OES Hosts Clothing Swaps, Workshops to Promote Sustainability

This weekend, the Office of Environmental Sustainability will begin holding clothing swaps.

Today, members of the Oberlin community are able to bring their clean, unwanted clothing to Burton, Kahn, South, Langston, and Dascomb Halls. From Saturday, April 8, through Sunday, April 9, community members will be able to thrift clothes at these same locations. Clothes can be donated and thrifted at tables in the first-floor lounges of each dorm. Leftover clothing articles will be donated to the Free Store. Community members can also donate old fabric scraps to be reused for sewing projects, or old socks, underwear, and cloth face masks to be sent to a textile recycling center.

The clothing swap is part of the Clothing Care and Repair event series, which aims to reduce clothing consumption on campus in an effort to mitigate the harmful effects of the fashion industry. According to the United Nations, major clothing corporations produce 20 percent of global wastewater, and 85 percent of textiles end up in landfills or are incinerated. The industry also contributes to ocean plastic pollution as well as unsafe and unhealthy working conditions.

As an Environmental Studies major and OES Intern, College second-year Adrien Stratis has taken an interest in the environmental concerns brought about by the textile industry. Stratis wanted to show the community that there are ways to take action. He encouraged his friend, College second-year Amelia Merithew, to utilize her clothing repair skills for the series.

“I was thinking about how Amelia is really good at sewing,” Stratis said. “We asked if she could just work on this one project. And then it turned out that, if she wanted to work on that, she had to be hired as an actual intern.”

At first, Merithew felt unsure about her abilities to teach others to mend their clothes.

“I felt like I wasn’t qualified,” Merithew said. “[Stratis] said, ‘No, people really don’t know this stuff. Like, you can come and teach them, and it will actually make a difference.’ [He] just kind of pushed me to do it, and … it turned out really great.”

Last Saturday, OES held a clothing repair workshop. Community members received assistance in repairing clothes that were torn or damaged.

“We had supplies like fabric needles, thread, glue,” Merithew said. “On a case-by-case individual basis, we helped them repair their clothes and hopefully taught them the skills so that

next time, they can fix it themselves. So, they don’t have to stop wearing that pair of jeans just because there’s a big hole.” Stratis notes that the Clothing Care and Repair event series has been well- attended so far. “We weren’t totally sure how many people were actually going to show up,” he said. “It ended up being the ideal turnout. So that was really exciting. We’re all really happy about that.”

The OES interns hope to maintain their momentum this weekend. Recently, Stratis and Merithew have joined forces with College first-year Zoe Meister, who brings a passion for reducing textile waste. Meister believes the event series is a valuable step toward achieving environmental sustainability goals on a local level.

“This project is very accessible,” Meister said. “This is an opportunity to make a change. Even if it’s small, it’s still important and it’s gonna be fun.”

Stratis feels that Oberlin’s values create a great environment for pursuing this project.

“It’s important to build community with people trying to address [these] issues,” he said. “People at Oberlin are really passionate about clothing and tie their identity to their clothes, but then they feel really guilty buying new clothes. The clothing swap is encouraging people to celebrate changing up their fashion sense and sharing their clothes with other community members and giving themselves an opportunity to be creative.”