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NFL Goes Green

The Super Bowl has passed through Houston but it didn’t just leave us an historic game. The NFL is hoping its legacy in the Bayou City will extend far beyond the finale between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.

While the NFL Experience, Super Bowl Live, Club Nomadic and other attractions were being built around the city, the league was also implanting roots here through its Environmental Program. That means some of the materials used to transform Houston into a decked-out host city will go toward local non-profits. For example, banners displayed on NRG Stadium or the security netting used for crowd control at Discovery Green went toward non-profits who could re-use or even upcycle them into new products.

I talked to Jack Groh, the director of the NFL Environmental Program, about how the league worked to leave a little piece of itself and a big impression, throughout Houston.

Check out my article on the effort here or see the whole story below.

Super Bowl LI banners and other leftovers get a new life in NFL recycling program

Even though the reins have officially been handed over to Minnesota to host Super Bowl LII, Houston is still on the mind of NFL officials.

“We want people to be glad we came to the community. Not just because of the football game, but because of the resources we have for the community,” Jack Groh, director of the NFL Environmental Program, says. “So, we do this because it’s the right thing to do.”

That “right thing” Groh is talking about is making sure the league invests in Houston by finding ways to transform the material used around the city to promote and organize the big game.  From the banners displayed at NRG Stadium to the turf laid down for Super Bowl Live at Discovery Green, it will all serve a new purpose in and around Houston, in large part through material recovery, a branch of the NFL’s Environmental Program.

Habitat for Humanity, the Houston Food Bank and Magpies and Peacocks are among the local non-profits who are the direct recipients of these materials.

“We’ll be getting some of the mesh perimeter fencing used for crowd control, the jersey fabric on the inside of the stadium, bike covers, shopping bags, street banners, anything that can be used to make products from and that our designers can upcycle into their art,” Sarah-Jayne Smith, founder of Magpies and Peacocks, says.  The organization has several programs designed to nurture emerging artists and allow them to create new products by increasing the value of old ones.

That’s one of the reasons Ahshia Berry, who works with Smith, says Magpies and Peacocks was the perfect fit for the NFL.

“We told them who we might work with and what kind of projects we do. Once they were comfortable knowing we were doing the right things by it, they needed to know we were a 501c3,” Berry says. “We’re happy we were on their radar. And we let them know how sustainable Houston can grow to be.”

And sustainability is what Groh says the NFL’s Environmental Program is all about. It began 25 years ago when the league implemented a stadium recycling program for Super Bowl XXVIII at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.  According to Groh, the NFL was the first sports league to do this. Prepared food and material recovery programs followed, along with urban forest redevelopment and renewable energy.

This year, 10 projects were completed in Houston, including the Super Kids Super Sharing event, managed by Groh’s wife, Susan, at the Houston Texans YMCA.

“We recruit 100 or more schools in each Super Bowl city to collect supplies. In Houston, the kids brought in 23,000 items to donate,” Jack Groh says. “Then we invite low income schools to shop for the items they need.”

Strong environmental message

Groh believes it gets out a strong environmental idea of letting someone reuse supplies rather than have them sit in the attic or be thrown away. It’s also part of a message that helped Houston make history not only on the field this Super Bowl, but behind the scenes.

“We had the most successful material recovery program in the history of the Super Bowl, and it happened here in Houston,” Groh says. “I attribute that to two things. On the NFL side, we had staff and contractors working hard, and we had a tremendous partnership with the City of Houston’s Reuse Warehouse.”

Groh says Reuse picked up materials and made it available to non-profits. For example, the Houston Food Bank recovered 6,000 pounds of office supplies, which will be given to local teachers in 18 different communities around Houston. Turf carpeting went to local animal shelters. Magnificat Houses, Houston ISD and Keep Houston Beautiful also recovered materials.

Plans are already in the works to partner with Minnesota for projects as it prepares to host the next Super Bowl.

Host cities have participated in the programs since the environmental department’s inception more than two decades ago. It’s a concept that now includes the Pro Bowl and NFL Draft.

“Sports is a great neutral territory when it comes to getting this message across,” Smith says. “It affects all age groups and all nationalities. Sports is a perfect way of getting a short version of our story out to a large amount of people. We’re lucky that the NFL can facilitate that for us.”

And the league says, it’s happy to do it. In fact, Houston’s diversity, cooperation and warm atmosphere is what Groh says he enjoyed most about working with area non-profits.

“I don’t know if it’s a Houston thing, a Texas thing or a Southern thing, but people were always willing to step up and say, ‘I could help you with that,’ ” Groh says. “It just seems an awful lot of people were willing to help out a stranger or a friend.”

Permanent green legacy

For more information about the NFL Environmental Program, Groh admits you might have to do some digging online through the league’s website. Groh says what they do isn’t as widely publicized because he’d rather spend money lightening the environmental load than on advertising.

“We want to leave some type of permanent green legacy in every community we visit. People say, ‘Don’t you wish you got more attention?’,” Groh says. “Well, no. I’m here asking, ‘How much good can we do?’”

Groh hopes to have the final total of recovered materials in Houston within a couple weeks.

