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Eco-Friendly Altruism: Students Use Plastic Bags To Create Sleeping Mats For The Homeless


Homelessness is a huge issue in America that is often swept under the rug. However, high school students refuse to let it go unnoticed. They are determined to do their part to help by working on a creative idea to serve the homeless in their community.

Seeing A Problem

Students at Lakewood High School in Lakewood, Colorado, understood that homeless people were struggling to take care of themselves on the streets. While they might not be able to completely end the issue, there had to be a way that they could assist.

YouTube / JPS-TV

Another big problem? The overuse of plastic bags. One hundred billion plastic bags are used by consumers every year. That’s almost one bag per person each day. Unfortunately, people often toss these bags into the streets, which impacts our environment and wildlife. These two big issues would lead one former Lakewood senior to launch a new club that could help combat both.

Plarn Club

Shelby Tillema launched a unique afterschool activity with the “Plarn Club,” which makes sleeping mats out of plastic bags. “We take recycled plastic grocery bags or just any plastic bags, cut them into strips, and tie those strips together, and that makes this thing called “plarn,” plastic bag yarn,” Shelby shared in an interview. “It makes the ground more comfortable, and they’re water resistant, and apparently, they keep bugs away.”

YouTube / JPS-TV

Shelby was inspired to start this Plarn Club after seeing a news story about Bev’s Bag Brigade, a group of women also from Colorado who have made hundreds of these “plarn” mats for the Volunteers of America since 2009. It literally takes 500-700 plastic bags for one 6-foot-long mat, but, for the students, it’s completely worth it.

Making An Impact

Lakewood’s Plarn Club give away mats made to the Jeffco Action Center to distribute to homeless people in their area. “It’s nice to relax, and also it’s helping the environment and it’s helping other people,” Shelby stated. “It’s just very fulfilling that way.”

YouTube / JPS-TV

Even though Shelby has graduated since starting the Plarn Club, the club still continues to make a great impact. She was also hopeful that other local schools would get involved. The idea is slowly spreading throughout the country at various schools, helping both the homeless community and the environment. Definitely worth the hard work after school! 

Check out more on this Plarn Club below.

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