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Firefighter coat messenger bag tops Art of Reuse contest

April 18, 2011 |  6:00 am

FirefightermessengerbagA messenger bag made from old firefighter coats and a brooch fashioned from used zippers topped the winners' list for NBCUniversal's first Art of Reuse contest. The contest was conducted in partnership with Etsy, a website where artists and craftspeople sell handmade items. The contest's top 10 finalists were revealed Monday.

Designed to celebrate Earth Day, the Art of Reuse plays off the Trash to Treasure study NBCUniversal conducted last month, which found that three-quarters of consumers would rather find another use for something than throw it away.

Zipperbroach "This desire to create something or buy something that has been created out of something that's already been used is a very strong value with today's consumers," said Janet Gallent, vice president of consumer insight and innovation research for Green Is Universal, a green awareness program launched by NBCUniversal in 2007. 

Twirklyskirt3 Green Is Universal polling showed 68% of consumers are paying more attention to whether a product is made from recycled materials; 78% said the quality of products made from recycled materials has also improved. 

Lauren Bush, designer of the Lauren Pierce clothing line and founder of the nonprofit Feed Project, served as one of the judges for the Art of Reuse. Other celebrity judges included Martha Stewart, Tori Spelling and Andy Cohen.

Bush said she was particularly struck by the craftsmanship of the contest entries.

"They’re all so creative. They're all really beautiful," said Bush, who was most impressed by the messenger bag fashioned from old uniforms.

"I make bags, so I’m partial to the firefighter coat recycled messenger bag, which just aesthetically is such a cool bag regardless of what it’s made from," she said. "I don’t know how many old firefighter jackets are out there. I don’t know if it can be mass-made, but it's a rare item to be recycled. That makes it cooler."

-- Susan Carpenter

Photos: Firefighter coat bag, top, re-zip it brooch, upcycled twirly skirt. Credit: