For sustainable consumption: students organize clothing swap party

Almost every day the fashion industry lures with new trends and collections. If something no longer appeals, it is bought new. Worldwide, millions of tons of clothing are thus thrown away every year, even though most of the garments are still in good or very good condition. Textile factories are constantly producing new outfits and thus using up valuable resources. With clothing swaps, students at TU Ilmenau want to counteract this environmentally harmful fast fashion trend and give T-shirts, dresses or pants that are no longer needed a second life.

TU Ilmenau/Eleonora Hamburg
With activities such as a clothing swap party, students at the TU Ilmenau want to sensitize university members to sustainability issues.

Around ten percent of global CO₂ emissions are estimated to be caused by the fashion industry alone, i.e. by the production of clothing and footwear. According to the European Environment Agency, each person in the EU released an average of around 270 kilograms of the environmentally harmful greenhouse gas in 2020 through the purchase of clothing.

In order to produce more and more new clothing, which is then often sold at extremely low prices, the fashion industry also consumes a lot of water and cultivable land for cotton. "Fast fashion" is the name of this trend: quickly produced fashion that is neither fair nor sustainable.

Not only the EU wants to change this and extend the life cycle of clothing in terms of the circular economy. Students of the TU Ilmenau also want to set an example for sustainable consumption and have recently organized the second "Give and Take Fashion" campaign at the TU Ilmenau: Together with the "Young Leaders United for Democracy" project of the European Union and supported by CULTURE GOES EUROPE (CGE) - Soziokulturelle Initiative Erfurt e.V. in Erfurt, they organized a clothes swap party on campus followed by a fashion show for staff and students of the university.

Whether no longer used clothes, T-shirts, bags or shoes:

More than a hundred items of clothing found a second life in the cafeteria.

Irma Garnesia, a master's student in Media and Communication Studies and one of the initiators of the campaign, explains. Together with Lantip Titis Pranandito, Erasmus exchange student from Atma Jaya Yogyakarta University in Indonesia, she organized the "Give and Take Fashion" campaign as a result of a Young Leaders Workshop in Mulhouse in May. Together with other aspiring leaders, the two discussed power structures in Europe, practiced critical thinking and created an action plan to make a difference in their community:

Sustainable development is a core principle in the Treaty on European Union and a priority goal of EU domestic and foreign policy.

Raising awareness and mobilizing together

To realize their idea of a clothing swap party with a fashion show, the young people joined forces with volunteers from the Seminar for Environmental and Sustainability Communication and the Sustainability Working Group in the Student Council (StuRa) of the TU Ilmenau, who had already successfully organized a clothing swap in May 2023. In the working group, students and doctoral candidates contribute ideas and suggestions on how the TU Ilmenau can save resources, use renewable energies or promote biodiversity on campus on its way to becoming a Sustainable Community.

In my home country of Indonesia, wastewater from textile production often pollutes the water. That's because lax environmental regulations allow the textile industry to discharge polluting chemicals into rivers that local residents use for bathing and other purposes.

The situation, Irma said, has become so critical that it has become a public health hazard:

Therefore, this kind of action is the least we can do to extend the life cycle of our clothes, making a small contribution to the environment.

The student hopes that her initiative will find imitators not only in Germany but also in Indonesia and motivate people to resell or give away unworn clothing:

We can't do enough to make life on our planet more sustainable.

The students proved that this can also be fun at the end of their campaign during a fashion walk in the Finnhütten of the Ilmkubator Gründerservice of the TU Ilmenau: Ten models, including the organizers themselves, presented their freshly swapped secondhand collection at the end of their action. At the end of the evening, they voted on the best outfit and chose three winners.

Because this second clothing swap event was so successful this year, the Sustainability Working Group would like to make the offer more permanent and organize a "Give and Take Fashion" event once a semester in the future.


Sustainability Working Group

Sport, Environment and Health Department of the StuRa