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EcoReps generate momentum for a more sustainable year

As the new semester begins, the Office of Sustainability’s Ecology Representative Program (EcoReps) led by undergraduates who “promote the integration of sustainability into campus life,” is working to continue the successful EcoReps Clothing Swap and kick off two new initiatives: MEND and Greening Athletics.

The EcoReps Clothing Swap was founded in the spring of 2016 and has taken place each semester since, according to EcoRep Amber Lin ‘19. Students drop off unwanted clothes in donation bins located around campus, and those clothes are up for grabs-first come first serve.


“I think what makes this event so successful is its simplicity and its general appeal,” explained Lin. “There are many reasons for students, and even staff, to find free, nice, clothing attractive—whether you don't want to spend money on new clothing, or you'd like to reduce waste by wearing locally sourced, reused items.”

She estimates that about 100 people attended the most recent clothing swap on Jan 12.

The Clothing Swap was more focused on practicality than sustainability at first, Lin explained.

“The first clothing swap was actually an effort to reduce the load Facilities gets during Move-Out, as there are many more donations than local organizations can handle,” added Lin. In addition, keeping clothes within the University community has a significant environmental impact, reducing emissions caused by transportation to other sites.

“Our goal is really for the University community to think about where things come from and where they go, and how their actions can have effects far beyond what they can see,” Lin explained. 

Besides providing inexpensive and sustainably sourced clothing to members of the University community, the EcoReps Clothing Swap also aims to educate students and staff about the benefits of used clothing.


EcoReps are also working to disprove common misconceptions, such as the idea that used clothes are of poor quality or that sustainable living is expensive.

“As EcoReps, we work on putting on events and projects that can enable students to firsthand experience what living more sustainably can be like and hopefully bring that kind of thinking to their future careers and lifestyles,” Lin said.

Since the Clothing Swap is a once-per-semester event, Lin encourages students to donate clothes at the collection bins around campus. These items will be donated to The Rescue Mission, a nonprofit homeless shelter in Trenton.

In addition to encouraging clothing donation, EcoReps are also encouraging students to repair the clothes they already have. EcoReps Nicolas Viglucci ’19 and Cecilia Shang ’18 are working on MEND, a new recurring event in which EcoReps teach clothing repair.

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“We help students depending on their needs for repair,” explained Viglucci. “Usually, this involves learning how to use the sewing machines to fix a rip, or hand sewing smaller things like holes in socks or replacing a button. We help students through the process, similar to the Rocky Cyclab.”

“The pilot event was back in December, and we will continue to have events throughout the school year,” said Viglucci. “Currently our plans are twice a month on Mondays: MEND Mondays."

The clothes brought in for repair in December included jeans, polo shirts, backpacks, jackets, and bedsheets.

Viglucci said that in the future, MEND wants to create a manual for common repairs, look into supplying fabric for student crafting, and ensure that more students know about this resource. 

“Lots of people have broken clothing and we are working to get everyone to hear about MEND,” he said.

Greening Athletics is a new EcoReps initiative that seeks to improve the sustainability of sporting events. EcoReps kicked off Greening Athletics at the Princeton-Columbia basketball game on Jan. 12.

They decided to chose a single event to focus on to bring attention to sustainability in athletics would be a good way to get the program off the ground, according to Taylor Bacon ’19.

“At a normal [basketball] game, essentially none of the waste is recycled due to issues with bin layout and signage, among other things,” explained Bacon. “To remedy this, we had waste stations of paired recycling and trash receptacles, with clear signs and EcoRep volunteers keeping an eye on the bins and guiding fans in correct recycling.”

In addition, EcoReps provided 200 reusable shopping bags that were handed out to attendees, planned a half-time game centered around proper recycling, created a promo video with the University basketball players, and had sustainability facts read during time-outs.

“I think the event gave us a really great starting point for further improvement in athletics sustainability and a better idea for what works and what doesn't for next time,” Bacon said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the Princeton-Columbia game's opponent. The 'Prince' regrets this error.