As I sit here at my local hippie restaurant sipping an almond milk steamer in a glass mug, I am reminded of the many ways we as humans don’t take full advantage of the simple eco-minded offerings around us. We’re so busy with life that we often forget to slow down long enough to actually drink from a glass or a “for here” mug when we dine out– something that is soon going to be essential to our continued existence on planet earth. We’re practically immune to the unseen damage we do when we order that healthy cold-pressed green juice “to go” or that fancy Starbucks coffee in a one-time-use paper cup. Even someone like myself, who I’d like to think, is a bit more “green” than your average Joe, is used to the everyday conveniences of buying packaged foods and being lazy about bringing a reusable cup when out and about or traveling.
The irony is that I grew up with reuse at the forefront of my lifestyle. My mom is a longtime antique collector, vintage/estate sale/thrift store junker so my childhood home was filled from floor to ceiling with old collectables that had somehow been salvaged from their past lives (maybe with a few scratches, cracks or buttons missing) and given a new life. And because I have an older sister, her hand-me-down clothes were passed on to me once she outgrew them. It wasn’t unusual to find me digging for arrowheads in my backyard pasture (in Native American Maidu country) or assisting my mom at her annual antique shows throughout my childhood. I am very accustomed to the idea of treasure hunting as well as reusing (old) things. Heck, I even did some dumpster diving in my early thirties!
In all honesty, it’s taken knowing my friend and fellow vegan, Alex Eaves, who has fully embraced the reuse lifestyle, for me to really pay closer attention to my own purchasing habits. And, I have a long way to go to fully improve. If you’re feeling discouraged, don’t fret! There’s hope! And, that’s the very reason I’ve invited Alex Eaves to be interviewed here today. Alex shares a wealth of information on the reuse movement through his lifestyle and films, so without further adieu, welcome Alex!
Cowgirls & Collard Greens: Can you share with my audience how you were introduced to the reuse movement & what it is that drives your passion for it?
Alex Eaves: Reuse has actually been a part of my life since I was a little kid. I grew up in a house where things that were normally discarded by people were saved for another use. My dad wasn’t such a fan of throwing things away and this turned out to benefit me as I grew up. As a toddler, I made playsets for my matchbox cars with paper towel rolls and shoe boxes and as a teenanger, I used old doors, desks, etc to make my own “skatepark” in the basement. Reusing things that I found around the house definitely saved me a lot of money growing up. And it was really fun too. What really set off my passion for reuse though, was an incident that happened in 2004 when I was a touring merchandiser for a rock band.
We had ordered a new T-Shirt design and it was printed incorrectly. It looked totally fine, but it wasn’t how the artist had laid it out and he didn’t want to sell them. As a fellow artist, I get that. So, I called the merchandise company and told them that we wanted the correct ones made. They said that was no problem and I just had to send the original ones back. Being somewhat new in the T-Shirt industry, I didn’t know how everything worked and I asked what would happen to them. I thought maybe they could take the design off somehow. The response was a very casual, “Oh, we just shred them into rags.” I couldn’t believe what I had heard! At that point, my brain gears started going crazy. I started thinking about all of the resources used for the shirts, the printing, the shipping, all of the money involved. It was just such a waste! At that point, I knew that I couldn’t be a part of the problem. I needed to find a solution. And that’s what I did. I ended up buying the shirts at a highly discounted price and covering the original designs with patches of my brand, STAY VOCAL.
After seeing the numerous benefits to that reuse solution to a waste problem, waste in general became the drive to my passion. I started seeing waste everywhere; from T-Shirts to coffee cups to plastic bags. It boggles my mind that resources, time, money, and materials are wasted so casually. I needed to change that; for myself and for the way consumers think. In 2008, I switched my brand to a strictly reuse apparel brand and I began leading a reuse lifestyle. For example, at the time of this writing, I haven’t used a disposable coffee cup in at least 3226 straight days. And I drink coffee EVERY day.
C&CG: Because you & I are friends, I know you not just as Mr. Reuse, but also as a vegan, T-shirt designer/creator as well as someone who starred in their own movie! Can you share why you went vegan & how that fits into your reuse movement?
