The first DUCFS Clothes Swap: retail therapy without the major carbon footprint

Through our support of the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), DUCFS 2019 is promoting sustainability in all its forms. As part of these efforts,  we are holding a clothes swap on the 20th October, inspired by the amazing Stories Behind Things movement started by Ella Grace Denton and Jemma Finch. We so often find ourselves with a full wardrobe but nothing to wear, and a clothes swap is a fabulously fun way to spruce up our styles as well as promote sustainable consumer habits in the fashion industry among the student population.

There has been a marked increase in the demand for fashion recently, with 400% more clothing being bought per year now compared to 20 years ago. This fast and impermanent turnover and the industry's existing linear market chain has led to tonnes of wasted textiles and a culture of disposability.  UK households threw away 300,000 tonnes of clothing in 2016. This situation has only worsened with the rise of the retail ecommerce industry (online shopping), where countless clothing items are sent to our houses but never worn. According to the CEO of Elle Magazine Anne-Marie Curtis, many pieces are never returned out of laziness, and end up gathering dust in our wardrobes, alongside the last 20 orders.

As well as affecting the space capacities of our own wardrobes, this has also had a serious effect on our planet. Continued unnecessary consumption supports a fast fashion industry that is damaging both the planet and the people on it.

Second only to oil, the clothing and textile industry is the largest polluter, and the third largest user of water in the world. The fashion industry uses enough water to quench the thirst of 110 million people for an entire year; It takes 2,720 litres of water to produce just one cotton t-shirt, the same amount that one person drinks in 3 years. Global supplies of water are rapidly decreasing, and as a fundamental human right it doesn’t take much to appreciate the importance of easing the strain put on such resources by our careless fast- fashion culture.

What makes these figures even more distressing is the unnecessary textile waste that follows the incessant production of these clothes to make up the latest trends. If the textiles that so often make it into household bins in the UK were reused or recycled instead of being hastily thrown into landfills without little thought into what that means for our planet (as 95% of them potentially could be), we could save a huge 39 million tonnes of carbon, as well as space in these landfill sites.

Through our clothes swap we want to emphasise the importance of a circular economy. By reusing, recycling, sharing and swapping, we can “close the loop” and help end the waste and environmental crisis we face. We want to move away from fast fashion, where trends come and go quicker than ever before, and where little thought is put into where these clothes are coming from, how the materials are being sourced, and the conditions under which they’re being made.

Our clothes swap will bring together lots of different styles and because it’s a swap not a spend, it gives us free reign over a large variety of items and allows us to experiment and give pieces new life and love.

Instead of bringing certain items of clothes up to Durham each term that you promise yourself you’ll wear but never do (the average household hasn’t worn 30% of its clothing in the last year), swap them out for something exciting and different, all while keeping hold of your student loan and maintaining that precious space in your student wardrobe.  

The premise of our clothes swap is simple: you pay a £3 entry fee and get given a certain number of tokens depending on how many clothes you bring and their quality (between 1-3 tokens per item) which you can then use to swap for other items.  All profits will go to the Environmental Justice Foundation and any items that don’t end up being swapped will be sent to a local non-profit organisation.

It really is retail therapy without the major carbon footprint!

We hope that providing this chance to swap your old unwanted items for someone else’s will give Durham students an increased awareness of the effects of your personal waste on our planet, and how as a community we can begin to make small changes to combat this problem. So please, join us! All information can be found here.

Alice Buchanan