top of page

The Canuary Dress

What would you do with 600 cans that you picked up off the streets while running? How about turning them into an outfit and running a marathon?

Well - that kinda grew into something special!

Originally the dress and outfit was called the canuary dress, but it seems to have generated other labels (and myself too haha). So you might also find it referred to as 'blikjesjurk' 'can dress' and me as 'blikjesman' or 'canman'.

I live life by a set of rules.. here are the first two..

"Why make it easy, when you can make it hard?"

Rule #1

"Always ask the question; how can I make it more Epic?"

Rule #2

This was a perfect project to showcase those rules!

On April 13th, 2024, I completed Rotterdam marathon in an outfit made from 600 cans; trash I picked up during my daily runs over a three week period. This is the story of how this happened, and why.

The Why

The why is, at its heart, straightforward; to make an impact.

But just like everything there are layers to an answer.

Just as valid as an answer would be

"To make something that goes viral" - the more people that see it, the more chance I can inspire, but also the better the chance that I can turn it into a full-time job (or at least get something financially back)

For that last point, this is not at the heart of why I do it. I would do it anyway. I have been picking up trash while running since 2011, so this can never be considered a shallow reason. But I would be lying if I said there wasn't a personal dream in there too.

"To have fun"

"To inspire"

"To start conversations"

But my official reason is as follows (taken from this post: www.instagram.com/p/C5_expeqeXz)


This is not a costume that I bought in a shop.
This is not a costume that has a single purpose.

Every element has meaning.
It doesn't just tell my story over the last 13 years that I have been plogging.
It also tells the stories of others who have helped me and mean a lot to me.

It is not a negative story.
It isn't against governments
It isn't against brands

It is a positive story
It is intended to inspire.
It is intended to help us realise that we can change the world through our positive actions.
And, that we can have fun doing it.

I went there with the intent to be seen
Or rather, for the outfit to be seen.

 

This is at the heart of what I do.

All the focus that is placed on governments, corporations and brands is 100% right. They have to take responsibility. They have to change.

But let's not use them as a convenient excuse to fail. 

In the Netherlands, plastic single use spoons and forks are now banned. Brilliant! But instead of finding a plastic fork thrown on the ground, I now find bamboo ones.

Sure, the impact is way less. But do we really think the world can be saved if we don't show it the respect it deserves? If people drop a bamboo fork, the future looks bleak.

The Outfit

The canuary dress is truly a Haarlem outfit.

600 Cans - there are around 600 cans on the outfit. Around 400 in the dress, hat and legwarmers, and 200 for the flag.

 

40hrs - it took around 40hrs to make all the holes in the dress, prepare the cans and attached individually to the dress

 

1 yellow dress - underneath is a yellow dress make by zero waste fashion designer Geesken Vormgeving. It is actually made from street flags gifted to her by the some shops in the Cronjestraat (a famous Haarlem shopping street) - they were used to hang above the shops along the street. Geesken was so wonderful to give her time freely to the project. More on it here: www.instagram.com/p/C0SSS0Jqis0

 

3 weeks - I collected the cans over 3 weeks of plogging around Haarlem

 

6kg - the outfit weighs 6kg, and the flag a couple more. But the flag was a couple more. The flag was the difficult element; because the weight was on the end, it felt closer to 10-15kg

Red Bull flag - the flag is only made up of redbull cans because of ALL cans i pick up, 1/3 of those cans are one brand alone! Red Bull. It is not to say that RedBull is bad. Quite the opposite. They are in a position to make the biggest impact. If they can educate their consumers to not drop their cans, then that is 1/3 less cans on the street in one go!

Twine and Zip Ties - I attached the cans to the dress using twine as I didn't want to use plastic if i could help it. But for the flag i did need to use a lot of zipties. The reason is because of the weight. it needed strength. I can justify this because it isn't an outfit i will get rid of.

