Clothing swap promotes environmental sustainability

By Arielle Kramer, Staff writer

Personal fashion trends change every season. In the spring, a student may consider one top fashionable, but by the time fall comes around they are tired of it and consider it out of style. A University RSO called Students for Environmental Concerns has an environmentally conscious solution for this cycle.

SECS, the University’s oldest and largest environmental RSO that started in the late ’60s, is an activist organization that engages in different weekly activities and projects around campus that work to promote environmental sustainability.

Destyni Thomas, sophomore in LAS, serves as the education chair of the organization; she reaches out on campus to educate students and locals about how to be more sustainable and environmentally-friendly.

“I found SECS on Quad Day freshman year, so I ended up going and I ended up really liked the people and what we do,” Thomas said. “In the recent past, we’ve been doing a lot of workshops about veganism and repurposing. We’ve also worked with one of the local elementary schools.”

Although it is environmentally-focused, SECS accepts students of all interests and majors. The club’s president, senior in LAS Catherine Yee, found that SECS fulfills her desire to play an active role in making a positive change to the environment.

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Yee said she is passionate about renewable energy, so she had to take the opportunity to get involved in pushing the University to stray away from fossil fuels and to implement clean energy techniques.

“I’ve always loved sustainability and the environment, so when I heard about an environmentally-focused RSO, I had to check it out,” Yee said.

On April 5, SECS will engage in one of its biggest events: its fourth annual clothing swap. The swap aims to promote the reusability aspect of environmental protection. SECS wants to show students that reusing items is not only enjoyable but good for the environment.

The swap has students bring old clothing to designated drop-off boxes around campus. Organizers of the swap count how many items are donated by each person. A giant thrift shop is then set up at the University YMCA. Individuals who donated their clothes can come and take as many items as they donated. Any clothing left over is either sold to others or donated to Goodwill.

Yee said SECS receives a variety of donated items.

“Besides shirts and pants and jackets, we’ve gotten (things) like underwear and bras, and I think someone even had a princess costume last year, so we get some interesting things,” Yee said.

Through the swap, SECS wants to raise awareness for environmentally friendly behaviors and get students to adopt a new way of thinking.

“We want to show that you don’t necessarily need to go out and buy something just to get something new,” Yee said. “During clothing production, a lot of water is used and many different resources. We want to promote the reusable aspect of reduce, reuse, recycle.”

Chloe Smith, senior in LAS and ACES and future swap participant, agrees the swap is a beneficial activity and satisfies her desire to be environmentally conscious.

“I have always been very into recycling. I have a guilty conscience, so every time I throw something away I think about it sitting in a landfill for hundreds of years,” Smith said.

Yee said the goal of going green is to ensure that the planet is sustainable for present and future generations.

“These resources we use are finite. We may not run out of them in our lives, but they will run out eventually,” Yee said.

As the education chair, Thomas advocates educating students about how their current environmental behaviors can affect the future.

“That’s the whole definition of sustain  to provide for this generation while not depleting resources for the future,” Thomas said. “To do that, you need to reduce and watch what you consume.”

Lauren McGinnity Boswell, junior in LAS, helped organize the clothing swap last year and had a rewarding experience with the event.

“The clothing swap had the largest turnout of all the events we plan during Earth Week, and appealed to a wide range of people because everyone likes the idea of getting rid of old clothes and receiving new ones in return for free,” Boswell said.

According to Boswell, the average American throws out over 60 pounds of clothing each year, which makes up about 6 percent of our annual waste.

“It’s easy to see why recycling our clothing is a crucial part of building a more sustainable and waste-free future,” Boswell said. “The clothing swap provides UIUC students, faculty and Champaign-Urbana locals with the opportunity to easily reduce their waste and get some awesome new clothes in return.”

Smith, who is interested in atmospheric sciences, understands how important recycling clothing is and why the swap is important to raise awareness.

“When people think about recycling they think about plastic, paper and aluminum cans, but clothes are a huge part of a person’s yearly waste,” Smith said. “Clothes sit in a landfill just like anything else, something people sometimes fail to think about.”

The swap has had consistently large turnouts and students seem to be drawn to the idea of the clothing swap.

Madelyn Tenuta, sophomore in FAA, is one of them. Although she did not participate in past swaps, Tenuta would like to this year after seeing the event page on her Facebook newsfeed.

“I love the idea of a clothing swap. There’s the intended benefit that is reusing materials and not having to create more,” Tenuta said. “But there’s also another added benefit when buying resale that you know your purchases are not helping slave labor. Buying used clothing is a less expensive way of helping fellow humans.”

Tenuta said she believes it is important for her as well as for other students to participate in the swap.

“It takes all people to make a change. If the only people that fight for change are the ones who have it directly affect their line of work, then nothing would ever get done,” Tenuta said.

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