‘Wonk Trade’ brings chic, sustainable fashion to AU

Students can exchange clothing of their own for new, eco-friendly looks

‘Wonk Trade’ brings chic, sustainable fashion to AU

The fashion scene at American University has gone green.

In room 327 of the Mary Graydon Center, racks of vibrant, eye-catching used clothing are up for grabs. Anyone who brings attire of their own has the chance to exchange it for other articles of their choice.

According to organizer Emma Walker, a College of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in Environmental Studies, Wonk Trade represents countless hours of planning behind the scenes. 

“This project has been a dream of the Zero Waste Club for [over] five years,” Walker said. “We’ve been working tirelessly to get this up and running.”

In the beginning, Walker and her environmentally-conscious peers noticed a problem on campus and decided to solve it. 

“They were noticing the amount of clothing waste that happens every semester,” Walker said. “And they thought, ‘Why don’t we make a place where people can trade it?’ And here we are.”

But is sustainable fashion really worth the trouble? The short answer is yes. Reusing and recycling textiles today saves 425 million pounds of CO2 and 19 million gallons of water per year. That’s the same as taking 42,000 cars off the road, or replenishing the water usage of 174,000 American households.

“I love how sustainable it is,” said Rachel Leykin, a freshman in CAS. “I love the clothing swap. It just makes it so much better when you’re getting clothing in a sustainable way.”

As an operation, Wonk Trade strives for cleanliness as well as sustainability. Participants are strongly encouraged to wash any clothing they bring before donating it, and any items that still appear dirty will be washed again by event organizers.

For fashion-forward students such as School of Public Affairs senior Isa Dinsmore, Wonk Trade represents the chance to stay current on the latest looks — and even create some of their own.

“I think it’s pretty cool that you can see all the different styles that are represented at AU, and different tastes that people have, and just see what might be trending on campus,” Dinsmore said. “I myself like to sew and embroider. I get something from a thrift store [and] add on to it with my personal touch.”

For now, the shop is open on Tuesdays from 2:00 to 5:00 and Fridays from 1:00 to 5:00. But Walker has bigger plans for Wonk Trade in the future.

“We would love to keep this as a long-term thing, and to turn it into something like the Dav and the Bridge that are student-run and student-led,” she said.

Walker also plans to add another central component to her boutique: money.

“Right now we’re just doing trade-for-trade. Getting money incorporated in the future would be awesome. Just making a long-term sustainable business would be awesome.”

From comfy shirts and shorts to formal dresses and outerwear, Wonk Trade is AU’s destination for green apparel of all sorts.

“Thrifting is a great way [of] upcycling,” Dinsmore said, rifling through a rack of colorful clothing. “It just shows that you’re willing to go the extra mile, taking something that has been previously worn and reusing it in a new way.”


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