Green style: N.J. teen makes evening dress from plastic bags

Monday, 21 June 2010 13:09

plasticbags062110_optMiranda Brooke Pawline possesses a smile that can light up a whole town, has a charitable and giving heart ... and her beauty can't be diminished even when she dresses in a gown she created entirely from recycled plastic shopping bags.

She's New Jersey's Eco-Friendly Cinderella.

Miranda was honored recently for starting a municipal plastic bag recycling program, called Delanco Recycles Our Plastic (D.R.O.P.) Bags, after repeatedly seeing plastic bags floating in the Delaware River and Rancocas Creek. The program was initially adopted by the Delanco Township School System four years ago and has since grown to include participation by local schools, libraries and municipal buildings.

"I am really happy with the success of the D.R.O.P. Bags program, and I hope the idea can spread to other towns and schools throughout the state," said the 14-year-old Miranda. "I never would have guessed that so much would have come out of a girl's dream of helping her town be a better place to live."

Nearly 2,000 other kids and teens were honored during the Kids/Teens conference for their creation or participation in educational or hands-on environmental projects. The conference also launched the second year of the Slam Dunk the Junk statewide anti-litter campaign created in response to a legislative mandate to educate people about proper handling of waste and to encourage New Jersey residents and visitors to put trash where it belongs — in cans or recycling bins rather than on the ground or in the water.

"Litter is a pervasive problem that adversely affects the health, wealth and welfare of New Jersey residents," said Sandy Huber, executive director of the New Jersey Clean Communities Council Inc. (NJCCC) "Through our Slam Dunk the Junk campaign, we are asking all New Jersey residents to help reduce litter by participating in local cleanup efforts and encouraging one another to pick up litter whenever they see it and to not contribute to the problem themselves."

Miranda's saga started when she was 11 years old and to promote her D.R.O.P. Bags program, volunteered to help out at the recycling booth at the Burlington County Earth Fair. She and her mother were brainstorming about how to draw people to the booth, and then it hit them... what if Miranda wore an evening gown made entirely of plastic shopping bags? 500 to be exact --- representing the number of plastic bags the average person uses and discards in a year.

Starting with a base of white fabric for the top and some netting from a ball gown for the bottom, they immediately got to work. For the top, they lined up white bags in tight horizontal rows and sewed them to the fabric vertically. For the bottom, they used staples and glue to affix the bags, mixing and matching styles and colors for the most "glamorous" effect. Miranda's younger sisters, now 11 and 5, helped embellish the dress with sequins.

The dress was a hit.

"The best part was that most people were coming over just to find out why someone was so ‘dressed up' at the earth fair," said Miranda. "It wasn't until they got close up that they realized the dress was made from plastic bags. It was actually fun to see their reaction."

Miranda's friends thought it was cool that she was actually wearing plastic bags. "They were so interested that they asked if they could try it on," she said.

Once she got their attention, Miranda would quiz the visitors on various aspects of the environment and recycling. A correct response won them a free reusable shopping bag.

"It was great," she said. "With a little guidance, everyone who participated left with some more knowledge about recycling and a new shopping bag!"