December 12, 2013 in Washington Voices

Students learn about recycling, repurposing through textile drive

By The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photoBuy this photo

Students at Riverday School, front to back, Hazel Sullivan, 7, Jordan Berrios-Dunn, 9, Mia Barrett, 8, Nicholas Teichgraeber, 10, Ella Davidson, 8, and Mirabai Karasu, 11, load donated clothing for their textile drive into a storage locker on Dec. 4.
(Full-size photo)

How to help

Bring new or used textiles (clothing, shoes, stuffed animals, handbags, belts, blankets, towels) in any condition (no carpet or bed pillows) in garbage bags to Riverday School, 1627 E. Trent Ave. For more information, visit or call (509) 326-6595.

For more information about Gemtext Recycling and fundraising opportunities, visit

Riverday School may be small, but the independent nonprofit hopes to make a big difference in the environment.

With 20 students enrolled in grades K-6, three full-time teachers and one part-time art instructor, the school has already been involved in several projects aimed at teaching children the value of environmental sustainability.

On Dec. 2, Riverday launched a textile drive. Students are gathering clothing, shoes, stuffed animals, handbags, belts, blankets and towels. The items can be new or used and in any condition. The drive is part fundraiser and part community service project. By teaming up with Gemtext, a Northwest-based sustainability company that repurposes and recycles textiles, the school hopes to raise money for classroom supplies and field trips, while teaching students the importance of keeping the community clean and green.

Jordan Berrios-Dunn, 9, explained what will happen to the donated goods. “If the clothes are in bad condition, they get put into dog beds or something. If it’s in good condition it’s given to kids who don’t have a lot of stuff.”

Becci Carlson, market manager for Gemtext Recycling, said many people throw away single shoes or stained, torn clothing. “But a cotton T-shirt can be broken down into fibers,” she said. Those fibers can be used in stuffed animals or upholstery.

As an added incentive, the textile drive is a competition among the three classrooms. The classroom that gathers the most pounds of material per child will win a gift bag filled with goodies for each student in that class. The drive will end Dec. 20 with an all-school pizza and ice cream party.

“We will come with a truck and pick up and weigh the donated goods and the school will receive a check,” said Carlson.

Mirabai Karasu, 11, stood next to the collection bins. “I brought in two paper bags filled with clothes and one of the bags had a couple of my dad’s hats in it,” she said.

Riverday’s goal is to fill a donated storage shed to the brim. A chart in the entryway marks each classroom’s progress. As 8-year-old Ella Davidson lugged a brimming bag out to the shed, she remained focused on her target. “Whoever gets the most bags and people helping gets a whole box of prizes!”

Teaching students about sustainability and environmental issues isn’t new to Riverday. The school is a certified Green School.

Teacher Nicole Simon explained the certification process. “The kids looked at how much garbage we accumulated. They sorted out what could be recycled, repurposed or composted. We reduced our waste by two-thirds.”

One of the tactics they used was switching to cloth napkins and nondisposable dishes and silverware in the lunchroom.

A greenhouse next to the school is the result of a grant written by third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students.

“The kids wrote a grant for the Washington Potato Commission,” Simon said. “We were awarded the greenhouse and $1,000 for dirt and planting supplies. They told us we were the only school where the students had actually written the grant.”

These projects keep with the school’s philosophy of hands-on learning. Simon said, “The textile drive is a great way to raise money and for the kids to learn about recycling and repurposing.”

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email