Ruby Sprengle Turns Plastic Bags Into Tarps for Haiti

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

We’ve written our share about plastic bags and what to do with them. If you’re University of Oregon student Ruby Sprengle, you turn them into tarps for the homeless in Haiti.

Sprengle was moved to action upon hearing how the American Red Cross had given out thousands of tarps in Haiti, but how many more were needed due to the coming rainy season in May. She already had experience making tarps of this nature, as it was her chosen project for the “Urban Survival Workout” she did with product design husband-and-wife team John and Wonhee Arndt, in which workshop participants were asked to make portable shelters out of discarded materials. So Sprengle made a 6′ x 6′ “utility quilt” out of plastic bags, complete with a map of downtown Portland on the back so homeless people can find food, medical supplies, clothes and other necessities.

She’s now working on 10′ by 12′ tarps with a group of volunteers. It takes about 400 plastic bags to make a tarp: “Start by taking one plastic bag, fold it a couple of times vertically, then cut off the top and bottom. That leaves a double-sided rectangular piece. Do that with two more bags and you’re ready to place all three flattened bag pieces between two pieces of tracing paper and iron. Once you have lots of pieces, you slightly overlap them and meld them together with more ironing. Sprengle then uses grommets and clear duct tape on the ends to finish the tarps.”

If you’d like to volunteer to make tarps out of plastic bags for Haiti, contact Ruby Sprengle through her blog,, or e-mail her at Upcoming workshops are planned for later this month in Eugene and Portland. She’s also looking for volunteers headed on missions to Haiti to deliver tarps once they are completed.