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A Sustainable Alternative To Fast Fashion

Updated: Dec 15, 2022

By Rose Atwood and Charley Quillian

A clothing in DC. Image credit: Swap DC

Clothing swaps are one of our community’s newest and most popular ways for people to engage with sustainability. This is done through trading: each piece of clothing you bring to these events can then be swapped out for another piece that strikes your fancy. Your clothing can then find a new home where it will be used, and the same will be done with the clothing you receive: a process otherwise known as reusing. Something that may have crossed your mind about clothing swaps is the fact that they do not directly help the environment. When we first heard of the concept, it seemed to be more of a fun activity rather than public service. In reality, engaging with clothing swaps is an accessible way to do a lot of good for the environment.

Trading your clothing instead of throwing items away and buying new pieces at a store can contribute to saving our environment. Swapping clothing manages to keep unwanted items out of landfills through their emphasis on recycling. Landfills have a negative impact on the environment because of the toxins they produce, and cutting down on waste lessens the amount of possible contamination that comes from them. Communities near landfills can experience the negative effects of chemical runoffs that enter their water supplies. Landfills also produce a lot of methane emissions which get trapped in the atmosphere and greatly contribute to climate change. Furthermore, the energy that goes into creating clothing is more worthwhile if the lifespan of the articles is longer. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, the production of clothing uses a tremendous amount of water--1800 gallons to produce a pair of jeans and 400 to make a cotton t-shirt. Additionally, the clothing industry accounts for 5% of global carbon emissions according to Nature. Using clothes for their entire lifespan rather than buying new clothes limits your negative impact on the environment. Clothing swaps seem like a small step to help our environment, but they help in both preventing further damage to the environment while also making more use of the energy dedicated to clothing production.

If you now feel drawn to participate in a clothing swap, there are many ways to do so. For example, Washington D.C. has established organizations that dedicate themselves to planning events for clothing swaps. For example, SWÄP DC frequently promotes events that bring communities together through sustainability. If you explore their website ( or their instagram (@swapdc), chances are you will find an event in the near future to attend. But, as winter approaches these events may become less frequent. Fortunately, we are part of a community full of students actively engaging with each other, and with social media, these events become even more frequent. Consider reaching out to members of GDS or other school’s environmentally-oriented clubs to find out whether they are aware of any clothing swaps approaching. Luckily, these events require little effort to create, and if all else fails you can always plan your own! Whether the gathering is intimate or large, the productivity will be immense for your journey towards living sustainably.

You can help the environment more than you think by participating in a clothing swap, since they are easily accessible, easy to assemble, and extremely powerful in helping the environment.


Creative recycling. (n.d.). Swap DC.

Handle with care. (2014). World Wildlife Magazine.

How many gallons of water does it take to make a single pair of jeans? (2019, November 22). The

Fashion Law.

The price of fast fashion. (2018). Nature Climate Change, 8(1), 1.

WASTE. (n.d.). Community Action Works.


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