Piles of clothing, furniture, books, and nonperishable foods overwhelmed the lobby of the 2 Boylston Place residence hall, making it disorderly at the end of the spring 2019 swap-and-shop event. Senior Raven Devanney, a resident assistant in the building, remembers struggling to manage the mass of items and the mess they created.
“People would be dropping stuff off while people are simultaneously throwing clothes around trying to find things,” Devanney said. “I feel like every year we do the best that we can with what we have, but with limited space and limited amount of volunteers and resources, it tends to get a bit messy.”
While planning next year’s swap-and-shop event in April 2019, Campus Sustainability Manager Cathy Liebowitz brought up the idea of creating a second event for the end of the fall semester called “Swap and Shop Lite” to manage the number of items donated at once.
“For me, as someone who cares about the environment and is fortunate to have a position where that is a primary [focus] of mine, it makes sense [that] there should always be something where people can dispose of the stuff that they don’t want anymore in a way that isn’t harmful,” Liebowitz said.
From Dec. 13 through Dec. 18, the Office of Campus Services and the Office of Residential Education will set up designated collection zones on the first floor of every residence hall, where students can drop off nonperishable food items and clothing they wish to donate. The shopping aspect of the event will occur on Dec. 16 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. in room 118 of Piano Row, on Dec. 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and on Dec. 18 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Piano Row Multipurpose Room.
Swap and Shop Lite is a smaller-scale version of the annual spring event. In previous years, student volunteers set up zones in residential common rooms where students could drop off and shop for a variety of donated items, Liebowitz said.
“When you do it in common spaces, it’s almost like operating separate swap-and-shop events in every single residence hall, which can be really challenging,” Liebowitz said.
Unlike previous swap and shops, only nonperishable food items and clothing are going to be collected in the residence halls. Since fewer students move out of residence halls in the fall semester, organizers predict fewer furniture pieces and other items will be thrown away. Once collected, volunteers will take these items to Piano Row for the shopping event. Liebowitz said that this will keep the event more organized and in a more centralized location on campus for off-campus students.
If there are any remaining nonperishable food or clothing items after the shopping times, the food will be sent to the campus food pantry and the remaining clothing will be donated to the multipurpose organization Bay State Textiles and Emerson’s tiny thrift store located in the basement of the Colonial Building, according to Liebowitz.
Emerson diverts less than 20 percent of its waste from the trash stream, according to Liebowitz. The Swap and Shop Lite event aims to increase that number through a sustainable means of redistributing items that would otherwise go to waste, Liebowitz said.
“The rewarding part is knowing that perfectly usable stuff is going to new people that can bring it a new life,” Liebowitz said. “So whether it’s a shirt or a plastic bin, someone can use it, and it’s free.”
Sophomore journalism major Ashly Ibarra started working with Liebowtitz in the beginning of September to promote the event via fliers and social media posts.
Ibarra said she strongly believes in the importance of sustainable fashion and hopes that Swap and Shop Lite will encourage future sustainable actions from students.
“There’s a lot that needs to be done still, but I think [the swap and shop] is a really great step,” Ibarra said. “I hope [it brings] more attention to the issues of fast fashion and climate change, and hopefully [people] will learn how to be more sustainable, changing certain lifestyles that you have, and just being aware.”
Devanney said that the spring 2019 event successfully diverted 1.75 tons of waste from landfills.
“I really just hope that [the Swap and Shop Lite] makes people think about where their clothing goes when they’re done using it,” Devanney said. “I feel like, a lot of the times, in Western cultures specifically, we think that once we throw something away, it’s just gone, but it’s really not.”