Privett Plaza looked a little more like the inside of Crossroads Trading Co. last Thursday at the Office of Sustainability’s thrift pop-up and mending workshop. Students searched through tables and racks of donated clothes while others sat and repaired beloved clothing at sewing stations, all backed by a live performance by USF’s own performing arts and social justice rock band.
First-year computer science major Kimberly De La Mora and first-year marketing major Kaitlin Williams were drawn to the event because of signature styles on the Hilltop. “We were just walking by and saw the setup, and I like people’s different styles on campus so we thought it would be fun,” said Williams.
The Office of Sustainability began collecting items from students beginning in January and filled 20 one-gallon trash bags worth of clothing, shoes, textbooks, and room decor by the day of the event. One of their sustainability specialists, fourth-year environmental studies major Rachel Steurer, said, “You very well might see your pre-loved clothes being sported by someone else on campus, which I think is fun and unites us in a really special way. Fashion is a beautiful common ground we can use to see ourselves in others.”
The office sorted items twice before the event, weeding out dirty or stained items. Remaining clothes were donated to St. Anthony Foundation, which provides essential services and healthcare to people in San Francisco.
Wearing previously owned clothing is an everyday aspect of the fight against climate change that consumers can get involved in. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 insight report, the fashion industry is the third largest polluter in the world, so thrifting and mending clothes are small steps in the right direction. Steurer said, “There is no perfect way to be sustainable under the current institutions and industries in place, but try to do your best.”
Steurer donned a Harley Davidson shirt and sage green maxi skirt, thrifted from shops in her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri and popular second hand clothing app, Depop. She offered some advice to new thrifters. “Commit to thrifting, look at every single item, and you will definitely find something you like.”
In an effort to increase clothes’ lifespan, volunteers taught their peers how to use sewing machines provided at the event. Steurer, whose grandmother taught her to sew, explained how the practice can help stop overconsumption and waste. “You can give your clothes another life, by repairing them rather than donating them or throwing them away,” she said. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, only about 15% of used textiles and clothes get recycled or reused, while the other 85% end up in landfills.
If you missed the event, no need to worry. There are plenty of opportunities to thrift around campus. De La Mora suggested shops on Haight Street like 2nd STREET and Buffalo Exchange. As for places to mend clothes on campus, the Green Room located in the basement of the School of Education building, ED 045, has sewing machines accessible to students and faculty with their One Card.
Next time you’re thinking about updating your wardrobe, remember that reducing your carbon footprint is always in style.