VIU clothing swap. Feb 6th from 11 am to 2 pm

The new decade started on a good note, continuing what its predecessors began: the plastic bag ban, the straw ban, less-waste initiatives—all looking towards sustainable and garbage-free living.

On university campuses across BC, students looked to eco-friendly hacks. Eco-clubs were created across the province dedicated to beach and park clean-ups, to clothing swaps, to eliminating plastics.

In the age of reuse and recycling, what steps VIU has taken are the tip of the iceberg.

Photo Credit: VIU Eco Club

Emma Simard-Provençal and Jeremy Stacey began work for VIU’s newest Eco Club as president and vice-president, respectively. Their mandate is to create concrete ways that people can get involved and interested in caring about our environment and taking steps to protect it.

In the year that the Eco Club has been active, they’ve done road clean-ups and challenged their members and the campus to participate in events. One such event, in March of 2019, aimed to reduce personal carbon footprints by taking shorter showers; another was turning electronics off for earth hour. 

The Eco Club is also partaking in Innovation in Action, the theme of VIU’s Global Citizen Week. The campus is committed to sustainable development and in accordance with the World Commission on Environmental and Development sustainability. A mouthful, but what it means is that we are a campus that strives to foster a community that supports environmental, social, and cultural practices.

On February 1, the club is doing a tour of the Nanaimo landfill, which is almost at full capacity. Part of the contribution to landfills across the world is the significant amount of clothing that gets dumped every year. On Monday, February 3, from 1:00–3:30 pm, VIUFA Human Rights and International Solidarity Committee and Faculty of Health and Human Services is hosting an event screening the documentary The True Cost.

Directed by Andrew Morgan and produced by Michael Ross the documentary pulls the curtain back on the untold human and environmental stories behind the cost of fast fashion. Interviewed in the film are environmentalists, garnet workers, factory owners, and fair trade companies. The film aims to expose the toxic relationship of throw-away culture on an environmental and social level.

For example, fast fashion thrives off micro-trends. Rather than the four traditional seasons, they now have 52. Pre-holiday and post-holiday, clothes for airplanes, for farmers markets, for yachts. Every week there are new styles. Stores no longer have to stock clothing, they’ve created a reflex in their customers to get-it-before-it’s-gone. They offer choices and convince consumers that these choices represent freedom.

“The problem is,” Simard-Provençal said, “you can look at a car and see the exhaust, and you can see that obviously that’s going up. But fashion, we’re so removed from it we don’t really know the impact we’re making.”

After the screening, the audience might be asking themselves: what now? And the answer to that can be found in education and action. Simard-Provençal  and Stacey want to ease the growing pains of making more conscious choices to deter fast fashion

“It’s ingrained in our culture and people don’t always have that information accessible, they’re not always making that connection,” Simard-Provençal said. “The more you educate yourself the easier it is to justify not doing the thing that’s causing the harm.”

It’s easy to remain stuck in your ways, but Stacey has the advice to combat that: “Having a community around you that also supports [you]. If you’re trying to make this change, and you’re doing it by yourself, it can be very overwhelming. But if you have a friend group—or if you’re interested, join our club—it’s a lot easier when you can talk to people. Give the support, collaborate ideas.”

The Eco Club’s Clothing Swap incorporates action in an accessible way. The essence of the swap is to get rid of the stuff that you don’t/won’t use and giving it a new life with someone else, all while gaining great new items. For free. (The collection period of the clothing swap ends on Friday, Jan 31; and it is not a prerequisite to taking home clothing.)

The Clothing Swap will be in the quad between 11 am–2 pm on Thursday, February 6. Everyone and anyone can attend, and the Eco Club will be there to give support and collaborate ideas.

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As for the leftover garments that aren’t taken home, VIU Slow Culture will be collecting them for an upcoming up-cycling workshop. The rest will be donated.

To find out if the brands you are wearing are socially and environmentally friendly, check out Good On You.

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Features Editor Caileigh Broatch is a fifth-year creative writing major. She freelance edits for Broadview Press, managed Portal magazine in 2018, and was awarded the Pat Bevan and Myrtle Bergren creative writing awards for fiction. Her work has appeared Portal and The Nav.