Instead of throwing away pants that will never be wore again, or holding on to a shirt sitting in the closet, Western students decided to donate their old clothes in exchange for others.
Created by eight Western students, the Western Clothing Swap allowed students and Bellingham residents alike to browse through a unique collection of apparel, all brought in by participants of the event.
Held March 1 in the Viking Union, the swap welcomed those coming in with boxes full of outfits, as well as people with only a single article of clothing. No one left empty-handed.
The students — Holly Knutson, Molly Johnson, Edwin Smith, Hyelim Won, Jake Regge, Jessica Martin, Amanuel Mamo and Amy Yasutake — worked together to create the event as part of an environmental studies course, according to the Facebook event.
They designed it as their final project for the class, deciding it would be a good way for students to exchange clothes they might not personally like, but somebody else would, Knutson said.
“We wanted to do an event where the community can get involved,” Johnson said.
Knutson said she remembers getting hand-me-downs from her parents and always wanted to turn the concept into a larger project.
She was inspired by the creative recycling techniques of Ragfinery, a local Bellingham business that sells fabrics and other sewing materials recovered from unwanted clothing. She had taken a class there that taught her how to make baskets out of string from old carpets.
Clothes with holes or stains were donated to Ragfinery.
One of the goals of the clothing swap was to apply sustainability by reducing consumerism, according to the event page.
“There always seems to be some sort of [talk] about child labor, what are people using, how are they paying the people making this stuff. I think everyone really wants to purchase things that are made in the U.S.,” said Kim Masser, who attended the swap.
Masser works in the Underground Coffeehouse and won the 2015 Sustainability Award in Community Partnership for her work in the Soap for Hope program, which collects laundry soap and personal care items. The items are donated to non-profit organization, according to the Western Sustainability page.
“[The swap] cuts down on consumerism, so you’re not going out and buying clothes that possibly have a negative impact, especially those clothes that are not made in the U.S.,” Knutson said.
And that mentality seems to have caught on. 66 people signed in at the event.
“There’s a lot of things that are made that are just not quality,” Masser said. “Some dude, somewhere in some other part of the country, or even in another country, is making this stuff super cheap and sending it over. It’s very frustrating.”
The students had a plan for the clothes that didn’t find a new owner during the swap. After the event, remaining items were washed and donated to the Lighthouse Mission and the YWCA women’s shelter, according to their Facebook page.