Swapping Sustainably: USF’s Free Thrift Pop-Up

Yearly, 92 million tons of clothing end up in landfills. Photo courtesy of Daniela Uribe/USF Office of Sustainability.

On Oct. 24 and 25 at Privett Plaza, students sifted through tables of used clothing, looking for the perfect pieces to add to their wardrobes — for free.

The Office of Sustainability hosted their second annual “Thrift Pop Up,” where students shopped sustainably by rehoming their unwanted clothes instead of throwing them away. 

Clothes in the swap were collected in donation bins in dormitories and directly donated by students who wanted to clear out their closets or swap for something new.

“At the event I was able to find two pieces of clothing – a True Religion hat and a black lace top,” said junior psychology major, Alyssa Vicario.

While students shopped around, they listened to live music from the USF Rock Band. Students bopped their heads, screamed, and even moshed as they browsed. By the end of their performance, the swap had transformed into a full fledged rock concert and cheers could be heard from the first floor of the University Center.

“Having a live band while sorting through clothes makes it a much more enjoyable experience,” said Vicario.

The pop-up supports sustainable buying and keeps student’s donated clothes out of landfills. Yearly, 92 million tons of clothing end up in landfills. Through events like this, members of the USF community hope to alleviate this problem. 

“When living on campus, it’s easy to stay in your bubble and not make that extra effort to take your clothes to Goodwill or attempt to resell them,” said Beatrice Johnson-Drysdale, Sustainability Specialist for the Office of Sustainability.

Sophomore biology major, Emily Phong, went to the pop-up with her friend. She took home a pair of cargo pants. “I love how each individual has a way to repurpose an item into their own style,” she said. “It’s refreshing to see.”

The free aspect of the pop-up made clothing more accessible to students who may not have the financial means to buy pieces they enjoy. 

Senior biology major Holly Marie Bernadino said she found the pop-up helpful. “As someone who has been struggling with body image, it’s really nice to find new free clothes. Especially not having enough money to buy new clothes at times.”

“This allows students to shop without feeling guilty for spending and to grasp the fact that it’s not about making a profit,” said Johnson-Drysdale, who is also a senior engineering major. “We want to genuinely make our campus a sustainable place.”

As a result of thrift and resell culture among young people, thrifted clothing is becoming less accessible, deterring some from buying secondhand. This can encourage purchasing from fast-fashion companies like Shein or H&M who contribute to textile waste on a large scale.

“Thrifting is becoming more trendy, it is getting more expensive and due to this many people are opting for cheap and faster alternatives which is very unsustainable,” said Sustainably Officer Yazan Tandros.

Universities like Santa Clara and Utah University also host free pop-up thrifts. Some hope this movement will continue to spread.

“Other universities should have similar events because it teaches students the importance of being sustainable and decreasing one’s carbon footprint,” said Tadros, who is a senior business management major.

Moving forward, the Office of Sustainability plans to host the swap twice per semester.

“My hope is that students will get used to putting their unwanted clothes in our piles,” said Johnson-Drysdale.


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