UNB Alumni
Telling our #ProudlyUNB stories

Taking steps toward sustainability through upcycled fashion

Author: UNB Alumni

Posted on Oct 25, 2023

Category: Inspiring Stories , Insights , UNB Fredericton , Science , Young Alumni

A UNB alum is inspiring others to make sustainable clothing choices and to reduce their impact. Maria Hernandez (BSENR’21), the face behind upcycled clothing line Palo Verde Designs, has combined her love for fashion and her deep commitment to making the planet a more sustainable place.

Palo Verde grew out of a longtime love of sewing and started as a side-hobby during her second year at UNB, while completing university courses online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An international student from Honduras, Hernandez says she started making bucket hats out of clothing she was no longer using and sold them to her friends and family.

At the time, Hernandez collected used clothing and materials from her friends’ closets and set out to improve her sewing skills. Now, her clothing continues to serve as a fun pastime, but inspiring a sustainable lifestyle has always been the driver behind her art.

“When I came to Canada to study at UNB, I went into environmental management,” says Hernandez. “I’ve always been very into what’s happening with the planet and the state of climate change. I had climate anxiety at one point, and I thought what can I do? I knew I couldn’t live without sewing, so I asked myself - how can I help through my art?”

The answer was making a commitment to upcycled fashion – creating new designs using old clothing and consciously buying natural fabrics over polyester or other synthetic materials.

Still operating as a small side-business, Hernandez says she spends her spare time on the weekends sewing and planning clothing drops on the brand’s social media pages, where she is actively working on growing her presence. This summer, she also participated in local markets in New Brunswick, selling and showcasing her unique pieces. She said she is currently enjoying learning how to sew different articles of clothing, including skirts, tops, and hats.

Someday, Hernandez dreams of opening her own boutique where she can sell her own designs, while also giving local artists the opportunity to display their pieces. But she says one of her most important goals is educating others about what they can do to make more sustainable clothing purchases.

“The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Management program at UNB was an awakening and an enlightenment for me of the things we can do to reduce our impact on the planet. It really helped me to develop Palo Verde and to know what we’re lacking in the fashion industry. I want to educate others and share information in a relatable way about what we can do to better the fashion industry and what we can do to make better buying choices.”

When she’s not sewing up designs for Palo Verde, Hernandez is working full-time as the nature-based project coordinator for Community Forest International, an organization focused on conservation, restoration, research development and education. In her own personal life, she also makes conscious decisions to wear second hand clothing, purchase locally made products and formulas, recycle, and reduce her carbon imprint.  

Hernandez says quite simply, “sustainability is part of who I am.”


To learn more about Palo Verde Designs, check out the Instagram page.