AE: Wait. What’s vegan? Ha. But seriously, my compassion for animals is something that has been with me for a long time. I remember from a very young age being upset if I accidentally killed a bug. I hear it comes from my maternal grandmother who I never met. But it wasn’t until I was in my early 20’s that it extended to my diet.
Originally I went vegetarian in 2000. I was on tour with Ozzy Osbourne’s Ozzfest and the meat was really sketchy looking in catering every day. I was also traveling with two vegetarians and dating a vegetarian. So, I decided to try It out. I figured it would impress the lady at least. Soon after, I began working with organizations like Anti-Racist Action and PETA, where my compassion for animals and my animal rights activist really started coming out. As time went on and more options started appearing at grocery stores, I began living a vegan lifestyle at home and vegetarian on tour. And then the final switch came in 2009. I had retired from touring with bands and I was invited to my first fully vegan Thanksgiving in Oakland, CA. I figured that would be the perfect time to begin my vegan diet and I’ve never looked back. That’s also a pretty important day for another reason. It’s the day that I met my longtime friend Florian’s new girlfriend, Shannon. You might know her as the creator of Cinnaholic. I have never looked at vegan sweets the same.
Soon after that switch, I started seeing just how much of an impact the vegan lifestyle had on the environment too. Why were we wasting so much land and resources to raise animals that were just essentially middle men? We could be eating what they were eating and drinking the water they were drinking and so many other resources would never be needed. So It seemed like the perfect fit to my life. Every day, with every choice that I make, I want to do what’s best for the planet. That’s why I lead a reuse lifestyle. That’s why I lead a vegan lifestyle.
C&CG: Last year I had the privilege to work with you during your documentary film tour of REUSE! Because You Can’t Recycle The Planet. What was the fundamental reason for creating the film? Can you share some of your success stories because of it?
AE: Yeah, screening my film in downtown San Francisco was pretty rad, right?
I created the REUSE! Documentary because I wanted to share with the masses that, while the world has a massive waste problem and our planet is in trouble, there are solutions everywhere. It’s not all doom and gloom. But it’s not the solution that people have been relying on. Recycling isn’t as great as it’s cracked to be.
So many resources are used in the process of recycling, when we could simply be reusing instead. And the great thing about reusing is that it not only benefits our planet, but it benefits people and our wallets as well. And reusing is something that anybody can easily take part in. That’s why I traveled to all 48 contiguous states filming people who reuse in all sorts of ways.
So, you mentioned success stories. Well, first of all, I made a movie! I definitely never expected to do that. At the time of this writing, the film has been screened in 25 states and viewed in over 25 countries. And I personally went on a 35-day screening tour in the US. It’s also been nominated for numerous film festivals. This month, it’s actually going to be premiering in Spain and Brazil. I’m pretty stoked about that. Also, I really can’t talk about success stories without mentioning the music. As a huge 311 fan since 1994, the fact that they support my work enough to donate a song to the film is pretty freakin’ fantastic.
C&CG: If someone wanted to watch the film, where could they access it?
AE: The film is available to download at reusedocumentary.com. Hey Kayle, should we give your readers a discount code for it? Yeah, let’s do it! How about if they use the code, “cowgirl” at http://tinyurl.com/reusedownload, they’ll get $3.00 of the download price? Sounds good to me.
There’s also a calendar of upcoming screenings on the website and information about how to host a screening. I’ve teamed up with an awesome organization called Tugg, that enables anyone to host a screening at a school, community center, or movie theater, just like you did.
C&CG: You’ve been busy this year on working on an entirely new film. What’s the name of the film, what’s it about, when will it debut & where can people find out more information?
AE: Yep. My reuse roadshow doesn’t stop and that’s actually how this new film came to be. I’m teaming up with tiny house expert Derek “Deek” Diedricksen, to turn a box truck into a mobile reuse education center. I needed a better way to travel around with my film and show people how reuse can be incorporated in their daily lives. Our other team member is Jason Kimball, the young mastermind who edited my first film. We don’t have an official title yet, as it’s still early, but we’re referring to it as The Box Truck Film. The trailer is the best way (and more fun) to learn what it’s all about; check it out below.
