Dakota Vaughn
Assistant Student Director

The Fish Bowl was swimming with people, clothes, and sewing machines yesterday for “Clothing Swap & Mend.” The event was hosted by Earthkeepers, Messiah’s environmental club, with the goal of educating students about ethical clothing practices. The event was co-sponsored by the Student Government Association, International Justice Mission, and The Office of Sustainability.

Though multiple organizations came up with the idea, Zhuang Lin Mok, secretary of Earthkeepers, took charge of putting on the event. “We’re all pretty interested in social justice issues,” she said of those involved. “I think personally I have been challenged to examine myself and what I buy into, and how to be, in a way, free from this culture of consumerism.”

Students could swap their old clothes for gently used clothes donated by others, or get help mending worn out pieces they still want to wear. More adventurous students could choose from a large scrap pile and make their own project, such as a wallet or t-shirt tote-bag.

Junior Kingsly Lott stopped by the event for one simple reason: “I had a hole in my sweater.” He said his friend who knew about the event had encouraged him to go. Lott had never sewn before, but one of the many volunteers showed him the ropes. “I have the fundamentals now,” Lott said.

The event ties in with RecycleMania, as this week’s theme was “Rethink”. Madeline Troyer, the Office of Sustainability’s Waste Coordinator, said “Hopefully this will give people a new way of thinking like ‘clothing can be waste, and we do waste it, but let’s reduce that and make it last longer.’”

As for the International Justice Mission’s part in the event, Amalia Robinson, a member of IJM said, “In the clothing industry, there is slavery that exists, so we want people to be aware of that.” At the event, IJM presented practical tips for ethical shopping, such as “Go for quality, not quantity” and “Shop local”.

Not everyone enjoying the event was a Messiah student. Stephanie Jones said her mom, a Messiah employee, told her about the event, and the two of them came together. Jones said she’s a thrift shopper and considers thrift shopping her therapy. She listed off some of the items she found and said, “I think events like this always bring people together. You get to share your clothes with others instead of just giving them away.”

Mok said one of Earthkeepers’ main goals for the event was for it to be fun, but more than that was the environmental impact it could have on students. “I think a lot of people think ‘I’m just one person, what I do doesn’t really matter’. But I think we make a lot of choices in our lifetime and we affect other people,” Mok said.  “I hope people feel empowered by what they’re able to do with their choices, and I hope that they’re excited about the different ways we could achieve sustainability.”