The fashion industry is one of the most polluting sectors in the world, responsible for 10 percent of all carbon emissions and 20 percent of global wastewater. In response, some Georgetown students are promoting sustainable clothing practices in their own communities through the reuse of fashion.
Georgetown Renewable Energy and Environmental Network (GREEN), the university’s largest environmental student organization, held a clothing swap on October 10 for students to exchange clothes they no longer wanted. The GREEN exchange was aimed at reducing wasted clothing while allowing students to get new clothes for free.
âClothes generate a lot of waste,â said Rita Alan (COL ’24), a GREEN member who helped run the exchange. âWe wanted to do something about all the garbage caused by clothes thrown around campus. “
While most clothing exchanges require each attendee to bring something to trade in order to take something away, GREEN says their standards are more lax. âPeople have come to drop off clothes that they no longer want and have looked at the clothes that are here,â Alan said. âEveryone is welcome to take clothes, whether they bring something or not. The club has relaxed its definition to ensure as much participation as possible while ensuring that no excess clothing remains.
The average American sheds about 81 pounds of clothing each year. Of all the clothes thrown away, 57% ends up in landfills, where synthetic plastics in cheap fabrics wreak havoc on the environment. These plastics can end up in the ocean and take a long time to dissolve, damaging marine life and contributing to climate change.
While donating to thrift stores seems like a good way to reduce wasted clothing, most donations are thrown away if they are not sold within a certain amount of time. Unwanted clothing from American thrift stores is sent to other countries, such as Pakistan and Malaysia, and if the clothing is in unusable condition, it is shredded and used as insulation. Clothing sold overseas can also harm local clothing markets, often displacing regional businesses.
Fast fashion brands such as Shein, Zara, and Forever 21 have gained tremendous popularity in recent years and have exacerbated the waste problem. Fast fashion is inexpensive clothing that is produced as quickly as possible to keep up with ever-changing trend cycles and high consumption rates. Since these garments have to be made quickly and inexpensively for companies to keep their business models, they are often made in poor conditions with faded materials. Manufactured quickly and carelessly, their lifespan is much shorter than that of clothing created in a more sustainable manner. All the damage the fashion industry is contributing to the environment has inspired groups like GREEN fighting climate change to formulate creative opportunities for people to buy second-hand clothes and shop in a sustainable way.
In addition to the clothing exchange, GREEN has other initiatives to promote sustainability on campus. It currently has six teams: gardening, zero waste, education, energy and water, environmental justice and bees, a group that takes care of and collects honey from beehives on campus.
“Our main goal is to increase sustainable practices within student life and to bring sustainable education to the campus and also to advocate for greater sustainability with the administration,” said the president of GREEN Anu Lamsal (SFS ’23) in an interview with the Voice. In the past, the club has organized educational events and projects to promote more sustainable practices on campus.
This wasn’t GREEN’s first successful clothing swap. In the summer of 2021, GREEN members who lived in DC exchanged clothes, and given the large number of people who participated in the exchange on October 10, GREEN believes Georgetown students are excited about the initiative and will continue to participate in future discussions.
GREEN plans to pursue more initiatives to continue its mission of reducing waste on campus. âAs an offshoot of the clothing exchange, we hope to start a pop-up thrift store,â Lamsal said. âWe had a lot of clothes left from the clothes exchange and we don’t want to waste them. We thought if we could stock up [clothing] Georgetown students and then sell it to other students, so we could reduce textile waste and that would be really efficient.
According to Alan, getting affordable second-hand clothes is important for many students who can’t afford new clothes, especially in a city where even local thrift stores can be expensive. âIt’s pretty hard to save money in the DC area. Most of the places are quite remote and the options, especially in Washington, are very limited and more expensive, âshe said.
Club members plan to open a savings window on campus by the start of the next semester. GREEN will collect student donations which will then be collected and sold in pop-ups at affordable prices. All proceeds will go to Georgetown Mutual Aid, a student organization that manages community donations to other students. The details of the pop-up have not been fully understood, but it will happen sporadically on campus, where students can easily engage in this sustainable fashion practice.
Initiatives such as GREEN’s Clothing Exchange help both sustainability-conscious students as well as those who would benefit from cheap or free clothing alternatives. Income from thrift stores will be another channel for redistributing resources among students.
Tackling fast fashion is a priority for GREEN, and members plan to organize educational events on the fashion industry and its contribution to climate change. âOur educational team will undertake projects regarding clothing waste education, and I think they hope to launch a poster campaign on clothing waste, textile waste, fast fashion,â said Lamsal.
With these upcoming initiatives and events, GREEN hopes to inspire more people to buy second-hand and pay more attention to their buying habits, as well as to realize the serious damage the fashion industry is causing to the industry. weather.