 

 

 

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Project Runway Meets Chopped

My third story on CultureMap has finally made its debut. This time, I covered the designing duo behind Magpies and Peacocks, Sarah-Jayne Smith and Ahshia Berry. They take materials that would otherwise be headed to landfill and turn it into upcycled gold. Through a series of strategic moves, their goal is to transform and grow the fashion industry by giving emerging designers the raw tools they need to create and make a name for themselves.

Learn how they do it by checking out the article below.

You can also read it in its original format here.

Stay stylish!

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Sarah-Jayne Smith and Ahshia Berry are running out of room in their Midtown warehouse. It’s like a fashion Candyland, stocked with clothing, jewelry, bags and furniture. “We have Salvatore Ferragamo handbags, Forever 21 handbags, vintage Dior cuff links, wedding gowns, costumes,” Smith says.

But pulling back the layers of glamour will show you the big names are just a small part of Magpies and Peacocks: An organization branded as the non-profit that helps other non-profits.

“It’s always charity, community, business. That’s the roadway,” Berry says.

“We get a huge kick out of people stepping up to the plate, reaching across the aisle and helping each other out,” Smith adds.

Launched in 2012, Magpies and Peacocks works with local designers to upcycle, or increase the value of, items that would otherwise be headed to the trash pile. The new products are then donated to non-profits and sold at their events to help them raise money. So far, M&P has helped over 50 charities.

“If it’s not good enough, it gets remade,” Smith says. “We want it to be human. We don’t want it to be machine-made because that’s not our journey, but at the same time it has to be worth something.”

Partners with Peacocks

Another method happens each quarter, where organizations are nominated and two are selected to become partners with Magpies and Peacocks. This year, it’s Career Gear Houston and Houston PetSet. Collections are based on the organizations and sold online through the Magpies and Peacocks website. The chosen non-profits each get a percentage of the sales from their collections.

It’s part of a strategy that turns belts and ties into dog collars or tweed jackets into iPad covers and laptop cases. Each year, the charity diverts over 500 pounds of materials to be upcycled.

The push to make even a small dent in how much waste is created is why they collect everything from accessories and furniture to light fixtures and shoes.

Berry says you can get your item and monetary donations to Magpies and Peacocks simply by calling or emailing to let them know you have something to give.

But they also have a more social aspect to donating, where they partner with a local business to host a Closet Deposit event. You can drop off items, shop and mingle —usually with champagne and light bites to boot.

“We’re not replacing your Goodwill run or your Purple Heart pick-up. We’re not taking stuff from those charities,” Berry says. “We want to be able to curate stuff and make better use of it.”

Concept beginning

The organization’s concept really began to take shape when Smith worked as an interior designer. She noticed her clients all shared common habits when it came to clinging to personal belongings.

“We all kind of vet our stuff, but we don’t do it very honestly or openly,” Smith says. “There’s anything you’ve ever been gifted, anything you’ve inherited but it’s going to stay in that box until you figure out what to do with it. And I won’t even get into that category of stuff with swing tags on them because it makes you happy to look at it, but you’re never going to wear it.”

The good, the bad and the broken in those piles can easily clutter a closet. But Magpies and Peacocks says, give it to them anyway. If nothing else, it could offer the hidden treasure needed to continue growing “Artist in Nesting” – their program aimed at nurturing emerging designers. Smith and Berry describe it as “Project Runway meets Chopped.”

Designers are given a task and the donated raw materials to create pieces that will turn into a collection. A percentage of the sales from that collection will then benefit a local charity. Part of the program is also teaching designers about the fashion business and connecting them to the retailers where some of their products are eventually sold.

“They get the branding and marketing side such as being featured on the website down to the packaging,” Berry says. “Then each order is shipped with a handwritten note that mentions who made the collection.”

Artist in Nesting

Smith says the Artist in Nesting program (also known as the Designer Incubator) takes the guesswork out of it for stores partnering with up-and-coming designers who might initially be seen as a risk if they don’t have experience with pricing, packaging or quality control.

Since 2012, Magpies and Peacocks has helped 30 young designers. The latest is painter and art teacher Karen Roberts. She owns the company Zelda & LUCY, which features her collection of 1920s-style cloche hats made from men’s suiting and brooches. They range in price from $60-75.

Roberts’ collection was recently highlighted at an Artist in Nesting event at Langford Market in the Heights.

“We’re saying there’s a place for young designers here, and we can showcase them,” Smith says. “We don’t want to lose our graduates to New York. We need to show them that they can be successful here.”

That’s also why Magpies and Peacocks will host their signature event, “Catwalks and Classrooms” in September. The design competition will have 25 students create two to three upcycled looks from donated materials. Students as young as 14 taking fashion design courses can participate. Scholarships are among the top prizes awarded to the winners.

“We’re talking about building relationships with people,” Smith says. “Getting designers to collaborate with schools, getting schools to collaborate with charities. We’re trying to build bridges so that Houston’s a better place to incubate designers.”

You can find collections made for Magpies and Peacocks at CarrieAnn in Uptown Park and Impromptu and Olivine in the West University/Rice Village area. Wardrobe Boutique in Montrose will carry a Magpies and Peacocks accessory collection beginning in mid-July.