Note: This article has been edited to reflect corrections we have received from OwlSwap. We apologize for any inconvenience that has come from the original printing.
The OwlSwap Sustainability Initiative, initially named The Geography of Clothing, began as a class project completed by Britt Pickering in Geography Professor Dr. Jason Rhodes’ course in 2018, and it has become the sole reason for the up-cycling of Kennesaw State merchandise from the campus bookstore and events.
Founded in 2019, the small-but-mighty group that makes up the initiative bands together with other campus organizations like EcoOwls to reach a broader audience in educating as many people interested in fashionable environmentalism as possible. As Student Assistant of OwlSwap Jaden Keys describes, the goal is to expand and get more tools to help students.
Leaders of the group put on events such as their film and panel series to spread awareness about the impact fast fashion has on the environment. These events also spread awareness about how many garments are sent to landfills or developing nations where they clog sewage systems and are burned.
They also host Mending Mondays where interested parties can learn how to sew their own buttons back onto their clothes, hem pants that run tall and make sure their pieces last longer.
Their largest event is one that acts as a vast garment exchange among all of KSU called Clothing Shop. Those who donate their old or unwanted items to the cause will receive tickets, which can be traded in for others’ donated clothes.
Any leftover donations from this event are saved in OwlSwap’s closet in case of an emergency such as a house fire or clothing insecurity so that members can swoop in and provide to those in need.
Most recently, OwlSwap has been working closely with apparel and textile design students in the School of Art and Design. These students have been given excess textiles with old KSU logos donated from OwlSwap’s Campus Clothing Closet. The various textiles range from banners and flags to tee shirts and outerwear. Students have been working to turn them into anything they can imagine including lanyards, blankets, rugs, and formal dresses. They are learning that fashion does not need to be another sector of overconsumption and can rather be a cycle of keeping items out of the trash.
Outside of the ongoing project, students have also been given access to textiles from Ecologie Resale and Vintage through its donations to OwlSwap’s closet. This shop is a local buying, selling and trading consignment store that has been able to provide the students with items they have cycled out of their retail location.
Textiles from OwlSwap’s closet are also sent to an up-cycling company called Re:Loom that takes donations and turns them into handbags, keychains, face masks, bracelets and even yoga mats. The profits from sales of these items help provide housing for unhoused individuals and families in metro Atlanta. This nonprofit employs many immigrants and impoverished people to help them gain a good standing meanwhile contributing to the wonderful cause of environmental sustainability in the fashion industry.
Within the two years OwlSwap has been in operation it has managed to create a lasting impact on KSU’s students in how they view free tee shirts, broken buttons and fashionable sustainability.