Flag Pole - The father of a dear friend (Bert) passed away. Bert knew I wanted to make a flag, and he offered to give me his father's pole. What an honour. So I wrote the name of his father on the pole. I also wrote the name of my mother and father-in-law who also sadly passed away. More names have now been added that hold meaning (currently 6 names on there)

Ukraine Shoe Laces - To use the flag for Rotterdam Marathon I needed to keep the flag rolled up at the start (for safety) - I used blue and yellow shoelaces that I bought at the Rotterdam 2022 Marathon Expo in support of Ukraine.

The Timeline

 

Perhaps the easiest way to tell the story is through a timeline

Jan 2000 - The first (energy) canuary campaign. In January I only pick up one type of trash; cans. So instead of JANuary, it is CANuary. I have been doing that each January since, with the craziest results coming in Jan 2023 (https://youtu.be/SwI6a06dSB4). 

Jul 2023 - Introduction of the statiegeld (deposit) system. The big question is; how much of a difference would it make? In Jan 2023 I picked up close to 8000 cans. How many would I find in Jan 2024? I knew it was going to be an important canuary year. i knew I wanted to do something big.. but wasn't sure what.

Nov 2023 - I made a movie poster remake of Taylor Swift's Eras Tour

canuary dress taylor swift eras tour

This was the spark.. I wasn't really happy with the poster, and a comment from someone nailed it; "it doesn't sparkle!". I was called out by a Swiftie. And they were right.

Two days later, I had the plan. The canuary dress! www.instagram.com/p/CzW83ldqxPF

canuary dress mockup.PNG

I thought.. perfect. I can remake the poster using this.

I could use it to promote Canuary 2024

But i didn't initially think about running a race in it.

I went to Geesken and asked for help. She was super enthusiastic about it.

On Nov 30, she made the yellow dress underneath. 

Dec 2023 - plans were formed

I collected the cans I needed over three weeks of plogging - I only used the already crushed cans. If I could easily take the can to get deposit money on it, then i did.

During December the idea of running with it formed.

the spark was Tina Muir -she ran NYC marathon in a trash skirt. I thought.. blimey, I could run in the canuary dress! Here is one of her posts with the skirt www.instagram.com/p/Cxf4hRXLyyL/

Originally I thought about using it for just my monthly clean up PlogX, but back to those rules i mentioned at the start..the idea grew and grew and the goal became running my favourite race of the year in it. Egmond Half Marathon. I love that race

During December I attached the cans to the outfit (bluddy nightmare haha) and took it on a test outing during the Dec PlogX: www.instagram.com/reel/C07HSF7q84j/  - it was a success! I could finish it off and add a hat and legwarmers.

I remade the movie poster: www.instagram.com/p/C1VCBSNqioM

photostudio_1715957235939.jpg

Jan 2024 

At the start of Jan we had another cleanup - I could try the full suit. It worked really well

www.instagram.com/p/C1xcCI5Kv8j/

And the idea of the flag was formed. I had enough redbull cans to make a flag using a flag pole donated by Bert (see above)

I was ready for Egmond! The best thing is just to show the video (YouTube)

It was a HUGE HUGE HUGE success. 

Wow.

I will add the media attention I received to the media section soon.

At that point the idea formed; "could I run a marathon in it?"

It made a few appearances (including magazines and newspapers), but lets skip ahead to April

April 2024

I had reached out to Rotterdam Marathon if they would give me a spot (all the tickets were sold, but, perhaps this is my ego speaking, but it felt like it deserved an invite from a race - if I was going to do a marathon in it, it needed to be a big one, and in NL, that is Rotterdam!)

5 days before the event, I got confirmation. They invited me.

The outfit made its debut!

Here are some of the key highlights

I went viral on TikTok! nearly 400k views on this one: www.tiktok.com/@wayeoflife/video/7357430576200109345  - this was from the day before and loads of comments saying "i saw you!"

Statiegeld Nederland had done an interview with me a couple of weeks before, but they filmed me in the outfit and added it to their post (love this) - www.instagram.com/reel/C50QDtsIS8r/

I run around all the time in a banana outfit and it is brilliant.

But the impact that the canuary dress has made, is astounding.

These are my favourite photos of the outfit.

In action at Egmond (photo Rob Glas on Facebook)

And two from Rotterdam (both from the Rotterdam Marathon FB page)

bottom of page