Catwalk with a conscience | Finding Solutions | 2013 | Spring | Publications | David Suzuki Foundation
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(Credit: ENACTUS SFU)

Many Canadian cities promote events with giant nylon banners hung from lampposts. Often, these banners end up in the local landfill. But in 2008, Simon Fraser University students began teaming up with B.C. Lower Mainland high school students to transform the banners into reusable bags.

This year, SFU took the initiative a step further, joining forces with Kwantlen Polytechnic University's John Casablancas Institute to help aspiring young designers turn the banners into coats, dresses and purses for the Beyond the Bag Eco-Fashion Showcase. Half the proceeds from ticket sales were donated to the David Suzuki Foundation.

Repurposing banner fabric keeps hundreds of kilograms of nylon out of landfills, saves manufacturers and cities thousands in disposal costs and teaches sustainability principles to budding business owners. In addition to banner nylon, participants were allowed to use only recyclable materials for decoration
and assembly.

Senior (Grade 12) winner Olivia Bickerstaff scored an internship with guest judge Katherine Soucie, CEO of Sans Soucie, a zero-waste company that makes clothing from textile industrial waste. Grade 11 student Erin Wong won the junior prize—shadowing Soucie for a day. Tovah Paglaro, David Suzuki's Queen of Green, and Shannon Oehlschlager, engineering technician at Vancouver-based Arc'teryx Equipment Inc. and co-founder of Artemis Design Collective, were also judges.

SFU mentors are all members of Enactus, a global organization encouraging entrepreneurship that emphasizes social, environmental and economic needs.