Friends General Conference

Together we nurture the spiritual vitality of Friends

The Sustainability of Stuff

Workshop Number: 
Veronica Burrows
Who may register?: 
Open to All
Experiential Activities: 
part-time attenders welcome (can come any day; some might only attend Thursday or Friday)
half gathering attenders welcome
First half (Monday-Wednesday)
Second half (Wednesday/Thursday-Friday)

Explore how everything we use and interact with cycles out of the biosphere and back to it again. We’ll compare ecological impacts of Reducing, Reusing and Recycling and develop effective individual strategies for materials stewardship in our lives. Daily hands-on upcycling activities will provide opportunities for artistic expression.

Workshop Description

We will review how ‘stuff’; the matter that makes up all we use and interact with – and ourselves too – comes from the biosphere, is processed and formed and used and re-used and conserved and wasted and eventually goes back to the biosphere. Exploring the ‘reduce/reuse/recycle’ catchphrase in depth, we will consider where we can most effectively engage in personal stewardship of ‘stuff’ and look for inspiration in stories of stewardship from around the world.

Each day’s activities will focus on one of these topics: “The Life Cycle of Stuff,” “Reduce/Reuse/Recycle and the Steps in Between,” “Successful Strategies for Reducing Your Material Impact” “Stewardship: Personal, Local/Meeting, and Global”. After 20-30 minutes of worship, then about ninety minutes of active discussion and community learning, we’ll spend the remaining 90 minutes doing spirit-lifting hands-on upcycling of ‘stuff’ that may include old calendars, raggedy T-shirts, plastic bags, and snack bags for new, beautiful, useful purposes. 

Pre-Gathering I recommend attenders explore the resources at “The Story of Stuff” ( I also suggest reading "The Stewardship of Stuff" in Wester Friend (

I will provide enough materials for upcycling activities, but participants may want to bring beloved objects they hate to throw out such as raggedy clothing that is no longer wearable that they’d like to upcycle, or an old calendar with meaningful artwork, or old paper maps of special places. It will be helpful if participants bring their own scissors (for paper and cloth).  Some take-away kits (made from upcycled materials!) for making upcycled envelopes will be available for a $5. A more detailed list of suggested workshop materials will be emailed to participants as Gathering approaches.

Leader Experience

I have been teaching engineering for over 30 years - and teaching First Day School for at least as long. Which is to say, I am comfortable leading learning experiences for all ages. Most of my teaching is done using ‘active learning’ approaches. Where possible, I include hands-on activities. Relevant to my workshop topic, at least half of my planned interactive activities have been presented already in interactive workshops at my home Meeting, at my Regional Meeting and/or my Yearly Meeting. At least of half of my planned Gathering Workshop content has been shared at multi-day workshops at my Yearly Meeting.