Don’t Scrap, Just Swap: Boston University Medical Campus First Children’s Clothing Swap Promotes Sustainability and Community
On November 30, participants in the first ever children’s clothing swap on Boston University Medical Campus were invited to “give what you have, take what you need.”
Erica Stocks, GSDM director of student affairs, created the children’s clothing swap as a sustainable and affordable initiative aimed at supporting BUMC families—particularly students or residents who are pregnant and/or parenting–by providing a platform to exchange gently used children’s clothing. The initiative was sponsored by GSDM, Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, School of Public Health (SPH), and BU Sustainability.
“Clothing can be pretty pricey for kids, so if there’s a way to swap clothing that your kids have outgrown, that’s in good condition but they’re not going to wear anymore, and you need clothes for a larger or smaller size, just swapping them and giving what you don’t need and then grabbing stuff that you do need, that your kid’s going to need, it saves you money,” Stocks said.
BU Sustainability Director Lisa Tornatore said the university is supportive of all initiatives that contribute to reusing and recycling textiles. As of November 2022, it is illegal in the state of Massachusetts to dispose of old clothing and other textiles in the trash; all textiles must be recycled. Tornatore noted that clothing swaps, like the BUMC children’s clothing swap, help reduce the amount of clothing that enters the state’s waste stream.
“Reuse and repurposing of our materials, whether that’s clothing or whether that’s just household items, is super important,” Tornatore said. “A clothing swap is a really great opportunity to reuse, and repurpose, and share, and create community around folks who are maybe in need of these clothes.”
Before the swap, organizers staged a drop-off period from November 15 through November 28, during which members of BUMC community donated their “gently loved” children’s clothing in sizes newborn to 5T, shoes, outerwear, and miscellaneous items at one of three donation drop-off locations across the campus.
After the drop-off period ended, Stocks and members of the GSDM Student Affairs office sorted through all donated items to ensure that they were clean and in good condition (no rips, stains, or tears). Once the final items were selected, GSDM Student Affairs organized the clothes by size on different tables in Hiebert Lounge.
Donations were not required to shop the swap, as Stocks wanted expectant parents who may have been looking for newborn clothing to feel welcome to attend.
“If you don’t have a kid [yet], you might not have clothes to donate, but you know you’re expecting, you can still come and shop the swap and come and take what you need,” Stocks said.
Following the swap, all leftover items were donated to Goodwill. Tornatore said BU has a longstanding relationship with Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries, especially since the organization was founded by BU alum, the Rev. Edgar J. Helms STH 1893.
“It’s a really nice opportunity for us to be able to work with [Goodwill] locally and that the BU community is able to contribute to the broader Boston community by donating our items,” Tornatore said.
Going forward, Stock hopes this will be the first of many children’s clothing swaps. As a parent to two girls, she said her little ones frequently outgrow their clothes and by having a platform to donate old clothes and get gently used and loved items, it is a wonderful way to “pay it forward.”
“There is community building [aspect], creating a platform for student parents to connect and build relationships with others and it fosters a sense of unity and support amongst families on our campus community,” Stocks said.