Church Groups Gather to Make Plastic Yarn Sleeping Mats For Homeless, Impoverished

When I published this post on sustainablog earlier today, I was focused on the creative reuse and humanitarian angles. As such, I gave little space to another interesting fact: most “plarn” mats made for the homeless or impoverished come from church groups around the US. And Wayne Labadie, whose story grabbed my interest initially, discovered his first plarn mat at a church, and also heard about the concept on a Christian radio station. He’s also sharing his interest through church networks (including a training workshop later this month).

While I hope this doesn’t replace other congregational activities like feeding, creating these sleeping mats for the less fortunate strikes me as a great way to lend a hand… and to keep a lot of plastic bags out of the trash. If you’ve participated in a group, religious or otherwise, making these, share you experience with us.

DIY Plarn Mats For The Homeless: A Great Use For Plastic Shopping Bags

create a little comfort with a plarn sleeping mat

Last time I checked, the conundrum over shopping bags was still ongoing. Isn’t paper environmentally preferable to plastic, and reusable bags better than both? That’s the standard thinking in green circles; there are some legitimate arguments out there for the plastic bag status quo, however. I’m not going to try to settle that one today, or even really contribute to the debate. Rather, I wanted to share not just another idea I’ve found for making use of plastic shopping bags, but a bona fide movement: “plarn” mats.

Plarn? That’s a mashed-up word for plastic yarn, a string material made from plastic shopping bags. Unlike plastic lumber and other common materials made from recycled bags, plarn doesn’t require shipping bags off to a recycler: you can make it yourself.

That’s what Wayne Abadie of Luling, Louisiana is doing: specifically, he’s turning plastic shopping bags into plarn mats for the homeless. After finding a mat made of the material, Wayne got online and discovered others making these mats – often church groups. So far, he’s made 14 of the mats – it’s not a fast process – and donated them to a New Orleans church for distribution. He’s also teaching workshops on making the mats.

How to Join the Plarn Mats Movement

I followed Wayne’s lead, did a little Googling, and discovered that many people are not only upycling bags into mats, but sharing their methods online. The best instructions I’ve found so far come from Fine Craft Guild, which shared Dawn Warmbold’s video that walks you through the process of making a mat. Take a look:

Group efforts to make these make a lot of sense: even though many of us likely have a stash of plastic shopping bags, we probably don’t have the 1000-1200 required for a mat. Some kind of division of labor also seems like a good idea.

These mats aren’t the solution to homelessness or poverty by any means, but they do create some comfort and protection for people dealing with hard times. I’d also guess they last forever, so there’s no reason not to pass them along once a user gets back on his/her feet.

Have you made these, or other items from plarn? Any suggestions or tips? Share them in the comments below… and many thanks to my Mom for passing this news along…

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Featured photo credit: Shutterstock

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About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at