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How it all started

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ReLove Local is part of the Gabriola Island Recycling Organization (GIRO). It was created as an innovative solution to the problem of textile waste facing Gabriola and its communities throughout the world.


Our vision for the ReLove Local project is to lead and inspire system change in the textile


The current system of clothing production is based on the model of take–make–use–dispose–pollute.

We wanted to turn that around and create a circular, sustainable business model where there would be no waste at any manufacturing, distribution, or disposal point.


The Gabriola Island Recycling Organization

At GIRO we receive about 104,000 lbs of used textiles per year from our community, and

approximately 52,000 lbs are unsellable, as is in our Restore. For many years this waste textile was picked up by a charity, but that service was cancelled when the COVID pandemic began.

Our only other option at the time was to send this waste to landfill, which we weren’t keen to do. We began researching where the used textile ended up after it was picked up and

discovered that the majority was shipped overseas, primarily to Keyna, where it is sold in

Mitumba markets. These second-hand clothing markets disrupt the local textile industry, and

because of the low-grade quality of these textiles, a large majority of this waste ends up in unregulated landfills.

We analyzed the 52,000 lbs and discovered that 42% was polyester or polyester blend, and 41% was 80% - 100% cotton. We also analyzed why it wasn’t suitable for re-sale and the reasons ranged from being worn out, damaged or stained to out of season. That was when we started brainstorming - what could be made from these discarded textiles? We involved the community and held a design competition. We had cash prizes for the top three products – based on marketability, use of our textile waste stream, ease of making and environmental benefits. Expert members from the community were on the judging panel to determine which products would be chosen. We also held a fashion show and silent auction celebrating repurposing.

Which products
were chosen and why?

There were three winning designs. One created by local sewer Judi Fisher was the Everything

cloth. They are made with cotton and terry towels and support multi-use. The second winning

design by local sewer/quilter Sue Artuso was Pet beds / Floor cushions made from waste

denim. These products are part of our ReLove local product line. The third winning product

was an Acoustic Sound Panel created by BCIT Professor Maureen Connelly who specializes in

sound absorbency. Acoustic Sound Panels can be used in a range of locations from home office

space and theatres to restaurants and schools, anywhere where noise reverberation interferes

with learning and human connection. Maureen has partnered with us and is developing a sound

absorbent panel prototype which will soon be installed on Gabriola in a test site to show the benefits of reduced noise reverberation to support learning and working conditions.

The Makerspace

Through the process of brainstorming what we could do with the community’s textile waste, we

learned that it would be essential to have a central location where we could develop the Relove Local product line, shred the textiles that can’t be upcycled and engage the community through workshops and presentations on how to rethink textile waste. This led us to apply for several grants both locally, provincially and federally to help us build a Makerpsace.

This space will be used for members to make their own creations, a space to hold workshops on rethinking textile waste and fast fashion, learning to sew, weave, visible mending and repair. We will also be providing support to textile entrepreneurs. Our aim is to create a culture in our community that spreads beyond our island and is about rethinking textile waste, repairing, re-using, and re-purposing.

Where we are now

We have been making the ReLove Local products for over two years, and sales to date have been approximately $25K. The products are practical and durable, many replacing single-use items.

They have expanded beyond the Everything cloths to include Tote bags, Bowl covers, Yoga

cushions, Bolsters and many more. They are now available in several Vancouver Island

stores – from Duncan to Campbell River and at local Gabriola and Nanaimo markets from May –

October. The ReLove product line appeals to everyone from the eco-conscious warrior to regular folks looking for well-made, multi-purpose, beautiful designs. The storytelling piece is also inspiring raising awareness of the current pollution produced through the fast fashion industry.

For those textiles that we are unable to upcycle, we purchased a shredding machine. Textiles

that are too worn, damaged, or stained will be sanitized, hardware removed, and then

shredded. This shred can be used for any stuffed application – throw cushions, floor cushions, ottomans, yoga cushions, bolsters and more. Any businesses interested in moving away from a stuffing that has a heavy carbon footprint (e.g. poly foam) to a 100% recycled stuffing will find this an excellent alternative. The stuffing is also perfect for all your crafting needs at home.

Building a local economy

We are building a local economy through our ReLove Local apprenticeship program.

If you are interested in learning sewing skills and would like to become one of our paid junior makers, email us at to learn more about the program.


The project really wouldn’t be where it is now were it not for the numerous funding agents and community members who have supported us every step of the way:


- Regional District of Nanaimo - got us started and provided some of the funding for the

Makerspace building, shredder, and operational costs.

- Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET) - provided funding for the Maker Space.

- PacificCan - provided support for outreach into other BC communities, creation of

learning videos, marketing, testing for the Sound panels and a portion of the

equipment costs.

- GIRO - provided the land and a new electrical service to the Makerspace.

- Members of the community have donated funds and volunteer labour to complete the

building construction.

- GIRO staff and volunteers for their ongoing support in integrating the new project into

the existing GIRO operation.

GIRO ReStore Hours

Wednesday: 9:30am-4pm

Saturday:  9:30am-4pm

Summer Hours



ReLove Makerspace Store

Wednesday: 10am-3pm

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Gabriola Island
Recycling Organisation


700 Tin Can Alley, Gabriola, BC

V0R 1X3

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