Trading your clothes for items that are new (to you): A sustainable way to shop
Even for people eager to reduce their carbon footprint, the zero-waste goal can be daunting.
It’s hard not to create some waste, as much as we might want to lead an eco-friendly lifestyle. So Heather Kornman, owner of the Golden Triangle Shop, suggests setting a goal of creating less waste and aligning it with activities in your life that bring you joy. Such as finding something new to wear.
Clothing swaps — gatherings where people donate and/or acquire used clothes at no charge — are a way for people to play a small role in reducing their carbon footprint. The events, which are typically free, are designed to recirculate or upcycle clothing that’s been pre-loved. Some clothing swaps have requirements for admission, such as bringing a certain number of items to donate, and others don’t.
Kornman, a small-business owner, has made helping members of her community meet their waste-reduction goals the mission of her Lomita-based company. At the Golden Triangle Shop, customers can bring in a jar or container to fill with hand soap, shampoo or loose leaf teas. It’s also a space for the community to learn about sustainable living, as Kornman has collaborated with Good Morning, Cactus to host its talks and workshops on plant care.
Now Kornman is leaning into more community engagement events like hosting clothing swaps to get her neighbors talking about sustainable fashion. Her next one is March 18 at 24605 Narbonne Ave. in Lomita from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
By bringing a few pieces of clothing to donate to the event — or even arriving empty-handed — attendees will be able to look through clothes that others have left behind. If they see anything they like, Kornman said, they’ll be free to take it.
Other clothing swaps are happening across Los Angeles and Orange counties. Here are some of the people and organizations behind upcoming events and where to find them.
An interest in sustainability, fashion sustainability in particular, led Nicole Macias, Jannine Mancilla and Enri Navarro to host separate clothing swaps before teaming up to create Radical Clothes Swap.
Macias said the group learned that there are a lot of clothes out there that don’t get recycled and end up in landfills. Clothes are also given to thrift stores that are sometimes at full capacity, and then the donations go into the trash.
“In a capitalistic world,” Macias asked, “what’s the most radical thing you can do? Give resources away for free while helping the environment? Say no more.”
While the educational component of sustainable fashion is important to the individuals behind Radical Clothes Swap, it also seeks to give the community access to more clothes.
“We knew that what we were doing was needed in our communities because we all shared similar stories of growing up without the money or accessibility to dress how we really wanted to,” Macias said.
Handing down clothing in this way reminded the women of their mothers, tias, abuelas and other family members who have sent gently used clothing to their homelands.
Their families had been doing this for generations, but they never had a name for it other than hand-me-downs.
The clothing swaps felt familiar to some people, Macias said, but the group was also met with skepticism.
“People would walk by our table at events and say, ‘Wait, why is it free? What’s the catch?’” she said. “And we were straight up. We told them, ‘There is no catch. It’s free. Like free, free.’”
Although their events are free, the women are selling merchandise or accepting donations to help them turn Radical Clothes Swap into a nonprofit organization. They also accept monetary donations to purchase garment racks, hangers and canopies for existing events.
To learn more about Radical Clothes Swap and its upcoming events, visit its website or Instagram account. The group has a monthly residency at Angel City Brewery in the Los Angeles Arts District every second Saturday of the month from noon to 5 p.m. The event is for those 21 and older, but a minor can come if accompanied by an adult.
Event: Pop-up at Erva Brew Co., 2377 E. Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena
Date and Time: March 18, noon to 4 p.m.
After hosting a clothing swap for their friends, Veronica Ealba and Emanda Ceccia believed they could do the same for the public. Ceccia’s event design skills and connections to local creatives combined with Ealba’s passion for fashion and sustainability helped them start Consumpton Collab.
Consumption Collab is a full-service event production and design agency that specializes in curating clothing swap events. The women collaborate with businesses all over Southern California — including in the city of Los Angeles, Orange County, the San Gabriel Valley and the Inland Empire — to create pop-up events that give attendees opportunities to swap clothing while local businesses and artists promote their products, art and music.
They said young creators in their communities struggle to find affordable spaces to showcase or sell their work, and Consumption Collab wants to help with that.
“Our project focuses on creating equitable opportunities by providing more events and opportunities for these creators that don’t cost a lot of money to be a part of,” they said.
The clothing swap component of the event, Ealba and Ceccia said, is a great way to engage with the community.
“Unlike the monotony of buying and selling, the goal is to provide an experience where consumers interact with creators in order to inspire one another,” they said.
To stay up to date on the next swap pop-up, keep an eye on Consumption Collab’s Instagram account.
Event: A pop-up by Consumption Collab and Dragon Fruit Skincare at 119 W. Transit St., Unit 1, in Ontario
Date and time: March 18, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Throwing a kid’s birthday party or a bridal shower can lead to a lot of waste.
When Dayna López-Price hosted a party, she would head to her local Dollar Tree to buy disposable decorations because they were “easy to clean up and throw away.”
Several years ago, the Orange County resident said, she starting becoming more conscious about the damage disposable party supplies (typically made from plastic, a non-renewable material) and single-use tableware do to the environment.
In an effort to prevent large amounts of party trash from ending up in landfills, Price started Festiveknickknacks Sustainable Parties in 2019.
Through her small business, Price offers customers party kit rentals that include theme decor, tablecloths, silverware and other party hosting necessities.
After launching Festiveknickknacks, Price wanted to advocate for other ways to reduce waste. That’s when she discovered clothing swap events.
Price has hosted clothing swaps once a month since 2021, and at the end of each event, any leftover items are donated to the Orange County Rescue Mission. The events often take place at Irvine city parks, but Price said the best way to know where the next event will take place is by visiting the event section on the Festiveknickknacks website or checking its Facebook page.
Event: St. Patrick’s Community Swap & Share at 1645 Valencia Avenue in Tustin
Date & Time: March 18, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Eco Now is a zero-waste company and store with several locations across Orange County and, later this year, in Riverside.
Founder Thea Pauley strives to educate others on making sustainable choices while offering locally sourced, handmade and eco-friendly goods in her stores to reduce waste.
“When I started my company four years ago I knew I wanted to incorporate community and educational events as a pillar to our brand,” Pauley said.
She hosts clothing swaps and many more eco-focused events monthly as a way to highlight sustainable living and make it more accessible.
In her Orange County community, Pauley said, she saw an interest in clothing swaps, but the events weren’t accessible.
“My mentality is, if no one is doing it, then I need to do it, otherwise it may not get done,” she said. “And quite frankly, we don’t have time to waste on the subject.”
Event: Go Green Mother Earth Market at the Camp, 2937 Bristol St. in Costa Mesa
Date and Time: March 17, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
How to host a clothing swap for your community
The women behind Radical Clothes Swap created a how-to guide on hosting an event for your inner circle. Their three steps are:
- Start a pile. Go through your closet and look for clothes that don’t bring you joy, don’t fit, or haven’t been worn in at least six months.
- Round up your friends. Choose a date and time to invite your friends over for the swap. Create your own guidelines for the event, such as a minimum number of items to add to the swap pile.
- Swap till you drop. Enjoy your company and update your closets with pre-loved freebies. Whatever clothes don’t get picked can be recycled for your next swap.
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