climate / fashion / Quirky

Green is the new black

23 July 2019

#ClimateEmergency is very much a global trending phrase – indeed if it’s not at the front of your mind, it definitely should be. This week we start a Croydonist series looking at some of the things individuals can do in Croydon to help combat the climate crisis.

Nationally we’ve finally been whipped up into a state of anxiety about the appalling state of our world by 1) BBC1s war on plastic, and 2) the rise of global movement Extinction Rebellion, which attracted the media spotlight in April when large parts of our city peacefully ground to a halt. Locally our council declared a climate emergency at their sustainable summit last month, and our borough’s chapter of XR is gaining momentum to keep the ecological crisis at the forefront of our local agenda.

The situation can feel overwhelming, and a little voice in my head often asks ‘What can the individual really do?’ Of course we need governments and big business to implement change from the top, however there are lots of things us common people can do to help from the bottom up. So first up in our Croydonist climate series, we’re looking at fashion with Croydon Community Clothes Exchange

Put a big cross in your diary for this Saturday, 27 July, folks, because Croydon Community Clothes Exchange’s summer event is happening from 12 to 3pm in Turf Studios, Keeley Road.

Croydon Community Clothing Exchange

What is it?

Croydon Community Clothes Exchange (CCCE) is a not-for-profit organisation that runs clothes swapping events in Croydon throughout the year. This Saturday is your chance to partake in a spot of guilt-free, waste free retail therapy, whilst meeting other like-minded members of the community. So start packing up those lonely and unloved clothes sitting at the back of your wardrobe, ready to swap with fashion items that are new to you.

What’s fashion got to do with the climate crisis?

Did you know fashion is the second largest polluter globally, after the oil industry? This is a staggering fact that I hadn’t realised. On average we discard three fifths of our clothing within a year of them being made, buying 60% more clothing today than we did in 2002, fuelling our ‘more more more’ mentality. Still need convincing a clothing swap is a good idea?

When it comes to chemicals, a shocking quarter of the world’s production is used in textiles. I don’t know about you but this is enough to make me feel like we should all be walking around in our birthday suits! Add in the poor working conditions of the world’s garment workers, and this is way more than enough reasons for me to reduce the amount of newly produced clothing I buy.

Croydon Community Clothing Exchange

So how do CCCE events work?

You pay a £3 entry fee, which is solely used to keep CCCE running (i.e. travel costs and lunch for the volunteers). You can bring up to 20 clothing items to swap – only adult sizes please, which are clean and in good condition. You’re welcome to bring along shoes or accessories as well as clothes.

Volunteers then sort and approve the clothing upon entry (if anything isn’t approved you can choose to donate it for recycling, or you can opt to keep hold of it).

After that, you simply head into the exchange and start browsing the rails, to discover what others have brought to swap. If you take away less than you brought your ‘credits’ are carried over for the next event.

The Croydon swap is non-gender specific, but more guys are encouraged to come along so there is a greater selection of  men’s fashion available.

Croydon Community Clothing Exchange

What’s the back story to CCCE?

There are now many clothes swaps operating across the country with the Leeds Community Clothes Exchange being one of the biggest, with over 2500 people signed up to swap. CCCE was set up by a former long-term core volunteer for Leeds Exchange, bringing the idea to her her hometown of Croydon to help reduce local waste. The Croydon swap is run by a team of passionate volunteers and is kindly supported by the Leeds exchange as well as Turf Projects and Croydon Reuse Organisation. Some initial funding was provided by Alec Dickson Trust, a grants scheme which supports projects which are primarily being set up and run by young volunteers. (In fact if you are between 18 and 30, and would like to find out about getting involved please contact CCCE via their Facebook page).

Why not just go to your local charity shop, for ethical fashion?

We spoke to the CCCE team about the pros of a clothing swap: ‘Charity shops are obviously a wonderful thing, benefiting good causes and (like clothes swaps) extending the lives of existing clothing. The key difference with a clothes swap is the social aspect of people getting together and sharing, which can also affect positive change in itself. There’s a hope that in that process of sharing people begin to think more about their clothing, their style, and perhaps an element of individual and community accountability.’

Croydon Community Clothing Exchange

What do CCCE swappers say?

Don’t just take my word for it that you should head on down to CCCE on Saturday. CCCE swapper, Cat K says ‘I can try new styles without introducing new clothing into the system,’ and fellow supporter Dee comments ‘There’s lots of interesting clothes from interesting people, everything is pre-loved and has a cool story’.

We asked CCCE regular, Elizabeth Sheppard (pictured above) a couple questions:

Croydonist: What are you looking forward to about this Saturday’s event?

Elizabeth: A guilt-free wardrobe makeover! I love the fun and inventiveness of fashion – but the global fashion industry generates more greenhouse gas emissions than international shipping and flights combined. Our cheap clothing culture has created a reckless, ‘throwaway’ state of mind – we regard garments as disposable and give no thought to the poor and often-exploited workers who produce them. We need to do fashion differently, and CCCE is part of the wider movement to tackle the environmental emergency we face.

Croydonist: Why do you go to CCCE?

Elizabeth: Clothes swaps are a great way to keep the fun of fashion and ditch the downsides. The more of us join in, the better selection there is. Swapping is resourceful and creative – it can help us change our wasteful ways without losing the joy of dressing up.

Croydon Community Clothing Exchange

Thank you to the CCCE team and CCCE regular Elizabeth Sheppard for chatting to us. Get on board Croydon peeps, and show that green is indeed the new black when it comes to your wardrobe from now on.

Croydon Community Clothes Exchange takes place this Saturday, 27 July: 12-15.00, Turf Studios, 39-40 Keeley Road, Croydon CR01TF

If you, your business or organisation is based in Croydon, is helping combat the climate crisis, and would like to be featured in our Croydonist climate series please do get in touch.

Images courtesy of Croydon Community Clothes Exchange

Posted by Julia

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