Clothing swap offers way to expand wardrobe while reducing waste

The seldom-worn mini dress and scarf in the back of your closet could become a new outfit for someone else this spring.

That was the basic idea behind a clothing swap event held March 12-13 by the University of Missouri Sustainability Office. The event promoted an environmentally friendly way to get a new style.

Students, staff and faculty members were welcomed to donate clean and gently used clothing. In exchange for each item donated, they got a ticket to swap for another item. The event also welcomed clothing donations from those who just wanted to declutter their closet.

As the event wrapped up, the office had recorded 460 clothing items donated, according to Ashley Craft, program assistant for the MU Sustainability Office.

“Something that we struggle with is overconsumption and textiles going to a landfill when they are perfectly usable, so our office is trying to combat that by having a clothing swap where perfectly good clothes can be swapped up for other perfectly good clothes,” Craft said. “It’s a form of recycling, and we’re trying to raise awareness for that.”

Americans produced 262 million tons of solid waste in 2015, the latest year for which Environmental Protection Agency estimates are available. Of that, 16 million tons were textiles. Only about 15 percent of the textiles were recycled, and about 66 percent ended up in the landfill.

The clothing swap event is a part of the university’s effort to increase its recycling rate. Currently, MU recycles 29 percent of the 17 tons of total waste it produces daily.

Margaret Pingelton browses some jeans during the Clothing Swap event at the MU Women’s Center on March 12. | Indah Setiawati/Missouri Business Alert

One of the event participants, MU senior Madalyn Stoecker, said she was a regular at the event and has attended since she was a freshman.

Stoecker said she was concerned with over consumption, so although she still buys new items from time to time, she enjoys shopping for secondhand clothes.

“I like buying used clothes because it’s less of an impact,” she said. “It’s also cheaper that way, so I’m saving money and I’m helping the environment, so I think it’s really cool. Also, there’s interesting stuff that you can find there that I find entertaining.”

Although most of the participants came individually to the event, those who came with friends shared their excitement when they found something that they liked. The participants would bring a pile of clothes to try on before coming to Craft’s table to show their ticket and their chosen clothes.

Another participant, MU freshman Margaret Pingelton, said strives to be selective when buying new clothes by purchasing from brands that the environment into account.

“I don’t shop as often as I used to,” she said, “but I try to be conscious about what I buy.”

Missouri Business Alert’s sustainability coverage is funded in part by the Mid-Missouri Solid Waste Management District.

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