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  • Writer's pictureDiocese of WNC

Church Choir Robes become Fabric of Environmental Effort

When Grace Church in Waynesville decided to replace its choir robes, the parish faced a dilemma. The fabric was good, although there were a few wax stains. Some of the zippers had ripped loose but still worked.

The choir robes were much narrower than traditional robes, causing hesitancy in giving them to another church. Throwing them away to lie dormant in the landfill was certainly not an option, as part of the mission statement for Grace, Waynesville is "Reverencing God's Creation."


From left to right: Mary Alice Lodico, Rev. Joslyn Schaefer, and Music Director Ginny Moe pack up the donated choir robes.

“Grace, Waynesville has long been active in creation care in our organic gardens, our emphasis on native plants, and in composting both on-site for easily compostable items and through the use of a composting service for all our other food scraps,” said Joslyn Schaefer, Rector of Grace, Waynesville.

As many of Grace Waynesville’s members are active in Haywood County’s environmental efforts, the solution quickly materialized.

The robes were offered to the Environmental Action Community of WNC (EAC), a 501(c)3 advocacy and action group who readily agreed to accept the donation. One of the EAC’s major programs is Bring Your Own Bag Haywood, affectionately called BYOB Haywood. This group solicits donations of fabric and empty “feed and seed” sacks that are sewn into reusable shopping bags and then distributed in Haywood County with the hope they will be taken to stores to cut down on the massive amounts of single-use plastic collecting along our roadsides, in our landfills, and in our bodies.


From left to right: EAC members Jan Jacobson and Kathy Odvody begin converting the choir robes into reusable products at the BYOB Haywood Sew Day in December.


It is estimated that the average grocery store in the area gives out well over a million of these single-use plastic bags annually that are not recyclable by the facilities utilized by many western North Carolina counties because the thin material clogs the recycling equipment, causing it to malfunction.

“Single-use plastic bags not only harm our scenic beauty, but they slowly break down into microplastics that enter our atmosphere and waterways,” said Kathy Odvody, Co-Chair of EAC. “It is estimated that every one of us ingests microplastics equivalent to the size of a credit card every week. These microplastics can damage DNA and the immune system. Their toxicity can lead to reproductive problems and organ dysfunction.”

Work began in earnest to repurpose the 30 choir robes at BYOB Haywood’s monthly sew day in December. The zippers were removed and donated to Within REACH Resale Shop in Waynesville. Some of the robes were made into aprons that can be used for fundraising. The rest of the robes will become festive red reusable bags that can be used for years to come.

If you would like more information about the Environmental Action Community and its many programs, please visit the website at https://www.eacwnc.org/.


Kathy Odvody shows the reusable bags and aprons sewn from the choir robes that will be made available to Haywood County residents.


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