indiana State University’s Office of Sustainability and Center for Community Engagement held a Stop and Serve at the fountain last Wednesday. The event lasted from noon to 2 p.m. 

The purpose of the Stop and Serve event was to create plastic bag mats for the homeless.

“This all came about from our ‘Break Free from Plastic’ campaign,” said Claudia Cozadd, a project manager for the Office of Sustainability as well as a senior ISU student studying biology. 

The “Break Free from Plastic” campaign began several years ago, and Cozadd says that the most progress in the campaign was made last school year, despite the outbreak of coronavirus and the fact that campus was vacated two months early. 

The campaign’s current main goal is to end the use of single-use plastics on campus. Plastic bags, of course, fall under the single-use plastics umbrella. 

“We noticed that plastic bags were really a problem on campus and wanted to do something about them,” said Cozadd. “So, we had the idea to collect them and make something useful from them.”

The idea Cozadd is talking about is “plarn.” Plarn, which is a portmanteau for “plastic” and “yarn,” can be used to make hats, sandals and even sleeping mats, which is what the Office of Sustainability created at Wednesday’s Stop and Serve event. The original idea of plarn came from the extremely destitute in foreign countries who would use littered plastic bags and sew them together to create something that they needed, such as sleeping mats or blankets. 

At the Office of Sustainability’s Stop and Serve event, students assisted in creating balls of plarn by cutting slits in the bag, making strips, and cutting the strips. This was made into one long strand, which was rolled up into a ball, very much like a ball of yarn. 

These balls of plarn will be sent out to local churches. At the churches, local women in service groups will do the finishing touches and crochet them together to create the final mat-like product. It takes around 700 plastic bags to create one mat. 

The ISU Office of Sustainability and Center for Community Engagement held tabling event yesterday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the quad.