We like to say that the film is for the people and by the people, so we’re crowdfunding for the film and there are a lot of really unique perks, like getting your name on the truck or even getting your own custom tiny house! And we’ve teamed up with a really unique crowdfunding organization called Fortua that focuses on eco-friendly/sustainable projects. And what’s completely different about Fortua is that people can not only contribute money, but they can contribute items or time as well. It’s a great way to get more people involved. The website is: boxtruckfilm.com.
C&CG: So, you mentioned STAY VOCAL a few times. Can you tell my readers a bit more about it?
AE: STAY VOCAL is my reuse apparel brand. It’s certified green by Green America, so that’s pretty rad. I like to say we rescue T-shirts and give them a second life. We take pre-owned garments and brand new garments that were going to be destroyed and give them a second life with a new design. They’re restyled in numerous ways like putting patches over the original design, printing on top of the design, but our most common and popular way is printing on the reverse side (inside out). Leaving the tag on the back is such a great conversation starter. Our shirts are currently available online and at numerous shops around the U.S. I also recently opened a gallery in Stoughton, MA with Deek, where we’ll be making the new film.
What has been awesome since the REUSE! Documentary came out, is that I have gotten a lot more requests for STAY VOCAL collaborations; many related to the vegan lifestyle. We released an animal rights T-Shirt that benefits the film company behind Cowspiracy. We also made the T-Shirts for Two Little Buns Bakery in Rhode Island and Sanctuary Bistro, a vegan restaurant in Berkeley, CA.
C&CG: In your eyes, what’s the most exciting thing about the reuse movement?
AE: Opportunity. There is the opportunity to save resources. There is the opportunity to help the planet. There is the opportunity to build community. There is the opportunity to have a job. There is the opportunity to make money. There is the opportunity to save money. There is the opportunity to help people. There is the opportunity to help animals. Every day, we have the opportunity to make a positive impact with the decisions that we make and reuse allows that on so many levels.
C&CG: Do you have any simple words of advice to those who want to live a more green lifestyle by way of reusing or cutting down on their consumption?
AE: I always say that the “greenest” products are the ones that are already here. So the next time you’re going to buy something, take a step back and ask yourself, “Could I find this used?” Trust me, you can. Look on eBay, Craigslist, yard sales, flea markets, thrift stores, or maybe you have a hoarding relative you can call. Almost anything out there is available used in some fashion or made from existing materials. I now even have custom made boxer shorts made from T-Shirts. Yep.
C&CG: Thanks so much for sharing your incredible knowledge of all things reuse with us today Alex! We appreciate you being here and sharing. You show us that one person really can make a difference and that there is hope especially at such a critical time on our planet. I look forward to seeing your new film and continuing to follow your lead in the reuse movement!
Alex is a reuse expert who embodies the reuse lifestyle. In 2008, he began what he calls “the reuse life;” avoiding disposables and finding reuse solutions for his needs and wants. This passion soon began to be an influence on many and in 2009, Eaves began giving talks and leading workshops around the U.S. In 2014, he became a certified Master Reuser by the Reuse Institute; a year later he released the documentary, REUSE! Because You Can’t Recycle The Planet. The film focuses on reuse solutions for our global waste problem and is the result of a 48-state US tour, where Eaves met people who reuse in various ways. Since the release, Eaves has traveled the U.S. extensively for screenings and talks, including a month long nationwide tour. The film has been viewed in over 20 countries and has been nominated for multiple film festivals.
This past summer, Eaves launched the follow up to his film with the Box Truck Film. (working title). He’s teaming up with tiny house builder Derek “Deek” Diedricksen to turn a box truck into a mobile reuse education center and living space.
Eaves is also the creator and owner of the award winning green certified reuse apparel brand STAY VOCAL, which rescues T-shirts to give them a second life. The business is the result of almost a decade of traveling the world, selling T-shirts for touring rock bands like 311, Anti-Flag, and Huey Lewis and the News. His Reuse T-shirts have been featured in media outlets like The Boston Globe and Good Morning America, and have been seen on famous musicians worldwide. Alex grew up on the south shore of Boston, MA and now divides his time between Massachusetts and California.