The mat-making movement

Photo illustration by Jay Soliz

Instead of wasting plastic bags, National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH) has begun to collect them at residence halls to begin their plastic bag yarn (PLARN) project. The goal of this project is to collect as many plastic bags as possible to create mats, which will be donated to homeless shelters in Flagstaff. This is the first year that NRHH has participated in a PLARN project.

Sophomore Destenie Kurtz is the director of service for NRHH. Kurtz is in charge of this project and works with other members to make the mats.

“I’ve seen lots of other university organizations participate in PLARN projects,” Kurtz said. “I thought it would be great to do it here at NAU to help out as much as we can. It’s especially great for NRHH because we do a lot of service projects.”

Kurtz said PLARN starts by putting up boxes at the front desks of all the residence halls. Their first collection of plastic bags lasted from Sept. 2 through Sept. 10. Kurtz stated that 818 bags were accumulated in the first collection.

After collecting these bags, Kurtz explained members of NRHH got together for their PLARN party to crochet the mats. Members began by cutting the plastic bags into strips and then began the yarn and needle process. The organization has two members that know how to crochet, and those members taught the others in order to craft as many mats as possible.

“We didn’t advertise our project at all except for telling the residence hall directors at the residence halls, so we were all really happy with the amount [of bags] we got,” Kurtz said. “All the bags we received for this collection allowed us to create two mats. We’re hoping to get about five or 10 made within the next month so we can deliver them to Flagstaff Shelter Services.”

Apart from donating the mats to Flagstaff Shelter Services, NRHH is also planning on donating backpacks with snacks and water bottles to the shelter.

“Our goal is to provide every person at the shelter with a PLARN mat, a blanket and a backpack,” Kurtz said. “We are all excited to make our first delivery to the shelter. The mats we make are waterproof and extra durable, so I think the mats will be a great contribution for the people there.”

Senior NRHH President Eryn McCoy said the club has been having a great time working on this project.

“The members of the club are looking forward to going out and delivering the mats,” McCoy said. “In my opinion, this is one of the best projects we’ve worked on at NRHH. Lots of people have asked us what this project is and how they can contribute to it. This makes me really happy, because it shows that people care and want to help their community.”

McCoy said this project will proceed for the rest of the school year and will hopefully continue beyond that. Although McCoy will no longer be a student next year, she said members like Kurtz are working hard to continue the project.

“We all really want to continue this project for the future of our club, so we’re hoping the rest of the year goes well,” McCoy said. “I see that Destenie and other members that are her age are really passionate about this project. I’m super happy that they want to continue the PLARN project and want to continue to be members of our organization. I can’t wait to see the future of this club, because I know it will show a lot of growth from our members.”

NRHH adviser Tommy Newsom said he’s happy to see that club members enjoy being a part of the PLARN project.

“There are only 28 members in NRHH, but the work ethic goes far beyond that,” Newsom said. “For this project, our members have worked hard to get community members to drop off their plastic bags. They’ve encouraged a lot of students on campus, as well as students off campus, to stop by a residence hall and leave their bags.”

Newsom said what he admires most about this project is that NRHH gets to make a difference in people’s lives.

“The PLARN project allows us to not only recognize some of the privileges and materials we take for granted, but also understand the experiences of what our homeless population deals with,” Newsom said. “This is a further indication of how the PLARN project not only benefits these individuals, but really highlights the larger need for support that our members want to assist with. At its root, it helps our members gain empathy, compassion and a willingness to help better everyone, themselves included.”

The PLARN project offers students and community members a way to get rid of their plastic bags without wasting them. The next collection of bags will be held from Oct. 3 through Oct. 10. The collection boxes will be placed at the front desks of every residence hall, and anyone can drop off bags.