ReUseapalooza promotes environmentally-friendly ideas

By Jerene-Elise Nall

You’ve heard of the “3 R’s” – reduce, reuse, and recycle. But have you heard of ReUseapalooza?

Friday will mark the beginning of the second annual ReUseapalooza. ReUseapalooza is a gathering of local artists, bands and organizations working to promote a variety of environmentally-friendly ideas, like repurposing, reducing waste, and above all, lending a helping hand in community-wide efforts.

ReUseapalooza stems from efforts on the part of the community, as well as on the part of campus organizations, to band together in the name of positive activism.

Camille Piazza, a community member heavily involved in the planning of ReUseapalooza, said Eric Sterling of Green Paws Environmental Alliance started up the group last year.

“He really wanted to demonstrate that it is an alliance, and that we want to team up with the community and team up with the different groups on campus,” she said.

Sarah Wawerski, president of Green Paws, said the group tries to focus on having presence on campus.

“We work to promote environmental stewardship in the community, but we also like to work with other groups,” she said. “Last year, we worked with STAND, the anti-genocide group on campus. [This year], we’re working with several other organizations. One of the organizations that we’re excited to work with this year is called Helping Hands. They sell jewelry made by women in Uganda made out of recycled magazine paper.”

ReUseapalooza focuses on showcasing the work that organizations, as well as musicians and artists, produce for the greater good of the community.

“There’s a lot of people that are doing really good work in the community, like some of these groups on campus,” Sterling said. “To be able to showcase the artists and the groups that are doing this kind of work, it lets the students and the community know how people are trying to change things to make things better.”

It’s not just the campus organizations that are planting, crafting and recycling at ReUseapalooza. Many of the artists and musicians, the vast majority of which are local, are also finding interesting and innovative ways to be green, specifically featured performers Heath Johnson and Nathan Dettman.

“Heath and Nathan have been very active in the community, working with the DeKalb community gardens,” Sterling said. “[Dettman] also has a gardening business. He’s really negotiable in that if you don’t really have much money, he’ll go over and help you out for free. [Johnson] goes down to the Kishwaukee River and takes tall grass and he weaves it and spins it somehow. He’s going to be doing demonstrations at ReUseapalooza. He makes jewelry out of prairie grass and stuff like that.”

Local artists featured at this year’s ReUseapalooza like Ariel Ries of DeKalb’s SMLTWN Skate Shop also find that in the right hands, one person’s trash can easily become another person’s treasure.

“She repurposes old skateboards,” Sterling said. “She takes skateboards and cuts them up and drills holes in them and then makes jewelry out of them.”

Ellus Bellus, a local-area DIY band also featured at this year’s ReUseapalooza, lives by that same mantra.

“We caught [Bellus] at the open mic at the House Cafe one night. [The drummer’s] bass drum is made out of an old suitcase. He get’s a really good sound out of it,” Sterling said.

Mathew Tembo, joined by the NIU Afropop Ensemble is another percussionist that sees the value in repurposing.

“[Tembo] plays a marimba with shells that he found and carved in Africa,” Sterling said. “He made his own marimba and he tunes it himself.”

While many of the artists, musicians and participants have ties to NIU, many of them have strong ties to the larger community of DeKalb. The support of both communities is critical to the larger success of this event.

“We have seen this alliance that has built up, but we have also seen it segregated,” Piazza said. “There is the community, and then there is the student population. The biggest reason why I believe that folks should come and participate in this is to come and say, ‘I am in support of the alliance between the community and the students.’ It’s a great partnering between the university and our town.”

The event presents itself as incredible networking opportunity, as well.

“It’s a great, informal way to share ideas,” Wawerski said. “There’s so much pressure at school and in the classroom and at organizational meetings. There’s an agenda you really have to stick to. Holding an event like ReUseapalooza that lasts all night means you get to get to know those [like-minded] people and hear their ideas in a fun and informal setting. It really lets the ideas flow and develops future projects.”

Besides working to support a variety of causes, including not only the continued support for local artists, musicians and organizations, as well as petitioning for bicycle lanes, backyard chickens, and the banning of plastic bottles on campus, the event is also a food drive for local organization Feed ‘Em Soup.