Aurora Milton’s jumper created from reused clothing and fabric. Courtesy of ecomaine

Aurora Milton, a junior from Cape Elizabeth High School, has won ecomaine’s Upcycle Challenge for the second year in a row. The nonprofit organization ecomaine, a single-sort recycling and sustainable waste management firm, holds the annual Upcycle Challenge for K-12 students in ecomaine member communities. The challenge is to use post-consumer items to create a new item, with approval from a teacher for the project. While the organization encourages recycling, the project goes a step further — upcycling old materials to make something new.

Finalists were chosen by ecomaine’s Outreach and Recycling Committee and the winner chosen in an online vote.

Milton created a jumper from old fabric and discarded clothing, winning the $500 grand prize for Cape Elizabeth High School. Milton received 71 percent of the votes, of which there were over 1,000. Last year, Milton won the 2022 contest for creating a pair of pants out of old curtains and discarded fabrics.

“April showers bring May flowers and a distaste for fast fashion,” Milton wrote in her contest entry. “In spring 2023, consumers are focusing on wearable, sustainable pieces as opposed to mass-produced microtrends. This upcycled jumper perfectly represents this mindset, offering a timeless, Y2K, romantic comedy look. Appealing to the environmentally conscious, this garment is made exclusively from retired materials: the base of the jumper formerly belonged to a dress found at Goodwill, and the black straps and bust band came from an old pair of pants. Even the appliqué on the chest was salvaged from remnants of the designer’s upcycled homecoming dress. Wearable for any occasion throughout the year, this jumper makes for an iconic runway look.”

One other finalist was a wind chime created by the Intercultural Community Center in Westbrook made out of glass bottles, pages from old books, a bike wheel, sea shells, pine cones, leaves, and more. The third finalist was a a doll house made from recycled materials, created by participants Scarlett, Christine, Ruby, and Emma from Fiddlehead Center for the Arts in Scarborough.

A special note was made for Sydney Doyle, from Mt. Aratat Middle School, who created reusable tote bags from old pet feed bags. Her work was ineligible for the prize due to not being in an ecomaine member community, but the organization has sent her a prize pack to commend her for her work.

“All three finalists did such an amazing job,” said ecomaine Communications Manager Matt Grondin. “It’s important to congratulate each of them for their great creativity; it’s clear that Aurora’s design resonated with Maine voters in the Upcycle Challenge.”

A dollhouse created by participants from Fiddlehead Center for the Arts in Scarborough. Courtesy of ecomaine

Windchimes, from the Intercultural Community Center, Westbrook. Courtesy of ecomaine

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