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This Craft Project Not Only Helps the Homeless, but Reduces Landfill Waste, Too

March 13, 2014
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This Craft Project Not Only Helps the Homeless, but Reduces Landfill Waste, Too
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
These groups use the ubiquitous plastic bag to provide comfort to those without homes.

Finally, someone has come up with a brilliant idea that answers the age-old question: What to do with all those old, plastic grocery bags stuffed in your kitchen drawer?

Groups across the country are banding together to crochet tens of thousands of plastic bags into portable, lightweight, and water-resistant mats that provide an extra layer of protection between homeless individuals and the cold, hard ground. And you can do the same.

MORE: These Researchers Want to Put Plastic Bags in Your Gas Tank

Two years ago, 25-year-old Chad Dominguez and his mother, Kris Georgeson saw someone weaving together these “plarn” — plastic yarn — mats while on a trip to Seal Beach, California. They thought it was a great idea, and so they introduced the project, Mats 4 Homeless, at the Upland Host Lions Club in Upland, California. The group wove 25 mats and donated them to a homeless shelter. In return, they received a group of pictures of individuals with their new mats.

“When I went through those pictures and saw one of an 8-year-old hugging so tight onto that mat, I just started to cry,” Georgeson told The Inland Daily Bulletin. From there, the project continued to grow, even moving to other club chapters.

For Sandy Watts, a 63-year-old retired elementary school teacher and Upland resident, the ground mats are a way to help the homeless while preventing some of the 100 billion plastic bags that are used in the U.S. each year from ending up in the landfill. Although it takes her about 1,200 bags and 10 hours to make one 36-by-72-inch mat, she has already made 11 of them since learning the craft in June. “And nothing is wasted,” she said. “Cut scraps are used to stuff the coordinating pillows.”

ALSO: These Women Are Doing Something Amazing With Simple Plastic Bags

Meanwhile, in Norwalk, Iowa, the Mighty Mat Makers meet once a week at St. John the Apostle Catholic Church to create their own mats, using about 700 plastic bags apiece. So far, they have spent at least 100 hours on the project, producing 18 mats that have been handed out to the homeless, and there are many more to come. “A lot of care and a lot of love are going into these,” one of the Mat Makers, Vickie Clingan, told KCCI News. “We care about the people who we’re making these for.”

Even if you have no experience with crocheting, anyone can learn how to make these plarn mats. Just follow the instructions in the video below and start your own crocheting group in your community. Just think of all the bags you can save, while also providing a small comfort to people in need.

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