East Harlem store helps shoppers swap, pass on clothing items sustainably

EAST HARLEM, Manhattan — The fashion industry is one of the least environmentally friendly industries that exists, but to help combat this is a store in East Harlem where you can shop, swap or pass on clothing items so that nothing ever ends up in a landfill.

Andrea Reyes is the chairwomen of NYC Fair Trade Coalition, which runs the Sustainable Fashion Community Center.

“We say, ‘are you here to clean out your closet?’” Reyes said. “That’s kind of step one. We don’t want to push more things on people.”

Joancy Colon is a first-time visitor that stopped by to donate clothes that no longer serve her.

“I have too many clothes,” Colon said. “Too many things that are never used and you don’t want to throw them away. Places like this, they make an impact.”

If you don’t have anything to donate, you can pick out 10 items for $15 dollars.

“Our real goal is not to make a profit off these items, but just to keep them recirculating,” Reyes said.

Their mission is to educate people on being conscious consumers and not mindless consumers and to think about the relationships we have with our clothes and how that impacts the environment.

They also have a room to plant swap, but going home with a plant won’t happen as easily.

“I just can’t seem to part with them, but if the right plant mom or dad came in, we could negotiate a little bit and see if we could co-parent,” Reyes joked.

Michele Jones is a volunteer who said spending time in the space has opened up a new world for her.

“My motto now is ‘renew, reuse, recycle, upcycle,’” Jones said.

They also offer classes on mending or repairing clothes so that they never end up in our waste stream.

If you donate clothes that are not swappable, they’re thrown into a basket in the back room which will then be given new life as wall insulation or carpet padding.


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