Each and every month for the past year, hundreds of people have traveled to the Centre for Social Innovation in downtown Toronto to drop off their used clothes — and take home clothes that are new to them.
The event known as T.O. The Good Swap just celebrated its first anniversary. Its success proves how it benefits the environment and the community, according to founder Lisa Amerongen.
“We throw a ton of textiles in the waste, in the landfill, every year. So, this obviously helps with that in some ways,” she said at the event. “But it also brings new life to pieces that are just languishing in the back of your closet.”
Amerongen said the initiative was born out of her personal interest in fashion and a desire to make a change — even on a smaller scale — in the environment.
“So, I took a kind of leap of faith, as they call it, and had some volunteers come out. And the first swap was amazing, like 100 plus people, and we’ve been growing ever since.”
A year into the event, Amerongen attributes its success to people’s interest in vintage fashion and in consuming it consciously. “I do think that there are people who are thinking about the way they consume and their own impact through fashion and textile consumption. But I think a lot of people are just treasure hunters who want that experience,” she said.
Nathan, who is a project manager and regular attendee of the Good Swap who did not want his last name used, said he heard about the event from his partner. He used it as a chance to “declutter” his wardrobe and try new clothes.
“I’m actually very into thrifting and sustainable fashion, stuff like that,” he said. “‘Cause it’s more efficient … it’s easier for me to try new stuff, and it actually enables me to declutter.”
On Wednesday, he brought pants, coats, tops, and pajamas, which he swapped for a variety of items, including a green long-sleeved shirt he was trying on.
Another attendee, Hayley, a student in Liberty Village, said she was coming to the event for the first time with her friend and is now interested in coming back. For her first time at the event, she brought a pair of shorts and a few tops and wanted to get new shirts.
“I just think it’s great,” she said. “You have a bunch of unique clothes that you can choose from and everyone’s style is different, so it’s fun.”
Her friend, Ovini, has become a regular attendee after one of the volunteers told her about the initiative. “I just kind of like the culture of the free clothing swap. It’s sustainable, I can get rid of clothes I don’t like and get new clothes,” she said. On that specific day, she brought two sweaters, a top, a scarf, and some pants and was planning on trading them for a few tops and a sweater.
Both of them brought multiple items from their wardrobes
Thrifting and swapping clothes are alternatives to fast fashion, which is harmful to the environment in several ways, according to the United Nations.
Read more from the Toronto Observer:
- How to fight climate change with your wardrobe
- Thrifting is gentrified, so clothing shoppers should think sustainability, industry voices say
- Thrift shopping is becoming a popular way to fight fast fashion
The Good Swap has partnered with different organizations and initiatives around Toronto that follow “values [they] would share,” including the Centre for Social Innovation, Fashion Revolution Canada, The Personal Care Bank, and others. They are constantly looking for new partnerships and considering different types of donations moving forward.
“There’s so many amazing projects happening in Toronto. It’s like we could partner every month easily,” Amerongen said.
They are currently organizing a few “trial runs” of the event in Hamilton, Ont., which will happen for the first time on April 23.